Ian Lockwood


Archive for October 2014

Early Pathways at Mihintale & Anuradhapura

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Steps at Mihintale

Steps at Mihintale

The sacred site of Mihintale has immense significance in the narrative of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It was here in the 2nd Century BCE that the Indian emperor Ashoka’s son Mihinda is thought to have taught Buddhist dhamma to King Devanampiyatissa, the ruling Sinhalese monarch. After many years of reading about Mihintale and visiting nearby sites I finally had a chance to make my own first pilgrimage with my family.

Mihintale lies within sight and only 8 kilometers east of the massive dagobas and ruins of historic Anuradhapura. It sits on and amongst a boulder-studded, forest-encased hillock. From a distance the gleaming white dagobas- especially the large Mahaseya – are visible emerging from the canopy. The forest is dry mixed evergreen and is a reason in itself to take the time to visit the area. The architecture of the sacred sites is infused amongst the caves, boulders and forests of the hills. We had journeyed up Sri Lanka’s west coast on a mid term break looking to explore coastal sites, Wilpattu’s protected areas and then some of the sacred sites in the northern part of the Cultural Triangle. The pictures from this post highlight some of the sublime sites in both Mihintale and Anuradhapura. As with most of my work these days, they were shot digitally and then processed into black & white back at home. They join a growing body of work on sacred spaces in Sri Lanka and southern India that I am working to prepare for exhibition.

Elephanst carved in schists surrounding the  Kantaka Chetiya

Elephants carved in stone surrounding the Kantaka Chetiya


Scenes of and from Aradhana Gala (Invitation Rock) where Mahinda preached his first sermon.

Mihintale pan

Aradhana Gala looking south. Ritigala is the distant hill in the clouds (to the south-east) in  the left corner.

Mahaseya study in positive and negative.

Mahaseya Dagoba study in positive and negative.

Thuparama and Jetavana Dagobas in Anuradhapura.

Thuparama and Jetavana Dagobas in Anuradhapura.

Abhayagiri moonstone details and neighboring lion guard stone.

Abhayagiri moonstone details and neighboring lion guard stone.

Mirror study of the Abhayagiri moonstone.

Mirror study of the Abhayagiri moonstone.



Dhammika, Ven S. “Mihintale.” Sacred Island: A Buddhist Pilgrim’s Guide to Sri Lanka. 2004. Web. October 2014.

Fernando, Nihal et al. Stones of Eloquence: The Lithic Saga of Sri Lanka. Colombo: Studio Times, 2008. Print. This book encapsulates the lithic saga of the island…a wonderful resource and especially as we stayed at the principal author’s son’s Back of Beyond guesthouse in Anuradhapura.

Hanh, Thich Nhat. Old Path White Clouds. New Delhi: Full Circle, 1991. Print. A classic retelling of the Buddha’s life that helps one understand the threads of the teaching in the historical sites of Sri Lanka.

Three Blind Men. Sri Lanka – Mihintale & Kaludiya Pokuna. Web. Check out these stunning photographs and albums of the area by my friends Dominic Sansoni and Sebastian Posingis.



Written by ianlockwood

2014-10-28 at 4:31 pm