Anuradhapura is one of the oldest cities on the island of Sri Lanka and the dagobas (or stupas) are the largest and most magnificent in the island. They are also some of the last standing structures in the ancient city as most of it was made of materials that have long ago collapsed. However, the massive dagobas are still standing, including the three largest: Thuparama, Ruwanweli, and Jetavana, as well as the colossal Abhayagiri dagobas.
These dagobas are of incredible importance to Buddhists all over the world, as they house some of Buddha’s relics, as well as things like his collarbone. These dagobas were built in the third and second century BCE and have been restored over the ages and were built entirely from earth and stone which is how they have survived the past fifteen centuries.
Massive stones would form the foundation and then the dome would be made from brick. Each dagoba was commissioned by a king of the city, such as King Vatagamini who commissioned the Abhayagiri dagobas around 88 BCE as a monastery.
Dagobas are meant to house the ashes and relics of Buddhist monks. They are not places of worship, but rather places of remembrance and reverence for the dead. These ones were modeled after water bubbles, though they were built in the same manner as their counterparts in India-that is, with a temple on top and railed pathways around the building.
The reason for building them was also the same as the idea of dagobas had come from India via King Ashoka who worked to convert his neighbors. These dagobas supposedly contain very important relics such as the right collarbone of Buddha and a tooth. They are also massive in size, second only to the Pyramids at Giza.