What is Atamasthana
The term Atamasthana connotes the eight sacred places in Anuradhapura (SriLanka) sacred to Buddhists: the Sri Maha Bodhi (Udamaluwa), the Lowamahapaya, the Ruwanweliseya, the Thuparama, the Mirisawetiya,the Abayagiriya,the Jethawanaramaya and the Lankaramaya. They are however not identical with the eight places that constituted the Atamasthana during the early Anuradhapura period.
Buddhists in SriLanka have always regarded these sites with deep veneration and are used to make annual pilgrimages to them Records of the British officials of the early years of the last Century show that this practice was in existince even there were no proper road system at that time. Davy in 1818 three years after the subjugation of the Kandyan kingdom to which Anuradhapura belonged, recorded that” Anuradhapura so long capital of Ceylon is now a small mean village in the midst of a desert. A large tank, numerous stone pillars two or three immence tumular (probably old Dagabas) are the principal remains. It is still considered a sacred spot and is a place of pilgrimage” (1)
In 1834 Skinner found that the road from Kandy to Anuradhapura “was crowded with pilgrims on their way to the sacred Bo-Tree” and that Anuradhapura “was alive with people”(2)
The first reference to the term Atamasthana appears in the Sinhala prose work Pujavaliya (13th Century) Till then though one finds reference to the existence of eight sacred places at Anuradhapura they were not referred to as such According to the palichronicle Mahavansa Arahat Mahinda Who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka, accepting the offer of the Mahamegha grove from king Devanampiya tissa ( ) “caused the earth quake in eight places namely.
1.The Mahoniegha park where Arahai Mahinda resided with other Bhikkus and where the Tissarama Monastery was
2. The place where the Ransi Malaka building was erected. This was used by monks to perform their religions rites and
3. The place where later the Janthaghara with rooms for warm bath was built
4. The place where the southern branch of the Bodhi tree of the three Buddhas of this kalpa(aeon) was planted.
5. The Mahamalamalaka where lately the Uposatha Hall (4) of the Mahavihara Monastery[