Dana Salawa, the Alms Hall
This middle terrace of Mihintale was an important place where a lot of activities such as the organisation and administrative functions of the Bhikkhus took place.
This was also the place where important decisions regarding the discipline of the Sangha were taken and also the place where the Bhikkhus assembled for their daily meal.
Evidence for this is also found in the same site, namely the Mihintale Slab inscription of King Mahinda IV. This portion of the mountain can be explained with help of this inscription. On climbing the flight of steps from the foot of the mountain, one reaches the quadrangular levelled area which is well guarded by a prakara and an entrance door-way.
On the left hand side is found the Alms Hall of the residing monks. Rectangular in shape, this building measures 114 ft. by 77 ft. with a central courtyard open to the sky. The main entrance is on the west side. The courtyard measures 62 feet by 25 feet and is paved with granite slabs.
Around the verandah are arranged rooms of different sizes. The roof was supported by 14 rows of stone columns arranged symmetrically. The southern part of this building is set aside for the kitchen.
“The western side for the store rooms. On the eastern side of this building are found two huge rectangular granite boats which are called Kanda Oruwa (Gruel Boat) and Bat Oruwa (rice boat). The northern side would have been probably used as an area for serving meals.
The stone courtyard was supplied with water by cisterns and covered drains. At one corner a conduit drained off the water. The Bhikkhus residing in the monastery must have come to this refectory for their meals in the morning. They formed themselves into a queue and took their seats in the Alms Hall.
The layout of this refectory is quite similar to those of the ones found in Anuradhapura such as at the Catussala at Mahavihara and Abhayagiriya. The Alms Hall at Mihintale was provided with water drawn from the Naga Pokuna through clay pipes laid in the ground.
The water thus brought to the site of the refectory was connected to the kitchen area through a granite cistern supported on pillars. Cleansing the teeth, shall put on and cover themselves with their yellow robes as prescribed in the Sikhakarani.
They shall then go to the check room of At Vehera and exercising a spirit of benevolence and reciting paritta formulas shall descend into the refectory and receive gruel and boiled rice.