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Sela Cetiya

Sela Cetiya- The Stupa on a High Rock

Did you know that Sela Cetiya was the place where Buddha meditated on his third visit to Sri Lanka? Located 13 km from the old Anuradhapura district, Mihintale is the place where Sela Cetiya is located. Mihintale is said to be the “cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka”. Arhant Mahinda is said to have met King Devanam Piyatissa at Mihintale. The king was hunting when they crossed paths, and such was Arhant Mahinda’s aura that he converted the king to Buddhism. Sometime in the 3rd century, this place happened to become the permanent residence of Arhant Mahinda and 3,000 Buddhist monks. Mihintale Rock has numerous sanctuaries and caves. There is a staircase of 1840 steps from the bottom to the top of the rock. The Sela Cetiya is located in this temple complex. Sela Cetiya consecrates the Lome Urn, the sacred relic of Buddha’s eyebrow hair.

Sela Cetiya is one of the ‘Solosmasthana’, which means the 16 holy places of worship for Buddhists.

The origin and construction

Dagoba was built by King Lajjitissa somewhere in the 1st century. The stone was used in the construction of the platform and the stupa; hence the name ‘Sela Cetiya’. One can find moonstone and guard stone at its entrance. The gurad stone is found at the entrance of many aramic complexes that used to be a Hindu architectural practice of placing a pair of the deity at the entrance of buildings for divine protection. The base of the stupa has a diameter of 11.3 m.

Things to do

Since Sela Cetiya is located 8 miles outside of the ancient Anuradhapura district, one can visit these exquisite sites while exploring Sela Cetiya in Mihintale:

Ambasthale Dagoba:

It is said to have been built on the site where Mahinda converted them to Buddhism, and this stupa can be reached by walking up the staircase. Nearby is a statue of the king in his traditional costume. The meaning of Ambasthale is ‘mango tree’, which is the symbol of the riddle Mahinda used to test the king’s intelligence.

The Buddha statue and the tree:

Moving a little further up through the staircase, one can find a white Buddha statue standing stiffly against the greenery. It is sight for sore eyes. Moving a bit to the left you can find a Bodhi tree which is said to be one of the oldest trees in Sri Lanka. The tree is easily seen due to the railing that surrounds it, which is adorned with prayer flags.

Mahaseya Dagoba:

The largest Dagoba in Mihintale is said to be consecrating the relics of Mahinda. A bit far from Mahaseya Dagoba you can find the original stupa, which is smaller and said to be one of the oldest stupas in Sri Lanka. There are two smaller structures around it, one is a temple where Budhha is lying in a reclining position and the other is a small devale where statues of Ganesha, Vishnu, Murugan (Skanda) and Saman can be found.

Other tourist visits:

Standing on the top of the Rock, you can see the beautiful lake and the city of Anuradhapura from above.

How to reach?

To get to Mihintale, you first have to get to Colombo, either by air or by ground transportation. From Colombo, one can take a train or take the bus to reach Anuradhapura. From Anuradhapura, you can take a taxi and reach Mihintale, which is only 8 miles away.

Where to sleep? (Not for now)

Where to eat?

Wandering around such beautiful places can make you feel hungry soon. We suggest you eat in these cafes and restaurants to make your trip to Sela Cetiya more satisfying:


Surrounded by serene vegetation and equipped with solid wooden tables, this place offers its cheap food. Come here to taste authentic Sri Lankan cuisine.

Heritage rest house:

This place has a restaurant inside. All the woodwork makes you feel ecstatic upon entering this place. Although their food is average, if not very tasty, it is good value for money.


Although you won’t find much about this restaurant on the internet, this place offers a great variety of quality food. Since the options are very limited on Mihintale, you may consider trying this one.

Ragini Restaurant:

Rice and curry, Kottu, String Hoppers, avocado juice, and noodles are the specialties here. This place, packed with rave reviews, is a promise of good food for your money.

If you’re willing to travel 8 more miles for food, you can explore a host of restaurants in Anuradhapura.


Situated on a mountain and with a beautiful lake beside it, Sela Cetiya is a splendid destination to spend the day exploring the roots of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and experiencing the beauty of the deep forests. There is not much information available about this place on the internet so it is often included in the complementary experiences if you visit Anuradhapura. This place is a completely different phenomenon in itself. Visiting this place is visiting nature and the work of human beings who come together in a beautiful fusion to represent a spectacle never seen before. Being isolated from Anuradhapura, this place does not attract so many people, so it could be a great seclusion in the lap of nature for those who want to explore Sri Lanka in all its beauty. The view from the top of the mountain that houses Sela Cetiya is majestic.

So when you are in Sri Lanka next time, visit this one of the sixteen places of worship of Buddhists in the world to feel the divine presence of the Buddha’s aura. You will leave here with a spiritual feeling. The route to Stupa is accessible from Anuradhapura throughout the year.

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