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Updated by Juliana Roberts on Sep 26, 2016
Headline for Top Five Historical Sites in Anuradhapura – Ancient Kingdom
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Top Five Historical Sites in Anuradhapura – Ancient Kingdom

The ancient city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka's first kingdom is the base for Buddhism in the country. Home to relics of vintage temples, parks and palaces this city sits within the cultural triangle.

1

Archaeological Museum

Archaeological Museum

Based within a vintage British Colonial building the Archaeological Museum displays a marvellous collection of artefacts from the Anuradhapura era as well as other culturally rich areas in the vicinity. The fully restored relic's chamber is quite fascinating; it emulates the one excavated at the Kantaka Cehtiya Dagoba in historically rich town of Mihintale. There is also a large scale replica of the famous Thuparama Dagoba's Vatadage; the model depicts the vatadage as it would look if the roof were made of wood. Adding interest to the tour are the stone squatting trays as used by the western monks. These monks who shunned their luxury loving counterparts created the stone carved squatting toilettes with depictions of the luxurious monasteries at the base. The urinals too are fascinating as they depict the god of wealth dropping a handful of coins down the hole.

2

Sri Maha Bodhi

Sri Maha Bodhi

Anuradhapura's most sacred relic the Sri Maha Bodhi draws thousands of devotees annually to the city. Brought in as a sapling from India the tree is believed to be a branch from the revered Bodhgaya Tree in India – reputed to be the oldest surviving tree in the world. Initiating the onset of Buddhism in the land the Sri Maha Bodhi was brought over by the Princess Sangamitta during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa, the first Buddhist king of Sri Lanka. The oldest tree sits at the highest platform of the park and is surrounded by a golden fence around which prayer flags flutter in the wind. Try visiting the sacred tree at sunset and you will be mesmerized by the magical aura that engulfs the tree. Full moon Poya days are when many devotees from across the country flock to Anuradhapura to pay homage to this most sacred relic.

3

Abhayagiri Dagoba

Abhayagiri Dagoba

This historical monument can be traces back to the 1st century. At its origin the dagoba measured over 100m in height and was the centre for the 5000 strong Buddhist Monastery of Anuradhapura. The marvellous structure is likened in girth and height to the Great Pyramids of Giza and after being restored now stands at a height of 75 metres. Located within a verdant jungle the dagoba is quite an impressive sight through the foliage; the name Abhayagiri denotes the meaning Fearless Hill or Hill of Protection and rightfully so; for at one time according the ancient Saddharma Rathnawaliya records the dagoba was home to a golden bull within which relics of the Lord Buddha were hidden. Interesting to explore the place is home to exquisite moonstones, bas-reliefs of an elephant pulling up a tree and a big slab that depicts the Buddha's footprint.

4

Ratnaprasada

Ratnaprasada

Now if you are intent on touring Anuradhapura as a culture buff remember that the Cultural Triangle contains many cities within the north central province of Sri Lanka. A good base would be a hotel in Dambulla, a city equally rich in vintage culture such as the Dambulla Rock Temples which is close to the Heritance Kandalama. Anuradhapura is easily accessed via popular tourist resort Dambulla; home to wild elephant parks and jungle safaris. The 'Gem Palace' or Ratnaprasada has fallen to ruin although in it's hey days it was a 5 story building with a beautiful tiered roof. Belonging to the 8th century the palace at its entrance is guarded by a muragala - sentry stone; depicted the Cobra King and his dwarf servant. The place is steeped in ancient myth and is well worth exploring.

5

Ruvanweliseya Dagoba

Ruvanweliseya Dagoba

Dating back to 140 BC this marvellous structure adorned in white is surrounded by a wall of carved elephants. Having suffered much damage by the Indian troops that invaded Lanka the Dagoba has been restored to stand at a height of 55 metres; much less than its original height. The Dagoba was commissioned and built by the mighty King Dutugemunu who fought the invasions of Tamil King Elara.