It is very interesting to note that Sri Lanka had the good fortune of being blessed with the presence of the living Buddha, the most sacred event in human history. This was the most significant and the most unparalleled event in the history of the island as well, as the sasana. Not once but thrice on various occasions. These sacred visits had preceded the introduction of Buddhism by thera Mahinda in 247 BC. In the Pre-Mahinda era the greatest blessing to the island was Buddha’s first visit to Mahiyangana in the nineth month after the enlightenment.
Celebrated religious event – Soon after, with the delivery of the first sermon and sending the disciples on the great on the great mission Buddha himself set out on the sasanic tour and Sri Lanka was the first place to attract his attention. It was the first poya in the Buddhist calendar (Duruthu) that this celebrated religious event adorned Sri-Lankan. It is recorded that when Buddha visited the island he foresaw that the doctrine that he discovered and preached in Jambudweepa will be preserved in its pristine purity by the devotees in Sri Lanka. It became a well renowned country as Dharmadweepa when Buddhism had already declined in its place of birth. The ancient chronicles reveal that the Buddha arrived in Mahanagarana, the most splendid park in Mahiyangana, on the right bank of river Mahaweli. What was the area like when the Buddha arrived could be concluded by the descriptions made by the British the Imperial Masters centuries later. Richard Broke in 1832 the first Englishman to explore Mahaweli, which was according to him the biggest river in Sri-Lanka.
Mahiyangana – location - “It flows through most of the wildest and also some of the most beautiful areas in Ceylon the country through which Mahaweli flows is beyond doubt extensively cultivated and any casual observer visiting, must be surprised at the vast manual labour spent in the construction of canals and tanks now totally neglected. One of the main high ways in Kandyan times followed the course of Mahaweli eastward from the capital to Aluthnuwara. It is said that Aluthnuwara or Mahiyangana was an important river port. Pre Christian Sinhala literature poetry and history gives it great importance. Then one can just imagine now Mahaweli Mahiyangana must have been during Buddha time.
Yakka tribe subdued – Chronicles also provide definite evidence of the tribes living here. The island at the time of the Buddha’s visit was inhabited by Yakkas and Nagas referred to as Amanussa. Here reference may probably be to the primitive state of civilization in the island.
The Buddha himself is said to have rid the island of the Yakkas and made it suitable for human habitation. Buddha was aware that in the island his teachings was to flourish. How ever the sudden appearance of the Buddha in yellow robes radiating the glow (Budu res) the Yakkas who were overwhelmed with their rough behaviour had thrown away their weapons and listened to Buddha and finally they have had the good luck to be blessed with the teachings of the Buddha. Subsequently he preached Dhamma to a great gathering of Gods. God Mahasumana of Mountain Samanala (the guardian god) who on this occasion attained the state of Satapanna after listring to sermons requested the Buddha to give something to worship. He gave him a handful of hair from his head as on object of worship.
The first stupa-Mahiyangana chaitya – God Mahasumana placed it in a golden casket and enshrined in a stupa embedded with blue stones built at the place where the great Master was seated at Mahiyangana considered the most sanctified spot, in the vicinity of Mahaweli. This was built to the height of seven riyanas (a measure) and later improved at various stages. After the parinibbana of the Buddha and the distribution of the sacred relics, the remaining neck relic (Greeva Dathu) was brought to Sri – Lankan by Arahat Saraba, a pupil of Ven. Sariputta and enshrined in Mahiyangana stupa raising it to 12 riyanas. Later it was built to a height of 30 by king Uddaculabhaya, king Devanampitiyatissa’s brother’s son who covered it over afresh. Still later king Dutugamunu built a mantel chetiya over it completing it to a height of 80 riyanas which exists to this day as an amazing marvel, and also a national treasure. This is given much significance not only because it is the first stupa, but also it is the first one built by a divine being, on the spot where the Buddha made his first visit to the island.