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Lohapāsāda

A building at Anurādhapura, forming the uposatha hall of the Mahāvihāra. It was originally built by Devānampiyatissa (see Mhv.xv.205), but it was then a small building erected only to round off the form of Mahā-vihāra (vihāraparipuṇṇa-matta-sādhakaṃ) (MT. 364). Later, Duṭṭhagāmaṇī pulled it down and erected on its site a nine-storey building, one hundred cubits square and high, with one hundred rooms on each storey. The building was planned according to a sketch of the Ambalaṭṭhikā-pāsāda (the actual Ambalaṭṭhikā (q.v.) of the Lohapāsāda was to the east of the building, DA.ii.635) in Bīranī’s palace which eight Arahants obtained from the deva world. The building was roofed with copper plates, hence its name. The nine storeys were occupied by monks, according to their various attainments, the last four storeys being reserved for Arahants. In the centre of the hall was a seat made in the shape of Vessavaṇa’s Nārīvāhana chariot (for details see Mhv.xxvii.1 ff). The building was visible out at sea to a distance of one league (MT. 505). Once Duṭṭhagāmaṇī attempted to teach in the assembly hall of the Lohapāsāda, but he was too nervous to proceed. Realising then how difficult was the task of teachers, he endowed largesse for them in every vihāra (Mhv.xxxii.42 ff). Duṭṭhagāmaṇī had always a great fondness for the Lohapāsāda, and as he lay dying he managed to have a last view of it (Mhv.xxxii.9). Three hundred million were spent on its construction; in Saddhā Tissa’s day it caught fire from a lamp, and he rebuilt it in seven storeys at a cost of nine million.

Khallātanāga built thirty-two other pāsādas round the Lohapāsāda for its ornamentation (Mhv.xxxiii.6), while Bhātikābhaya carried out various repairs to the building (Mhv.xxxiv.39), and Āmaṇḍa­gāmaṇī Abhaya added an inner courtyard and a verandah (ājira) (Mhv.xxxv.3). Sirināga I rebuilt it in five storeys (Mhv.xxxvi.25,52), Abhayanāga built a pavilion in the courtyard and Goṭhābhaya had the pillars renewed (Mhv.xxxvi.102).

He evidently started to rebuild the structure, because we are told (Mhv.xxxvi.124) that, after his death, his son Jeṭṭhatissa completed up to seven storeys the Lohapāsāda, which had been left unfinished (vippakata) by his father.

The building was worth ten million, and Jeṭṭhatissa offered to it a jewel worth sixty thousand, after which he renamed it Maṇipāsāda. Afterwards Soṇa, a minister of his brother, the renegade king Mahānāma, acting on the advice of heretical monks led by Saṅghamitta, destroyed the pāsāda and carried away its wealth to enrich Abhayagiri-vihāra (Mhv.xxxvii.10 f,59).

Mahānāma’s son, Sirimeghavaṇṇa, had the pāsāda restored to its original form (Mhv.xxxvii.62), and, later, Dhātusena renovated it (Mhv.xxxviii.54), as did Aggabodhi I, who distributed the three garments to thirty-six thousand monks at the festival of dedication and assigned a village to provide for its protection (Mhv.xlii.20). His successor, Aggabodhi II, deposited in the pāsāda the Buddha’s right collar-bone, which relic was later transferred to the Thūpārāma (Mhv.xlii.53,59). In the reign of Aggabodhi IV, the ruler of Malaya repaired the central pinnacle (Mhv.xlvi.30), while Mānavamma provided a new roof (Mhv.xlvii.65). Sena II completely restored the pāsāda and placed in it an image of the Buddha in gold mosaic. The building was evidently not in use at the time, but he provided for its upkeep and assigned villages for its protection, and decreed that thirty-two monks should be in constant residence (Mhv.li.69 f). Sena IV was in the habit of teaching in the Lohapāsāda periodical discourses to the monks (Mhv.liv.4) which were based on the suttas, but, after his death, the place again fell into disrepair and was destroyed by the Coḷā. Parakkamabāhu I restored it once again (Mhv.lxxviii.102), but it was soon after pillaged again and fell into ruin, in which state it remains to this day. There are now sixteen hundred monolithic stone columns (the same number as in the time of Parakkamabāhu I), which evidently formed the framework of the lowest storey.

Frequent mention is made in the books of discourses taught in the lowest storey of the Lohapāsāda, at which very large numbers were present. Once, when Ambapāsānavāsī Cittagutta taught the Rathavinīta Sutta, there were twelve thousand monks and one thousand nuns (MT.552 f). On another occasion, Bhātikābhaya described the contents of the Relic chamber of the Mahā Thūpa to all the monks of the Mahāvihāra assembled in the Lohapāsāda (MT.555).

Buddhaghosa says (DA.ii.581) that, up to his day, it was customary for all the monks of Sri Lanka, who lived to the north of the Mahāvāḷukagaṅgā, to assemble in the Lohapāsāda twice a year, on the first and last days of the vassa, while those to the south of the river assembled at the Tissa-Mahāvihāra. When disputes arose as to the interpretation of various rules or teachings, the decision was often announced by a teacher of repute from the lowest storey of the Lohapāsāda (DA.ii.442, 514).

The hood of the Nāga king Mucalinda was of the same size as the storehouse (bhandāgāragabbha) of the Lohapāsāda (UdA.101). A mass of rock, as big as the seventh storey of the Lohapāsāda, if dropped from the Brahma world, would take four months to reach the earth. DA.ii.678.

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