Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
Region: Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka is located in Anuradhapura
Geographic Coordinates: 8.335000, 80.410800
Climate: Data not available.
Anuradhapura, Located in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka, Is a city with a rich history and cultural significance. It served as the capital of ancient Sri Lanka for over a millennium and is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city attracts numerous visitors who are fascinated by its ruins, Sacred sites, And peaceful atmosphere. Anuradhapura showcases an impressive collection of architectural marvels that highlight the grandeur of ancient Sri Lankan civilization.
One prominent landmark is the Ruwanwelisaya stupa, A massive dome-shaped structure dating back to 140 BC that remains an important place of worship for Buddhists worldwide. Another notable site is Jetavanaramaya, Which was once one of the tallest structures in antiquity and still stands tall today. The city also boasts an extensive network of reservoirs called ‘tanks.’ The Tissa Wewa tank, Constructed over 2, 000 years ago for irrigation purposes, Provides a picturesque setting for leisurely walks or boat rides. Nearby Nuwara Wewa tank offers another scenic spot where visitors can enjoy breathtaking sunsets over its tranquil waters.
For those interested in Buddhism’s historical origins or seeking spiritual solace in serene surroundings, Anuradhapura is home to several sacred Buddhist temples. Maha Bodhi Tree Temple houses what many believe to be a sapling from the original Bodhi tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment more than 2, 500 years ago. Exploring Anuradhapura’s archaeological sites requires ample time due to their vastness and significance. The Abhayagiri Monastery Complex features numerous monastic buildings adorned with intricate carvings that provide insights into ancient monastic life. Within this complex lies the Samadhi Buddha statue—a remarkable example of Sri Lankan craftsmanship.
Beyond its cultural and historical importance, Anuradhapura is renowned for its vibrant local culture. Visitors can immerse themselves in bustling markets, Where they can find a variety of handicrafts, Spices, And traditional Sri Lankan delicacies. The local cuisine is a must-try for food enthusiasts, Offering unique flavors that tantalize the taste buds. Anuradhapura’s charm extends beyond its ancient ruins to its natural beauty. The city is surrounded by lush greenery and picturesque landscapes that invite exploration beyond the archaeological sites.
Nature lovers can visit nearby Wilpattu National Park to catch glimpses of elusive leopards or embark on cycling tours around the city outskirts to discover hidden gems like Ritigala Forest Monastery. Anuradhapura is an extraordinary destination that seamlessly combines history, Spirituality, And natural beauty. Its awe-inspiring ruins provide glimpses into Sri Lanka’s glorious past while offering serene spaces for reflection and contemplation. Whether seeking cultural enrichment or simply wishing to experience the magnificence of ancient civilizations firsthand, Anuradhapura promises an unforgettable journey through time and space.
- Sri Maha Bodhi: A sacred fig tree believed to be a sapling from the original Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment.
- Ruwanwelisaya: A massive stupa built during ancient times, considered one of the most important Buddhist monuments in Sri Lanka.
- Jetavanaramaya: Another impressive stupa, once believed to be the tallest brick structure in the world.
- Thuparamaya: The first dagoba (stupa) built in Sri Lanka after Buddhism was introduced to the country.
- Abhayagiri Monastery Complex: A vast monastic complex that once housed thousands of monks and is known for its impressive architecture and ruins.
- Isurumuniya Temple: A beautiful temple known for its rock carvings, including the famous Isurumuniya Lovers.
- Samadhi Statue: An iconic statue depicting a meditating Buddha located at Mahamevnawa Park.
- Kuttam Pokuna (Twin Ponds): Ancient bathing tanks with intricate architectural designs that were used by monks during ancient times.
- Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Museum: A museum dedicated to preserving artifacts related to Buddhism and showcasing historical objects from Anuradhapura’s past.
- Archaeological Museum, Anuradhapura: Another museum displaying artifacts and exhibits related to Anuradhapura’s rich history and cultural heritage.
These are just some of the many attractions that make Anuradhapura a popular destination for tourists interested in exploring Sri Lanka’s ancient history and Buddhist heritage.
- Tourism: Anuradhapura attracts a large number of tourists due to its UNESCO World Heritage Site status and ancient ruins such as the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree, Ruwanwelisaya stupa, and Abhayagiri monastery complex. This has led to the development of hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, souvenir shops, and other tourism-related businesses.
- Agriculture: The region surrounding Anuradhapura is agriculturally rich with paddy fields, fruit orchards (particularly mangoes), vegetable farms, and dairy farming being prominent activities. Rice cultivation is a significant industry in this area.
- Handicrafts: Anuradhapura is known for traditional handicrafts such as pottery making (especially red clay pottery), wood carving, brassware production, weaving of reed mats and baskets.
- Retail trade: The city has a bustling retail sector with numerous shops selling clothing, electronics appliances, household items groceries etc., catering to both locals and tourists.
- Education: Anuradhapura hosts several educational institutions including universities like Rajarata University of Sri Lanka and secondary schools which contribute to the local economy through employment opportunities.
