Mihintale in 3rd century BC was a thick jungle inhibited by wild animals and utilised as hunting grounds by the royals. Where it is believed to be the place inaugurated the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka by king Devanamapiyatissa. Sri Lankan history has it that Mahinda, son of the Indian King Asoka and a fully enlightened Buddhist monk, met King Devanampiyatissa on this hill and dissuaded him from continuing his deer hunt. The Sri Lankan King was subsequently converted to Buddhism and the country remains predominantly Buddhist to this day. Hence each year, on the Poson full-moon night (usually in June), great ceremonies are held at Mihintale to commemorate the conversion of Devanampiya Tissa.
Later Mihintale (mihinthalaya) became a main centre for Theravada Buddhism and is considered the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Eight miles (12.875 Km) east of Anuradhapura, close to the Anuradhapura - Trincomalee Road, Mihintale is a collection of mountains, which are Mihintalawa, Ath vehera, Anaikutti Mountain and Rajagiri Lena, each about 1000 feet in height. its various shrines connected by a total of some 1,840 steps that ultimately lead to the summit.
There are ruins of ancient hospital with medical bath carved in stone, stone inscriptions and urns belonging to the ancient period found at the foot of the mountain. Heinz E Müller-Dietz (Historia Hospitalium 1975) describes Mihintale Hospital as perhaps being the oldest in the world.