Tissamaharama, is one of the two Maha viharas of Sri Lanka. The other being at Anuradhapura has also just like it been sanctified by a visit of Lord Buddha. The Dhatuwamsa says that Lord Buddha came to Tissamaharama on his third visit to this Island. It also mentions that he attained a state of tranquility (samadhi) at the site of this dagoba long before it was built. It is also at this shrine that Dutugemunu (161-137 B.C) offered flowers before launching his campaign to unify the island. Furthermore he selected five hundred of the strongest monks from the Pirivena and embarked to the battlefield.
This was the main centre of religion and culture in the ancient kingdom of Rohana. Ancient literary works record that thousands of bhikhus resided here. “Sumanagala Vilasinee” mentions that bhikkus who were well versed in Pali commentaries had assembled here to recite them. “Manoratha Purana” says Maha Siva Thera who lived here was the chief teacher (pradhana acharya) of the communities of Monks. According to the ‘Papagnna Padaniya two great preachers by the names of Dhammadinna and Maliyadeva had lived in this vihara.
Tissamaharama is also the most popular place of pilgrimage in Ruhuna, where Buddhists from all over the country gather to worship. It is also one of the 16 most sacred places of worship in Sri Lanka.
Renovation of the Dagoba began in 1835 under the astute leadership of Venerable Vepatha Sumana Thero and ended in 1900. Presently one could find a monastery, an almsgiving hall, a library, a stone shelf around the foot of the dagoba to offer flowers, and Vishnu, Kataragama and Suniyam shrines within the compound of the vihara. The chief incumbent of the vihara presently is Venerable Devalegama Dhammasena Nayake Thera. Furthermore excavations are carried out presently by the Archaeology Department.