Anuradhapura – The City of the Ancients

Quench your culture thirsty appetite by exploring the ancient city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Proudly showcasing remnants of a prolific past, Anuradhapura was one of the first cities in the country. For over a millennium it stood proudly as the capital of the Anuradhapura Kingdom.

Encapsulating visitors with its prolific past, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka is an intriguing city. One of the ancient capitals of the country, Anuradhapura is located in the north central province of Sri Lanka. Complete with ruins, irrigation systems, and temples, Anuradhapura is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

History
The history of Anuradhapura spans over two millenniums. It was the central city of the Kingdom of Anuradhapura, as a result it was the headquarters of most of the reigning kings of this period. Prior to this, archaeologists have found evidence of elements of the Iron Age in this region. For that reason, travellers can evaluate that the region’s antiquity is of millions of years old.

It was King Pandukhabaya who first declared, Anuradhpura as the capital of his kingdom. As the first city its strategic strength was immeasurable. It was within feasible distance between major ports of the northwest and northeast region. Since King Pandhukabaya, the Anuradhapura kingdom produced a long list of monarchs and with it was the expansion of territorial expansion and the economic development of the realm. The most significant occurrence during this period was the introduction of Buddhism to the country, during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa.

The kingdom has experienced the reign of over 100 rulers. A few significant individuals of this period include King Dutugemunu, famous for having defeated the fair but foreign King Elara who had seized power. King Mahasena the first king to start building large reservoirs and tanks. He has famously been quoted to have had said that no drop of rain shall pass wasted. King Dathusena who overcame usurpers also largely contributed to the region’s economy by building state of the art irrigation systems, this includes the largest tank in the country Yoda Ela.

The Kings of the early Anuradhapura Kingdom made great effort to construct the city in to a modern metropolis. The economy of the region was strengthened with the use of ground-breaking technology that was utilised in to building irrigation system and tanks. Safeguarding the peoples’ spiritual beliefs, consecrated buildings such as dagobas, chaitya, and more were created in abundance. Today most of these vestiges are intact, conveying that the great monarchs of this era will remain immortal.

Considered to be the golden years of local history, the kingdom of Anuradhapura flourished for several centuries. However due to weak monarchs and constantly being subjected to invasion by ruthless foreign rulers, the declining kingdom was completely destroyed when the Chola’s of South India invaded and mercilessly sacked the city.

Atamasthana, Kuttam Pokuna, Basawakkulama Weva, King Mahasena’s Palace and the Archaeological Museum have been popular attractions for the international traveller. But there is much more to explore in this intriguing city.
Attractions

A Paradise for history buffs, the entire city of Anuradhapura is a treat for the culture thirsty holidaymaker.

Basawakkulama Weva
Fascinating world class engineers and visitors simultaneously, Basawakkulama Weva was built during King Pandukabhaya’ time.
Exhibiting cutting edge features, well advanced for that period Abhaya or Basawakkulama is one of the oldest tanks in the country.

Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum is a must visit for travellers who wish to get up close and personal with the history of the region.
Maintaining over hundreds of priceless artefacts, the museum parts information regarding the art, architecture and lifestyle of that period.

King Mahasena’s Palace

A well-known site in Anuradhpura, King Mahasena ‘s Palace stands symbolizing the once flourishing kingdom of Anuradhapura. The ruins here include a moonstone carved in granite finished with intricate and symbolic motifs. A treat for any art lover.
Atamasthana
Tracing Buddhist architecture back to this period, Atamasthana or eight sacred places is popular excursion for sightseers. Sites here include Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya, Ruwanwelisaya, Thuparamaya, Lovamahapaya, AbhayagiriDagaba, Jetavanarama, Mirisaveti Stupa and Lankarama.

Kuttam Pokuna

Constructed within a landscaped garden, Kuttam Pokuna are twin ponds that were used by monks in that period for their bathing and cleansing rituals. Complete with intricate carvings, the twin ponds are a primary example of the exceptional hydrological engineering prowess ancient Anuradhapura possessed.

The Folk Museum

Found adjacent to Thuparama road, the Folk Museum exhibits objects used by the folk community. Its importance lies in the fact that these communities are over a thousand years in age. The collection displays objects used in their everyday lives. This includes weaponry, vi bissa (vaults that stores grains), utensils and more.

Gal Palama

Gal Palama roughly translated in to stone bridge is situated near Kuttam Pokuna. The bridge made out of pure stone is one of the oldest bridges in the country. Although only a part of the bridge is remaining here, it is still definitely worth a visit!

Isurumuniya Temple

The vicinity does not only boast of ancient architecture but of a beautiful story of love that knows no boundaries. The spectacular site includes the Isurumuniya Temple, a picturesque pond with an intricate elephant carving and more. The most interesting remnant here is the carving of the Isurumuniya lovers. The popular myth revolving around it relates that Prince Saliya, the son of one of the most celebrated monarchs in history, King Dutugemunu discards his hereditary rights to marry a woman of low caste – Ashokamala.

Ranmasu Uyana

Ranmasu Uyana or the Park of the Goldfish is situated close to the Isurumuniya Temple. The water for the scenic pond was supplied by the underground ducts connected to the Tissa Tank. There is unsupported belief that a particular carving here is a result of extra-terrestrial activity.

Abhayagiri Musuem

The Chinese Buddhist monk Fahien travelled to Anuradhapura in the 5th century BC. He resided here at the Abhayagiri monastery and translated Buddhist inscriptions in to Chinese and returned to china. The museum contains a residual collection of this site which includes plates, jewellery, sculptures and more.

Ruwanwelimaha Stupa in Anuradhapura
Ruwanwelisaya
The construction of Ruwanweliseya was prophesied by the great Buddhist missionary Maha Thera Arhath Mahinda, who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka from India during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa (250-210 BC)
Ulagalla by Uga