The pride of the Sri Lankan history begins right here, from this city, Anuradhapura. When you go for a tour to Sri Lanka, this is a must-visit ancient city, as every single place in this city keeps a great historical story interconnected with them. Though you can learn about the history of this ancient city from other online resources, this article will guide you to have a clear idea about the things which you have to explore in Anuradhapura.
Atamasthana (Eight Sacred Places)
You may find hundreds if not thousands to see in Anuradhapura, but these Atamasthana (“Eight Sacred Places”) are the most sacred you may be interested to visit. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya is the most sacred place among Sri Lankans as it is the southern branch of historical Sri Maha Bodhi tree of India, which Lord Buddha attained Nirvana (Enlightenment) underneath. There are some stories about pouring blood when trying to cut this tree (Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi) and to stop cutting it right away when seeing it (you may not find those stories on the internet as they may or may not be true. However, according to those stories, people believe that Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is a living tree just like a human being). The other seven places are Ruwanwelisaya, Thuparamaya, Lovamahapaya, Abhayagiri Dagaba, Jetavanarama, Mirisaveti Stupa, and Lankarama. Each place has its own unique story which is inheritable to Theravada Buddhism.
Although Isurumuniya is just another Buddhist temple situated in Anuradhapura, it is well-known around the world for its beautiful carvings. These Gupta-style carvings are believed to have been carved in the 6th century. Those are Isurumuni Lovers, Royal Family, and Elephant Pond. Lovers in the carvings represents prince Saliya and Asokamala (a Chandali woman, a low-caste maiden). It’s a well-known love story mentioned in Mahavamsa (the great book of Sri Lankan history). The prince gave up his throne for Asokamala against the desire of his father King Dutugamunu and the kingdom. Because of the perfection of these artistic ruins, the carvings are considered as a masterpiece of Sri Lankan traditional art.
A pair of ponds built with granite slabs by Sinhalese for Buddhist monks, these pools are considered as one of the best illustrations of traditional hydrological engineering, distinctive architectural designs, and artistic creations of Sri Lanka. Hydrotropism of these pools were designed in the underground through ducts. There was a system to filter the water before transferring to the ponds and there was a system to empty the ponds through underground ducts. As you see, though there were no machineries to do these tasks in that time yet, our ancestors were successful in building such an irrigation system which could supply enough water all over the island.
Beside those monuments and monastic buildings, you can enjoy fresh air with cold water with large lakes all over the city. The lakes were made by great kings and queens of ancient Sri Lanka for the development of agriculture in the country. Some of them are Tissa Wewa, Nuwara Wewa, Basawakkulama, and Nachchaduwa Wewa. At the same time, do not forget to taste a plate of rice and curry filled with lake fish. Because of the historical value of this city, UNESCO has reserved the area as one of its World Heritage Sites. Hence, you should be aware to not to damage anything in this city by any means.
*Image of Anuradhapura, Budha and dagoba Ruvanvelisaya, Sri Lanka via Shutterstock