Anuradhapura is a sacred city of Sri Lanka, now in picturesque ruins, was once a major center of Sri Lankan civilization. It is the capital city of North Central Province. Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of ancient Sri Lankan civilization. It was 1st capital of the Kingdom of Rajarata after Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara. The city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the center of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. The city lies 205 km north of the current capital Colombo in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province, on the banks of the historic Malvathu Oya. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the eighth World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka.
It is believed that from the 4th century BC, it was the capital of the Sinhalese 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.
The fascinating ancient ruins include huge bell shaped Stupas built of small sun-dried bricks, temples, sculptures, palaces and ancient drinking water reservoirs. There is much to see at Anuradhapura including The Sri Maha Bodhiya is perhaps the oldest living tree in the world. It’s a branch of the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment Tree and eight major palaces, monasteries and monuments.
Ruwanwelisaya – King Dutugamunu of Sri Lanka built this magnificent Stupa. The old section of Anuradhapura now preserved as an archaeological park and designated a UNESCO world Heritage site in 1982, is the best known of Sri Lanka’s ancient ruined cities. Large Lakes were also constructed by the city’s rulers to irrigate paddy lands and also to supply water to the city. Nuwara Wewa and Tissa Wewa are among the best known lakes in the city.
The administrative and sanitary arrangements be made for the city and the shrines he provided indicate that over the years the city developed according to an original master plan. His son Mutasiva, succeeded to the throne. During his reign of sixty years, he maintained Anuradhapura as his capital and further laid out the Mahameghavana Garden which was to play an important role in the early history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It was in the period of his successor, his son Devanampiya Tissa, that Buddhism was first introduced this island 236 years after the passing away of the Buddha. Emperor Ashoka in India was a contemporary of Devanampiya Tissa. “Mahinda” was the son of Emperor Ashoka of India. King Ashoka embraced Buddhism after he was inspired by a very small monk named “Nigrodha.” The King who was in great misery after seeing the loss of life caused by his waging wars to expand his empire, was struck by the peaceful countenance of such a young monk. Meeting this young monk made a turning point in his life and he thereafter, renounced wars. He was determined to spread the message of peace, to neutralize the effects from the damages caused by him through his warfare. As a result both his son and daughter were ordained as Buddha disciples, and became enlightened as Arahats. In his quest to spread the message of peace instead of war, he sent his son Mahinda, to the island of Lanka, which was also known as “Sinhalé”. According to Dipavamsa and Mahavamsa, Thera Mahinda came to Sri Lanka from India on the full moon day of the month of Poson (June) and met King Devanampiyatissa and the people, and preached the doctrine. Historically this period is believed to extend from 250 to 210 BC. This is the point at which a kingship began and a civilization developed based on one of the most significant religions of South Asia, Buddhism. With the introduction of Buddhism, the city gained more prominence and the great building era began.
Parks were also provided in the city. The Ranmasu Uyana below the bund of Tissavapi or Tissa weva was one such, but it was strictly reserved for the members of the royal family. Health care and education were two other aspects to which the authorities paid attention. There were several hospitals in the city. In the 4th century King Upatissa II provided quarters and homes for the crippled and the blind. King Buddhadasa (337-365 AD), himself a physician of great repute, appointed a physician to be in charge of every ten villages. For the maintenance of these physicians, one tenth of the income from the fields was set apart. He also set up refuges for the sick in every village. Physicians were also appointed to look after the animals. Kassapa V (914-923 AD) founded a hospital close to the southern gate of Anuradhapura. General Sena in the 10th century is believed to have built a hospital close to the ceremonial street (Managala Veediya). The history of medical care began early, for in the 4th century BC King Pandukhabaya, in the course of sanitizing the town constructed a hospital. A large workforce was entrusted with the task of keeping the city clean.
Apart from seeing the archaeology of the ancient city, it is possible to explore the area, and to spend time in the Anuradhapura New Town. There are many shops in the New Town, as well as a market, and the interested visitor may wish to patronize some of these.
The ancient holy site of Mihintale is about 12km to the east and easily accessible for a day trip
It is respectful, and indeed necessary, to remove shoes and hats when walking around sites of Buddhist veneration. The ground, especially the sand, can get quite hot, so step lightly and seek shade if you must.
It is also polite to circumambulate to the right; that is, walk to the left around the object so that your right hand, considered to be the clean hand, is constantly facing the object.
Women’s shoulders should also be covered when exploring Buddhist sites, and respectful clothing should be worn. Sri Lanka is a very polite society, so please dress appropriately. One is also not supposed to turn their back towards a representation of the Buddha.
It is generally fine to take pictures, but be careful not to take any pictures of people in front of images of the Buddha.
Beware of the monkeys. Monkeys, particularly macaques (small, red-faced monkeys) can get quite aggressive, and have been known to steal personal belongs, including cameras, if left unattended.