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Anuradhapura, 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' of Sri Lanka.
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 Anuradhapura.
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 Anuradhapura.
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.
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.
Abhayagiri Dagaba: This is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage towns and extensive ruins in the world.
Ruwanvelisaya: Ruwanwelisaya Stupa is considered a marvel for its architectural qualities.
Thuparamaya: Collarbone of Buddha is enshrined in the chetiya of Thuparamaya. It is the first dagaba built in Sri Lanka.
Lovamahapaya: Also known as Brazen Palace Lovamahapaya is a complex which was once a structure of its own class.
Jetavanaramaya: This is the largest stupa in Sri Lanka. It was the third largest structure in the ancient world.
Mirisaveti Stupa: It was built by King Dutugamunu after defeating King Elara. A legend associates it with the relics of Lord Buddha.
Lankarama: This is a stupa constructed by King Valagamba in an ancient place.
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