One of the world’s oldest continuously occupied cities
Anuradhapura is the capital city of North Central Province, Sri Lanka and the capital of Anuradhapura District. Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sri Lankan civilization. The city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the centre of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. The city lies 205 km (127 mi) north of the current capital Colombo in the North Central Province, on the banks of the historic Malwathu Oya. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka.
It is believed that from the fourth century BC until the beginning of the 11th century AD it was the capital of the Sinhalese. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centres of political power and urban life in South Asia. The ancient city, considered sacred to the Buddhist world, is today surrounded by monasteries covering an area of over sixteen square miles (40 km²). Although according to historical records the city was founded in the 5th century BC, the archaeological data put the date as far back as the 10th century BC.
Buddhism and Anuradhapura
With the introduction of Buddhism, the city gained more prominence and the great building era began. During the late Anuradhapura period, the royal family and nobility of Sri Lanka strongly supported Buddhism. As such, they frequently commissioned works of art and donated these items to Buddhist temples. In return, the temple and local Buddhist community supported the king’s rule.
The ruins consist of three classes of buildings, dagobas, monastic buildings, and pokunas. The dagobas are bell-shaped masses of masonry, varying from a few feet to over 1100 ft (340 m) in circumference. Some of them contain enough masonry to build a town for twenty-five thousand inhabitants. Remains of the monastic buildings are to be found in every direction in the shape of raised stone platforms, foundations and stone pillars. The most famous is the Brazen Palace erected by King Dutugamunu about 164 BC. The pokunas are bathing-tanks or tanks for the supply of drinking water, which are scattered everywhere through the jungle. The city also contains a sacred Bo-Tree, which is said to date back to the year 245 BC.
Key attractions in Anuradhapura
- Abhayagiri Dagoba
- Ruvanvelisaya Dagoba
- Sri Maha Bodhiya – Sacred Bo Tree
- Jetavanarama Dagoba
- Archaeological Museum
- Anuradhapura World Heritage Site
- Isurumuniya Viharaya
- Kuttam Pokuna
- Ranmasu Uyana
- Moonstone (Sandakada Pahana)
- The Royal Palace
- Mirasaveti Stupa
- Lankarama Stupa