1. Uruvelá.-A locality on the banks of the Nerańjará, in the neighbourhood of the Bodhi-tree at Buddhagayá. Here, after leaving Alára and Uddaka, the Bodhisatta practised during six years the most severe penances. His companions were the Pańcavaggiya-monks, who, however, left him when he relaxed the severity of his austerities (M.i.166). The place chosen by the Bodhisatta for his penances was called Sená-nigama.
The Játaka version (J.i.67f) contains additional particulars. It relates that once the Bodhisatta fainted under his austerities, and the news was conveyed to his father that he was dead. Suddhodana, however, refused to believe this, remembering the prophecy of Káladevala. When the Bodhisatta decided to take ordinary food again, it was given to him by a girl, Sujátá, daughter of Senání of the township of Senání. In the neighbourhood of Uruvelá were also the Ajapála Banyan-tree, the Mucalinda-tree and the Rájáyatana-tree, where the Buddha spent some time after his Enlightenment, and where various shrines, such as the Animisa-cetiya, the Ratanacankama-cetiya and the Ratanaghara later came into existence.
From Uruvela the Buddha went to Isipatana, but after, he had made sixty-one arahants and sent them out on tour to preach the Doctrine, he returned to Uruvelá, to the Kappásikavanasanda and converted the Bhaddavaggiyá (Vin.i.23f; DhA.i.72). At Uruvelá dwelt also the Tebhátika-Jatilas: Uruvela-Kassapa, Nadí-Kassapa and Gayá-Kassapa, who all became followers of the Buddha (Vin.i.25).
According to the Ceylon Chronicles (E.g., Mhv.i.17ff; Dpv.i.35, 38, 81), it was while spending the rainy season at Uruvelá, waiting for the time when the Kassapa brothers should be ripe for conversion, that the Buddha, on the full-moon day of Phussa, in the ninth month after the Enlightenment, paid his first visit to Ceylon.
Mention is made of several temptations of the Buddha while he dwelt at Uruvela, apart from the supreme contest with Mára, under the Bodhi-tree. Once Mára came to him in the darkness of the night in the guise of a terrifying elephant, trying to frighten him. On another dark night when the rain was falling drop by drop, Mára came to the Buddha and assumed various wondrous shapes, beautiful and ugly. Another time Mára tried to fill the Buddha's mind with doubt as to whether he had really broken away from all fetters and won complete Enlightenment (S.i.103ff). Seven years after the Buddha's Renunciation, Mára made one more attempt to make the Buddha discontented with his lonely lot and it was then, when Mára had gone away discomfited, that Mars's three daughters, Tanhá, Ratí and Ragá, made a final effort to draw the Buddha away from his purpose (S.i.124f).
It was at Uruvelá, too, that the Buddha had misgivings in his own mind as to the usefulness of preaching the Doctrine which he had realised, to a world blinded by passions and prejudices. The Brahmá Sahampatí thereupon entreated the Buddha not to give way to such diffidence (S.i.136ff; Vin.i.4f). It is recorded that either on this very occasion or quite soon after, the thought arose in the Buddha's mind that the sole method of winning Nibbána was to cultivate the four satipatthánas and that Sahampatí visited the Blessed One and confirmed his view (S.v.167; and again, 185). A different version occurs elsewhere (S.v.232), where the thought which arose in the Buddha's mind referred to the five controlling faculties (saddhindriya, etc.), and Brahmá tells the Buddha that in the time of Kassapa he had been a monk named Sahaka and that then he had practised these five faculties.
The name Uruvela is explained as meaning a great sandbank (mahá velá, mahanto válikarási). A story is told which furnishes an alternative explanation: Before the Buddha's appearance in the world, ten thousand ascetics lived in this locality, and they decided among themselves that if any evil thought arose in the mind of any one of them, he should carry a basket of sand to a certain spot. The sand so collected eventually formed a great bank (AA.ii.476; UdA.26; MA.i.376; MT.84). In the Divyávadána (p.202), the place is called Uruvilvá. The Mahávastu (ii.207) mentions four villages as being in Uruvelá: Praskandaka, Balákalpa, Ujjangala and Jangala.
2. Uruvelá.-A township in Ceylon, founded by one of the ministers of Vijaya (Dpv.ix.35; Mhv.vii.45). According to a different tradition (Mhv.ix.9; perhaps this refers to another settlement), it was founded by a brother of Bhaddakacáná, called Uruvela. Uruvelá was evidently a port as well, because we are told that when Dutthagámaní decided to build the Mahá-Thúpa, six wagonloads of pearls as large as myrobalan fruit, mixed with coral, appeared on dry land at the Uruvela-pattana (Mhv.xxviii.36). Near Uruvelá was the Vallí-vihára, built by Subha (Mhv.xxxv.58).
Geiger thinks (Mhv.Trs.189, n.2) that Uruvelá was near the mouth of the modern Kalá Oya, five yojanas - i.e. about forty miles - to the west of Anurádhapura.
3. Uruvelá.-A village to which Queen Sugalá (q.v.) fled, taking the sacred relies, the Alms Bowl and the Tooth Relic (Cv.lxxiv.88). It is identified with Etimole about five or six miles south-east of Monorágala (Cv.Trs.ii.29, n.4). It is perhaps to be identified with Uruvelamandapa.