Anuradhapura is Sri Lanka’s first capital, a potent symbol of Sinhalese power, and the most extensive and important of Sri Lanka’s ancient cities. It became a capital in 380 BC and for over 1000 years Sinhalese kings ruled from this great city. Its impressive remains were ‘discovered’ in the early 19th century and have been in the process of restoration ever since. They lie to the west and north of the modern town of Anuradhapura. Anuradhapura has been classed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Anuradhapura is 250 km (155 mi) north of Colombo.
There are plenty of Colombo-Anuradhapura buses each day; you can either catch an older style bus or lash out on a ride in an inter-city air conditioned bus. Trains also go to Anuradhapura but are dependant on the security situation in the north.
Sri Lanka offers an interesting and existing array of items for shoppers. Gems, Finished Garments, Batiks, Tea and Handicrafts are popular shopping itineraries among the tourists. Handlooms fabric materials, leather products, furniture, reproduction of antiques, jewellery and ceramic are also popular with visitors of fine taste who appreciate the very best.
Ruwanveli Seya: Popularly regarded as the greatest, and certainly the most popular among the Buddhists, of the stupas at Anuradhapura, Ruwanveli Seya, is the pride of the Great Emperor Dutugamunu. Raised in the 2nd century B.C.. this dagoba is supposed to have the perfect water bubble shape. You will also be impressed by the magnificent Elephant Wall which carries the terrace and the dagoba. Among the many statues in the courtyard there is one that is of a larger-than-life man. This is considered to be the king himself watching his work from a respectable distance.
Jethawana Monastery:Â The monastery complex is built where it is believed to be the cremation grounds of the Mahinda Thera who introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Founded by King Mahasena (276-303AD) the stupa at 120m high was the third tallest monument in the world at the time of the fall of Roman Empire.
Isurumuniya Lovers:Â Isurumuniya temple built in the 3rd century B.C. is noted for its rock carvings. The best known among these is the “Lovers”. Many a poet and song writer has taken inspiration from this carving to write their masterpieces. It is believed that the carving may represent Saliya the son of the great king Dutugamunu and the low-caste maiden whom he loved.
Abhayagiri Stupa and Monastery:Â Abhayagiri is the largest monastery complex in the Anuradhapura kingdom. Founded in the second century BC by king Valagamba(also known as Vattagamini Abhaya) was an international institution by the first century AD.
The monastery include full components of a Buddhist temple as well as other buildings. The stupa at Abhayagiri is 108m tall and one of the tallest brick buildings of the ancient world. The finest Buddha sculpture in Sri Lanka the Samadhi Statue (3- century AD) is among its many fine stone carvings.
The Samadhi Buddha:Â Don’t miss the Samadhi Buddha ! It’s one of the best executed Buddha statues in the country, dating back to the 4th Century. Interesting detail is that when looked at from the left, the Buddha appears to be smiling, but not from the right.
Aukana Buddha:Â The 13 meter high statue carved out of solid granite, goes back to the 5th century, to the reign of King Dathusena. (about 50 km south of Anuradhapura).On a rainy day, it is said, that one can see droplets of water falling off the tip of the statue’s nose hitting the ground exactly between the toes.- a testament to the architectural accuracy of the sculptor. The brick enclosure around and above was built recently to protect it from weather .
The Kuttam Pokuna: Kuttam Pokuna or the Twin Ponds are two breathtakingly beautiful bathing ponds aligned lengthwise exemplifying the artistic achievements in the field of hydraulic engineering in ancient Sri Lanka. These date back to around 8 – 10th centuries AD.
The Ratna Prasada:Â There’s not much left of this old monastery, but if you want to see some more excellent guard stones, check out this place.
Mahasen’s Palace:Â Here’s to be found the best Moonstone of the entire country. A moonstone is the semicircular stone that is placed on the ground at the entrance to a temple.
Ritigala:Â A beautifully paved footpath, several elevated platforms, ruins of an old hospital and remains of a terraced pond are what is unearthed at this 180 BC Buddhist monastery at the foothill of 600m high Ritigala Rock. Dating back to around 350 B.C is one of the oldest historical places mentioned in the ancient chronicles. (about 50km south east of Anuradhapura)
Mihinthale: Thirteen kilometers from Anuradhapura is Mihintale, the site of introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka in the year 247 BC. The King of Sri Lanka having embraced Buddhism established the world’s first fauna and flora sanctuary at Mihintale in the 3rd century BC. Monasteries, an ancient hospital, dagobas, ponds, caves in which Buddhist monks lived are among the many places of interest that a visitor should see.