- Transportation services: Being a major city in central Sri Lanka with good connectivity by roadways/railways/airways; transportation services like taxi services or bus companies play an important role in facilitating movement within Anuradhapura as well as connecting it with other parts of the country.
- Government administration & public services – As an administrative center for North Central Province in Sri Lanka; government offices at various levels are located here along with healthcare facilities that provide essential public services.
It’s important to note that while these industries and businesses are present in Anuradhapura, the city’s economy is still primarily driven by tourism and agriculture due to its historical significance and fertile lands.
- Establishment as a Capital: Anuradhapura was established as the capital of Sri Lanka by King Pandukabhaya around 4th century BCE.
- Buddhism’s Arrival: The city played a crucial role in spreading Buddhism throughout Sri Lanka after Mahinda, son of Emperor Ashoka, introduced it to King Devanampiya Tissa in 3rd century BCE.
- Ruwanwelisaya Stupa: Constructed by King Dutugemunu in 2nd century BCE, this massive stupa is one of Anuradhapura’s most iconic landmarks and an important Buddhist pilgrimage site.
- Jetavanaramaya Stupa: Built during the reign of King Mahasena (3rd century CE), this stupa was once one of the tallest structures in ancient times.
- Abhayagiri Monastery Complex: Established around 1st century BCE, it became an influential center for Buddhist learning attracting scholars from various parts of Asia.
- Great Prakramabahu I: A renowned king from Anuradhapura who ruled during the 12th century CE and expanded his kingdom while fostering irrigation systems such as Parakrama Samudra (the Sea of Parakrama).
- Invasion by Chola Empire: Invasions by South Indian Chola Empire occurred multiple times between 10th-11th centuries CE resulting in significant destruction to Anuradhapura.
- Decline & Shift to Polonnaruwa: Due to continuous invasions and changing regional dynamics, Anuradhapura gradually lost its prominence as the capital and was replaced by Polonnaruwa in the 11th century CE.
- Archaeological Discoveries: Numerous archaeological excavations in Anuradhapura have unearthed ancient structures, sculptures, inscriptions, and artifacts providing valuable insights into Sri Lanka’s rich history.
- UNESCO World Heritage Site: Anuradhapura was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 due to its exceptional cultural value and historical significance.
It is important to note that this list only highlights a few notable events and people associated with Anuradhapura, but there are many more significant aspects of its history waiting to be explored.
- Sri Maha Bodhi Tree: This sacred fig tree is believed to be the oldest historically documented tree in the world and is a significant pilgrimage site for Buddhists.
- Ruwanwelisaya: A massive stupa that stands at a height of 338 feet, it is one of the most important monuments in Anuradhapura and offers panoramic views of the city.
- Jetavanaramaya: Another impressive stupa, Jetavanaramaya was once the third tallest structure in the ancient world and remains an architectural marvel.
- Abhayagiri Monastery Complex: This ancient monastic complex was once one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in Sri Lanka and features numerous ruins, statues, and ponds.
- Isurumuniya Vihara: Known for its rock carvings, this temple complex houses beautiful sculptures including The Lovers, a famous carving depicting an intimate couple.
- Anuradhapura Archaeological Museum: Located near Ruwanwelisaya, this museum displays artifacts excavated from various archaeological sites around Anuradhapura.
- Thuparamaya Dagoba: Considered to be the first dagoba built in Sri Lanka after Buddhism was introduced to the island, it is an important religious site with historical significance.
- Lovamahapaya (Brazen Palace): Although now mostly ruins, this enormous nine-story building used to house over 1,000 monks during ancient times.
- Kuttam Pokuna (Twin Ponds): These twin bathing tanks were created during King Aggabodhi I’s reign and are known for their intricate architecture and engineering techniques.
- Mirisaveti Stupa: Built by King Dutugemunu after his victory over South Indian invaders, this stupa holds religious importance as well as historical significance.
These are just a few examples of places to visit in Anuradhapura, and there are many more historical sites, temples, and museums worth exploring in this ancient city.
- Traditional Cricket: Anuradhapura has a long-standing cricket tradition, with many local clubs participating in friendly matches and tournaments.
- Kotta Poril (Pole Vaulting): This traditional sport involves athletes using a long bamboo pole to vault over an elevated bar. Anuradhapura has produced several notable pole vaulters in Sri Lanka.
- Elle: Elle is a traditional Sri Lankan game similar to baseball or cricket, played with two teams using a small ball made of coconut fiber.
- Archery: The ancient city of Anuradhapura was home to skilled archers who were trained for warfare as well as competitive purposes.
- Traditional Athletics: Various track and field events like sprinting, high jump, long jump, and discus throw are also part of the sporting culture in Anuradhapura.
It’s important to note that while these activities have historical significance in Anuradhapura, they may not be organized into formal teams with extensive documented histories like professional sports teams found elsewhere around the world.
- Poson Poya: This festival is celebrated in June to commemorate the arrival of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. It attracts thousands of devotees who engage in religious activities and visit important Buddhist sites.
