Thanthirimale monastery could be reached by two ways. The first is through Anuradhapura-Mahavillachchiya road. Going along the Anuradhapura Mahawilachchiya road 18 Km take the Sri Wimalagnana road and r travelling 18 km you could reach Tanthirimale Raja Maha Viharaya. The second road is on the Madavachchiya-Mannar road. Going along the Madavachchiya-Mannar road 18 Km turn left from Gajasingha Pura travel 12 Km and reach Tanthirimale Raja Maha Viharaya. In this way you will cross Malawatu Oya.
Thanthirimale has a long history running back to the period of Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka by Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera when king Devanampiyatissa ruled the country in 3rd century BC. The emperor Dharmasoka of Dambadiva –India had done everything possible for the sake of his friend and his counterpart in Sri Lanka, King Devanampiyatissa who also had sought solace in Buddhism. The emperor Dharmasoka sent a delegation led by his own son, Arahant Mahinda Maha Thera to establish Buddhism in Sri Lanka. After establishing Buddhism in Sri Lanka Arahant Mahinda Thera invited his sister Sangamiththa to come Sri Lanka to establish the Bikkuni society as non-availability of nuns. The Sangamiththa Thera came to Sri Lanka bringing a branch of Bodhi tree where Buddha reached enlightenment. Arahant Theri and her followers had disembarked at port Dambakolapatuna about three miles away from Kankasanthurai as archaeologists suspect.
According to Mahawansa King Devanampiyatissa had stepped in to the sea and proceeded until the water reached his neck when he saw the Sri Maha Bodhi being brought. He received Sri Maha Bodhi on his head after being brought to the shore. He had placed the Sri Maha Bodhi in a chariot and the ceremonial procession started early in the morning and the people had gathered on the road side to worship the Sri Maha Bodhi. According to chronicle Mahawansa Thanthirimale was one of the important halting places of the procession bringing the Sri Maha Bodhi. Bhikkuni Sangamiththa and the escort had rested here for one night during the sacred journey of bringing the Sri Maha Bodhi to Anuradhapura. This place in the village of Brahmin Thiwakka was cleared and cleaned to receive the procession and the whole area was covered with a layer of white sand. The village of Brahmin Thiwakka as described in Mahawansa was an extremely pleasant place similar to Isipathana “Rishis Descend” the grove in Benares where Buddha first preached His monks. Chronicler of Mahawansa states that by virtue of devotion King Devanampiyatissa and his followers had eight Bodhi saplings had emerged from the fruits of the sacred Bodhi and one of them was later presented by the king to be planted at Thanthirimale. The Bo tree planted in that manner is standing at the Raja Maha Viharaya rich with foliage.
Thanthirimle has been called ‘Thivanka Bamunu Gama’ during the reign of King Devanampiyathissa. When Prince Vijaya arrived Thambapanni (ancient Sri Lanka), he had advised his followers to establish settlements in different areas. According to his advices one minister called ‘Upathisssa’ has established settlement in this area. Thus, this area was once called Upathissa Gama/ Upathissa Grama.
According to folklore, Saliya, son of the king Dutugemunu, who was expelled from the royal family for the reason of marrying Ashokamala, a girl from a lower caste, lived in Thanthirimale for years. Eventually, young couple was forgiven and restored to the king's good graces. Then, the king had given them a golden necklace having a shape of a butterfly known as Thanthiri. It is believed the name Thanthirimale was derived in relation to that. This place was unidentified till the beginning of the 19th century, and in the 1960s the temple was reestablished by Ven.Kudakongaskada Wimalagnana Thero, who pioneered in restoring this place for worship for general public. Kudakongaskada Wimalagnana Thero was assacinated by terrorists in 1992 and thereafter Ven. Thanthirimale Chandarathana Thero became the incumbent. The temple and surrounding area are full of ruins, including two stone statues and several stone ponds. There is an archaeological museum at Thanthirimale.
Assistant Chief Sanganayake North & Eastern Province,Shasrthrapathi,