“Abhayagiri”, one of seventeen such religious units in Anuradhapura and the largest of its five major viharas. Surrounding the humped dageba, Abhayagiri Vihara was a seat of the Northern Monastery, or Uttara Vihara. The term “Abhayagiri Vihara” means not only a complex of monastic buildings, but also a fraternity of Buddhist monks, or Sangha, which maintains its own historical records, traditions and way of life. Founded in the second century B.C., it had grown into an international institution by the first century of this era, attracting scholars from all over the world and encompassing all shades of Buddhist philosophy.
Its influence can be traced to other parts of the world, through branches established elsewhere. Thus, the Abhayagiri Vihara developed as a great institution vis a vis the Mahavihara and the Jetavana Buddhist monastic sects in the ancient Sri Lankan capital of Anuradhapura.