Three beautiful boulder formations lie at the heart of the Vessagiriya temple complex, an ancient Buddhist forest monastery that has played an important role in the history of Anuradhapura.
Spread across a large area in front of the Tissa Weva, they can be seen from atop one of the great rocks, which still shows signs of the building that once stood upon it.
The remains of an image house (pilima geya), stupa and refectory (monk’s dining room) can still be seen, as can the 23 caves in which as many as 100 monks would have been accommodated.
This site was once home to 500 monks, all of whom were thought to have been ordained by the Thero Mahinda himself, who introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka in 250 BC.
The monks lived in rock shelters, of which all that can be seen today are the bare stones—and not all of those, since much of the rock was later taken away to be reused as building material elsewhere.