- Esala Perahera: Held in July or August, this grand procession features beautifully adorned elephants, traditional dancers, drummers, and fire performers. It is a significant event at the ancient Ruwanwelisaya temple.
- Mihintale Perahera: Taking place during Poson Poya celebrations, this procession honors the meeting between King Devanampiyatissa and Arahat Mahinda Thero at Mihintale (a nearby mountain). It showcases traditional music, dance performances, and decorated elephants.
- Anuradhapura Kingdom Day: Celebrated on 4th October each year, this event commemorates the establishment of the ancient Anuradhapura Kingdom by King Pandukabhaya around 377 BC. Cultural programs and exhibitions are organized to showcase local heritage.
- Wesak Festival: Celebrated nationwide in May or June to mark Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and passing away (Parinirvana), Wesak is an important religious festival in Anuradhapura as well. Temples are illuminated with colorful lights while devotees engage in religious rituals.
- Aluth Sahal Mangallaya: This agricultural festival takes place after harvesting paddy fields around February or March each year. Farmers offer their first harvest to deities for blessings before consuming it themselves.
- Vesak Zone Exhibition: In line with Wesak festivities, a Vesak Zone Exhibition is organized showcasing various aspects of Buddhism through artistic displays such as lanterns depicting Jataka tales (stories from Buddha’s previous lives).
- Sri Maha Bodhi Perahera: A grand procession held in September to honor the sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree, believed to be a sapling of the original Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. The procession includes traditional dancers, drummers, and decorated elephants.
These are just a few examples of cultural events and festivals in Anuradhapura. The city has a rich historical and religious heritage, making it an important center for various celebrations throughout the year.
- Rice and curry: A staple dish in Sri Lankan cuisine, rice and curry is a must-try. It consists of steamed rice served with an assortment of curries, including vegetable curries, fish or chicken curry, dhal (lentil) curry, and sambols (spicy condiments).
- Kottu Roti: This popular street food dish is made by chopping roti bread into small pieces and stir-frying it with vegetables, eggs, meat (optional), and spices on a hot griddle.
- String hoppers: These delicate steamed rice flour noodles are typically served for breakfast or dinner with coconut sambol or curry.
- Hoppers/Appam: These bowl-shaped pancakes made from fermented rice flour batter are crispy on the edges but soft in the center. They can be enjoyed plain or with various accompaniments such as egg hoppers or milk hoppers.
- Ambul Thiyal: A traditional sour fish curry that originated in the region of Anuradhapura. It is prepared using dried goraka fruit along with fish chunks cooked in spices.
Now let’s explore some popular restaurants to try these dishes:
The Rajarata Hotel – Offering a range of Sri Lankan delicacies including traditional rice and curries.
Address: 65/24 Nuwarawewa Lake Road
Milano Restaurant – Known for its wood-fired pizza but also serves Sri Lankan dishes like kottu roti.
Address: 145 Maithripala Senanayake Mawatha
Malini Restaurant – Famous for their string hoppers served with various curries.
Address: 349/8 Harischandra Mawatha
Kandyan Muslim Hotel – A local favorite for hoppers and other Sri Lankan dishes.
Address: 84/1 Harischandra Mawatha
Yaal Restaurant – Specializes in authentic Jaffna cuisine, including dishes like mutton curry and string hoppers.
Address: 634/2 Maithripala Senanayake Mawatha
These are just a few examples, but Anuradhapura offers a wide range of dining options to suit different tastes and budgets.
- Anuradhapura Archaeological Park: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a sprawling complex of ancient ruins and temples, perfect for exploring and learning about the country’s rich history.
- Mihintale: Located just outside Anuradhapura, Mihintale is a sacred mountain that offers stunning views of the surrounding area. It is also home to numerous Buddhist shrines and monasteries.
- Nuwara Wewa: This large reservoir located in the heart of Anuradhapura provides opportunities for boating, fishing, and birdwatching.
- Isurumuniya Vihara: A beautiful temple complex with rock carvings depicting various scenes from Buddhist mythology. It also has a tranquil park-like setting where visitors can relax.
- Wilpattu National Park: Just a short drive from Anuradhapura lies this national park known for its diverse wildlife population including elephants, leopards, deer, and many bird species. Safari tours are available to explore the park.
- Ratnaprasada Meditation Centre: A serene meditation center located within an ancient monastery complex in Anuradhapura where visitors can learn about Buddhism and practice meditation techniques.
- Bicycle tours: Renting a bicycle is a popular way to explore the city of Anuradhapura at your own pace while enjoying its scenic beauty and historical sites.
- Elephant rides: Some places near Anuradhapura offer elephant rides through lush forests or paddy fields providing an unforgettable experience with these gentle giants.
- Cycling around Tissa Wewa: Tissa Wewa is another picturesque reservoir near Anuradhapura where you can enjoy cycling while taking in beautiful views of waterbirds such as pelicans or storks.
- Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi: As one of the oldest living trees in the world, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a sacred fig tree that is highly revered by Buddhists. Visitors can stroll around the park surrounding the tree and witness religious ceremonies.