1. Uruvelā.-A locality on the banks of the Nerañjarā, in the neighbourhood of the Bodhi-tree at Buddhagayā. Here, after leaving Alāra and Uddaka, the Bodhisatta practised during six years the most severe penances. His companions were the Pañcavaggiya-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 Senā-nigama.
The Jātaka 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 Kāladevala. When the Bodhisatta decided to take ordinary food again, it was given to him by a girl, Sujātā, daughter of Senānī of the township of Senānī. In the neighbourhood of Uruvelā were also the Ajapāla Banyan-tree, the Mucalinda-tree and the Rājāyatana-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 Uruvelā, to the Kappāsikavanasanda and converted the Bhaddavaggiyā (Vin.i.23f; DhA.i.72). At Uruvelā dwelt also the Tebhātika-Jatilas: Uruvela-Kassapa, Nadī-Kassapa and Gayā-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 Uruvelā, 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 Māra, under the Bodhi-tree. Once Māra 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, Māra came to the Buddha and assumed various wondrous shapes, beautiful and ugly. Another time Māra 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, Māra made one more attempt to make the Buddha discontented with his lonely lot and it was then, when Māra had gone away discomfited, that Mars's three daughters, Tanhā, Ratī and Ragā, made a final effort to draw the Buddha away from his purpose (S.i.124f).
It was at Uruvelā, 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 Brahmā Sahampatī 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 Nibbāna was to cultivate the four satipatthānas and that Sahampatī 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 Brahmā 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 (mahā velā, mahanto vālikarāsi). 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 Divyāvadāna (p.202), the place is called Uruvilvā. The Mahāvastu (ii.207) mentions four villages as being in Uruvelā: Praskandaka, Balākalpa, Ujjangala and Jangala.
2. Uruvelā.-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 Bhaddakacānā, called Uruvela. Uruvelā was evidently a port as well, because we are told that when Dutthagāmanī decided to build the Mahā-Thūpa, six wagonloads of pearls as large as myrobalan fruit, mixed with coral, appeared on dry land at the Uruvela-pattana (Mhv.xxviii.36). Near Uruvelā was the Vallī-vihāra, built by Subha (Mhv.xxxv.58).
Geiger thinks (Mhv.Trs.189, n.2) that Uruvelā was near the mouth of the modern Kalā Oya, five yojanas - i.e. about forty miles - to the west of Anurādhapura.
3. Uruvelā.-A village to which Queen Sugalā (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 Monorāgala (Cv.Trs.ii.29, n.4). It is perhaps to be identified with Uruvelamandapa.