Anuradhapura , the ancient capital of Sri Lanka is a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its well preserved ruins depicting the illustrious ancient Lankan civilization. Situated in the North Central Province, it lies 205km north of the commercial capital Colombo. The ruins themselves lie among large historical reservoirs built by ancient kings and reveal that the city was home to vast monastery complexes where Buddhists monks lived in thousands. Anuradhapura bears ample witness to blending of religion and royalty in ancient Sri Lanka.
This city, sacred to the Buddhists, holds the highly venerated Sacred Bo tree ‘the Sri Maha Bodhi’ venerated by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike and had been planted in 288 B.C. from a cutting of the original fig tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. The duty of caring for this precious tree had been handed over to a special caste by royalty and their descendants look after the tree even till today.
The sacred city covering an area of over 40 square kilometers is home today to a large number of monasteries and possesses great stupas believed to be some of the tallest amazing buildings pointing to the glory of the old world.
There are several interesting locations one can visit, namely, the majestic Ruwanweliseya Stupa, one of the largest structures of the ancient world, Brazen Palace with its 1,600 stone columns showing the remnants of a multi-storied residence for monks, Isurumuniya rock carving of ‘The Two Lovers’, the twin ponds used by Buddhist monks as a bathing pool and Thuparama Dagoba, the oldest Dagoba in the country believed to enshrine the collarbone of the Buddha himself and several other dagobas. Anuradhapura is visited by thousands of people daily and becomes a sea of heads in June during the annual Poson festival. Worshipping the ‘Atamasthana’ or the ‘eight great places’ has almost become an annual religious rite for devout Buddhists. Anuradhapura makes an interesting site for educationists, archaeologists, historians and nature lovers wishing to spend their time discovering the ancient history of Sri Lanka, exploring the picturesque countryside, spending time in meditation or watching the thousands of white-clad pilgrims worshipping and meditating at the Sri Maha Bodhi and at various other holy shrines. A visit to the museum in Anuradhapura carrying many centuries old artefacts and a leisure walk along reservoir bunds are things a visitor should not miss