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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Joanna James Joanna James
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Ancient Ruins of Anuradhapura – Sri Lanka's First Kingdom

Anuradhapura was the first Kingdom set up on the island. Birthplace of Buddhism in the nation this ancient city is rife with all manner of artefacts; read on and enjoy the experience.



The Ruwanweliseya is a sacred Buddhist monument and one of the eight venerated places of worship in Anuradhapura. The stupa was built by King Dutugemunu of 140 BC who ruled over the entire nation on defeating the Tamil King Elara. Ruwanweliseya standing at a height of 103 feet is one of the world's tallest monuments. Although not a ruin anymore it was one of the most ancient ruins of Sri Lanka back in the 19th century. However with extensive fund raising by the local clergy the place was restored to its present splendour by the 20th century. Relics of the Buddha were enshrined within the stupa which is one of Buddhism's most revered pilgrimage sites.



Isurumuniya is an ancient temple located close to Anuradhapura's famous Tisa Wewa (water tank). Built by King Devanampiyatissa the first Buddhist king of the country the temple was established as a sanctuary for the 500 high caste off-springs that were ordained as Buddhist priests. Isurumuniya is famous for its rock carvings; these are the Royal Family, the Isurumuniya Lovers and Elephant Pond. Amongst the archaeological ruins of Isurumuniya the most famous is the stone carving of the Pem Yuwala or lovers. It is a 6th century Gupta style carving that many believe to be that of King Dutugemunu's son Prince Saliya and the low caste woman he loved. The Royal Family too is a granite carving of five figures. The central figure is King Dutugemunu wearing a tall crown. Last but not least is the elephant pond around which half carved figures of elephants bathing are reflected. Some of the country's best preserved ruins these are well worth a visit.


Kuttam Pokuna

The Twin Ponds or Kuttam Pokuna are fine examples of Sri Lanka's ancient bathing pools. These vintage relics constructed by Sinhala kings are considered to be pioneer projects in the field of hydrological engineering; displaying extensive skills of creativity and architectural genius. The pools faces are of cut granite and inlaid amidst a manicured garden. Its well worth exploring the area for the intricate craftsmanship and attention to detail that has gone into creating these splendid aqua reliefs.


Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Tree

Just around a half hour drive from UGA Ulagalla the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Tree is located within the vintage Mahamewna Gardens of Anuradhapura. It is believed to be a branch of the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree of India under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Planted in 288 BC this is the oldest recorded tree in history. The government in order to protect the tree banned any form of construction within 500 metres of the tree. The tree was brought over as a sapling in the 3rd century by Sangamitha Thero of India and to this date remains one of Buddhism's most revered icons of worship. Mind you hotels in Anuradhapura are hard to come by during significant poya holidays as the city turns into a massive pilgrimage site.


Abhayagiri Dagoba

One of the world's most extensive ruins and revered relics of Sri Lanka. Established by King Valagamba the monastery and stupa have yielded many ancient relics that offer an important link to Sri Lanka's past. An amalgamation of Hinduism and other religions are reflected in some of the decorations at this site which is quite an impressive view when seen through the forest cover.