Although very similar to the Abhayagiri Stupa, the Jetavanarama Stupa in Anuradhapura was built in the 3rd century AD. It is considered to be the largest stupa in the country and the world, and was once the foremost place of worship for Mahayana Buddhists (a branch of Buddhism). In fact, King Mahasen’s reason to build the stupa was to propagate Mahayana Buddhism over Theravada Buddhism. As a result, the time of building this stupa saw the kingdom experience a turbulent time, as it was on the verge of collapsing. However, the king, knowing his mistake, allowed the practice of Theravada Buddhism. Even today, the complex is a major place of worship as it serves as an Atamasthana (one of the 8 sacred places the Lord Buddha visited when he arrived to the island).
Over the years, the stupa underwent many turbulent periods, as it was destroyed and looted by the Chola invaders during the 11th century, but was restored by King Parakramabahu of Polonnaruwa in the 12th century. Even with restoration, the subsequent years resulted in the rise and fall of many kingdoms, which resulted in more neglect. Taken over by nature, the authorities have now painstakingly restored the large stupa to its original grandeur.