Kantharodai – Jaffna, Sri Lanka - Atlas Obscura


This rural Sri Lankan village hides a cluster of small, enigmatic stupas.  


Tucked away among the backyards and secondary roads in the rural hamlet of Kantharodai is an archaeological site that goes by the same name. It consists of about 20 relatively small stupas (the largest is 20 feet in diameter), and they are the burial site of 60 Tamil monks.

Coins from the Roman Empire and ancient Chinese Dynasties have been found nearby, but this is not surprising, since Kantharodai is located in the vicinity of what used to be an important port. A site in Tamil Nadu with strikingly similar constructions suggests that cultural exchange between the two regions was rife in antiquity.

Furthermore, the two sites show how Buddhism and Megalithism are interwoven. Recent excavations have revealed some evidence that perhaps Tamil Hindus also worshipped these stupas.

Not much else is known about this site, which makes it somewhat mysterious. There are rumors that treasures are buried under the stupas, and there seems to be some confusion even about their age. Some claims they are over 2,000 years old, while others insist they’re more recent reconstructions. To add to the mystique, a sign maintains that Buddha himself visited Kantharodai.

Know Before You Go

Kantharodai is signposted as Kathurugoda Ancient Vihara along the road. The different name is due to a convoluted etymological evolution of its ancient name, as well as the intermittent use of Tamil and Sinhalese languages to refer to it. You will have to leave your footwear at the entrance and wander around the site barefoot. No information is available on site.

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November 22, 2018

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