In a beautiful woodland setting north of the Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba, the Thuparama Dagoba is the oldest dagoba in Sri Lanka – indeed, probably the oldest visible dagoba in the world. It was constructed by King Devanampiya Tissa in the 3rd century BC and is said to enshrine the right collarbone of the Buddha. Its ‘heap-of-paddy-rice’ shape was restored in 1862 to a more conventional bell shape and to a height of 19m.
The slender, capital-topped pillars of the surrounding vatadage (circular relic house), perhaps the dagoba’s most unique feature, enclose the structure in four concentric circles. Impressions on the dagoba pediments indicate the pillars originally numbered 176, of which 41 still stand. Although some Sri Lankan scholars believe these once supported a conical wooden roof, there is no archaeological evidence or precedent for this theory.