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"Anuradhapura, capital of ancient times" Sri Lanka Things to Do Tip by josephescu

Sri Lanka Things to Do: 539 reviews and 890 photos

  The Ruwanveli Saya Stupa in Anuradhapura
by josephescu
  • The Ruwanveli Saya Stupa in Anuradhapura - Sri Lanka
      The Ruwanveli Saya Stupa in Anuradhapura
    by josephescu
  • bathing tank (pokuna) in Anuradhapura - Sri Lanka
      bathing tank (pokuna) in Anuradhapura
    by josephescu
  • dagoba in Anuradhapura - Sri Lanka
      dagoba in Anuradhapura
    by josephescu
  • remains of the monastic building, Anuradhapura - Sri Lanka
      remains of the monastic building, Anuradhapura
    by josephescu
  • ancient moonstone in Anuradhapura - Sri Lanka
      ancient moonstone in Anuradhapura
    by josephescu

One of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of ancient Lankan civilization, home to some of the largest & most impressive structures of the ancient world, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Founded in the 4th century BC, it was the capital of the Anuradhapura Kingdom until the beginning of the 11th century AD. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centers 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).

Anuradhapura is said to be the capital of the Rakshasa King Ravana in the Hindu epic Ramayana. According to legend, it was burnt down by Lord Hanuman before the epic war. A popular legend among the Hindus says that a layer of ash is still to be found anywhere that you dig in Anuradhapura.

With the introduction of Buddhism, the city gained more prominence and the great building era began, when vast monastery complexes and some of the tallest buildings in the ancient world were built. The city's popularity grew both as a ritual centre and as the administrative centre, a large population was attracted to the city for permanent settlement.

Anuradhapura attained its highest magnificence about the commencement of the Christian era. In its prime it ranked beside Nineveh and Babylon in its colossal proportions—its four walls, enclosing an area of over 600 kmp —in the number of its inhabitants, and the splendour of its shrines and public edifices. The city also had some of the most complex irrigation systems of the ancient world, situated in the dry zone of the country the administration built many tanks to irrigate the land. Most of these tanks still survive. To date, it is believed that some of these tanks are the oldest surviving reservoirs in the world today.

Capital since the 5th century, the city suffered much during the earlier South Indian invasions, which made the kingdom economically poor. As a result of one last invasion, Anuradhapura was sacked and finally abandoned by AD 1017, with the governing capital shifted more inland, to the relative safety of Polonnaruwa.

It was not until the 19th century, 1000 years later, that the jungle was cleared away, the ruins laid bare, and some measure of prosperity brought back to the surrounding country by the restoration of hundreds of village tanks by the British.

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, and as high as 120m. Some of them contain enough masonry to build a middle sized town. 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 Bodi-Tree, which is said to date back to the year 245 BC.

Directions: Allow at least a FULL day from dawn to dusk, and considering monuments are scattered around a large park area, better hire a bike.

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Aug 31, 2008
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