most sacred town of Sri Lanka, can be termed the birthplace of Sinhala
civilisation. It was the capital of Sri Lanka continuously from the 5th
century BC to AD 1017. When many parts of the world were emerging from the
stone age, Anuradhapura had already become an advanced civilisation.
Merchants of the city traded all round the world, people had sophisticated
systems of man-made lakes and canals and structure of the town was
well-planned. The place has been marked by Ptolemy in his first ever map.
Famous monk travellers Fa Hien and Buddha Ghosha of the 5th century have
also mentioned Anuradhapura in their relics, testifying on its glory.
Anuradhapura is one of the cities in the 'Cultural Cities'
Places of Interest
The colossal ido, 13 meter high, is carved out of solid granite. Harking
back to the 5th century, to the reign of King Dathusena, it is an impressive
relic from that age. The statue is known for its architectural accuracy.
However, the brick enclosure around it has been built recently.
Thuparama Guard Stone
Considered to be the oldest dagoba in Sri Lanka, Thuparama Temple is
believed to enshrine the collar bone relic of Lord Buddha. Similar Guard
Stones are generally found in pairs at the entrance to temples, palaces and
other venerated sites.
Isurumuniya temple erected in the 3rd century B.C. is appreciated for
its rock carvings. 'Lovers' is the best known carving among these. It has
been the inspiration behind many a poet and song writer. Saliya the son of
the great monarch Dutugamunu loved a low-caste maiden. People believe that
the carving represents them.
Among the stupas of Anuradhapura, Ruwanveli Seya is the most popular among
the adherents of Buddhism. It had been once the the pride of the Great
Emperor Dutugamunu. Erected in the 2nd century B.C. this dagoba is supposed
to once have the perfect water bubble shape. Larger-than-life man idol is
the most famous among the idols of Anuradhapura.
Temple of Mihintale holds considerable importance in the history of Sri
Lanka. This is where Thero Mahinda, the son of Great Indian Emperor Ashoka
introduced Buddhiism to the ruler of Sri Lanka Thissa. Theri Sangamitra,
daughter of Ashoka, carried a off shoot of the holy Bo tree under whose
shade Buddha had attained nirvana. The tree was planted in Anuradhapura.
Mahinda Thera who introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka had been cremated at the
place where the monastery complex stands today. Built by King Mahasena
(276-303AD) the stupa at 120m high was the third tallest monument in the
world at the time when Roman Empire disintegrated.
Abhayagiri is the largest monastery complex here. Built in the in the
second century BC by King Valagamba it evolved as an institution of world
fame by the first century AD. Buildings as well as a Buddhist temple are
located in the monastery. The stupa is 108 metres tall. Once it was among
the tallest brick structures in the world. Most acclaimed Buddhist sculpture
is the Samadhi Idol, built in 3rd century AD.
This is another ancient Buddhist monastery at the foothill of 600m high
Ritigala Rock. It is known for elegantly paved footpath, several elevated
platforms, ruins of an old hospital and remains of a terraced pond.
Assemblage in the Folk Museums gives us the illustrations of the rural life
in the province and how it has been developing from hundreds of years.
Archaeological Museum, located near it, displays the excavations attained
from Abhayagiri temple explorations.
Eight Places of Veneration
Sri Maha Bodhi
An offshoot of the historical Bodhi tree under which Buddha became
enlightened was planted in Anuradhapura in 288 BC. It is the oldest living
human-planted tree in the world.
This is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage towns and extensive
ruins in the world.
Ruwanwelisaya Stupa is considered a marvel for its architectural qualities.
Collarbone of Buddha is enshrined in the chetiya of Thuparamaya. It is the
first dagaba built in Sri Lanka.
Also known as Brazen Palace Lovamahapaya is a complex which was once a
structure of its own class.
This is the largest stupa in Sri Lanka. It was the third largest structure
in the ancient world.
It was built by King Dutugamunu after defeating King Elara. A legend
associates it with the relics of Lord Buddha.
This is a stupa constructed by King Valagamba in an ancient place.
As a Great City
At its zenith Anuradhapura ranked beside Nineveh and Babylon in its
colossal proportions. The town enclosed the area of 663 sq km. Glory of its
shrines and public edifices was known all over the world. The town boasted
one of the best and complex irrigations in the ancient world. The town hosts
few very important structures associated with Buddhism.
Decline of the City
Continuous invasions by the dyansties of South India forced the inhabitants
of Anurandhapura to abandon the city. Chola invasion in 1017 hit the economy
hard. They also caused huge harm to the irrigation system of the city. The
city fell into decay for nearly a thousand years. The town got some of its
sheen back in 19th century.
In Hindu Mythology
Legend holds that Anuradhapura had been the capital of demon king Ravana of
Hindu epic Ramayana. Before the epic battle, the town was burnt down by
Rama's legendary devotee Hanuman.
The town originated as a settlement in the 6th century BC. King
Pandukabhaya (437-367BC) made it his capitalk and christened it after the
constellation 'Anuradha'. He also commenced the great irrigation works on
which the town depended for its survival.
Distance from Major Towns
How to Reach
Various modes of transport can be availed to reach Anuradhapura. One can
take private car, luxurry coach, train, inter-island airplane (infrequent)
and public bus transportation. Bus is the cheapest mode to travel to
Proceed on the route to Warakapola, and then north to Dambulla. Now take
route A9 north till Galkulama and from the junction, move along route A13 to
Move on route A10 till you reach Padeniya. Turn right on highway A28. It
would lead you to Anuradhapura.
Route A9 north would take you to Galkulama junction. Anuradhapura is not
far from here.
Other than sightseeing you can indulge in various other activities. Large
lakes were built in ancient days and strolling alongside these lakes is
refreshing activity here. Youcan also cycle or hike amidst the impressive
dry woods. Birdwatching is also a favoured activity here.