Anuradapura – Ancient city

Anuradhapura is one of the ancient kingdoms in Sri Lanka. It is religious city, which is situated North Central Province. Where the ancient place of worship are situated, is demarcated as the sacred city and is well guarded.

Vijaya the traditional 1st King of Ceylon came and settled in Thambapanni or Thammenna. His ministers founded settlements, given them their own names. One such settlement was Anuradhagrama, founded by Anuradha. Anuradhagrama then acquired importance as the chief village in the area and came to be called Anuradhapura.

Theravada Buddhism was introduced to Ceylon during the reign of King Dewanampiyathissa. It was Mahinda the son of King Ashoka who introduced Buddhism to Ceylon. By his Buddhist missionary activity he converted the Sinhalese to Buddhism and his sister Sangamitta brought with her the southern branch of the Bo tree and planted it at Anuradhapura. The order of Bhikkhunis was also established at this time.

King Dutugemunu was considered as the national hero of the Anuradhapura period. Born in South of Ceylon, King Dutugemunu’s main ambition was to save Ceylon from the Tamil and be the benefactor of Buddhism. During the reign of King Valagamba, Tamils invaded Ceylon defeated him and ruled from Anuradhapura. King Valagamba’s reign is marked by two important events. One was the 1st schism in Buddhism in Ceylon and the other was the committing of the Scriptures, the commentaries and the tradition to writing at Aluvihara.the 9th and 10th centuries saw the decline of the Anuradhapura kingdom.upto this time Kings of Anuradhapura governed this kingdom without much difficulty. After Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa became the capital.

This city was ruled by many kings. King Dutugemunu was the well famous king, who created many monuments. There is lot of dilapidated ruins can be seen even today. Most of the architecture creations were made stones. The stone pillars and many ruins are there. In this religious city there are eight scared places. There are called “Atamasthana”.

  1. Sri maha bodhiya

This Bo tree was brought from India to Sri Lanka by Nun Sangamiththa (Daughter of King Devanampiyatissa). The Bo tree helped to the Load Buddha to become the enlightenment. Therefore this Bo tree is respected by the Buddhist. This is in the Mahamevunawa and it is consider the oldest tree in Sri Lanka.

This incident took place a few months after the arrival of Mahinda Thera. Amidst much rejoicing and ceremony, this tree was planted at Maha Mevuna Uyana. It was planted on a high terrace about 21 feet above the ground and Surround by railings and today it is one of the most sacred relics of the Buddhists in Ceylon. There are other Bo-trees in close proximity to this sacred Bo-tree. The parapet wall round the compound where the Bo-tree is planted is about 700 feet in length. This wall was constructed during the reign of King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha, to protect it from the wild elephants.

 2. Lowamahapaya

It is situated between Ruwanweliseya and Sri Maha Bodhiya. It is also known as the Brazen Place or Lohaprasadaya. In ancient times the building included the refectory and the Uposathagara (Uposatha house). There was also a simamalake where the sangha assembled on poya days to recite the formula of the confessional. This was built to treat for sick Buddhist monk.

This is a wonderful creation built by King Dutugemunu described as an edifice of nine storeys, was a building of this class. It was a building; which was built by the stone pillars. There are about 1600 stone pillars. There were nine floors in that building. One side of the building was 400 feet in length. As the roof was covered with tiles made of bronze, this was known as the brazen palace. It is believed that it took 6 years for the construction of the building and the plan was brought from the heavens. The building was completely destroyed during the reign of King Saddhatissa. Today we can only the stone pillars of ground floor.

3. Ruwanweliseya

This Dagaba was built by King Dutugemunu. This situated a few yards away from Lowamahapaya. The height of it is 338 feet and the pinnacle of Ruwanweliseya is 24 feet in height. The crest gem on the pinnacle is a gift from Burma.

This is one of the examples to show their architectural ability. Some of the relics of Load Buddha are deposited in this Dageba. This is known as some other names like “Swarnamali Seya, Rathnamali Seya and Mahathupa”.  The Thupavansa gives a complete account about the construction of Ruwanweliseya.

This Dagaba was built on a firm foundation. It is recorded that inside the dagaba are enshrine valuble gems status made out of gold, various valuable objects and also relics of the Buddha which measures about a Don. On the four side of the Stupa are the frontispieces (wahalkada). The courtyard on which the stone tablets are laid is known as Salapatala courtyard. Below the Salapatala courtyard is the compound made of Sand (Velimaluwa). On the four sides of the compound are the parapet walls with its figures of Elephants and has been made to appear as though it was supported by the Elephants. There are 1900 figures of Elephants on the wall consisting of 475 on each side. Therefore it is known as the Elephant compound. In the temple courtyard are the old models of Ruwanweliseya made of stone, a statue of King Dutugemunu worshipping the Dagaba. In the image house situated in the temple courtyard are 4 statues of the Buddha who have attained Buddhahood in this aeon (kalpa) and future Buddha (Maithree). All these creation are very old.

4. Thuparamaya

Thera Mahinda himself introduced Theravada Buddhism and also chetiya worship to Ceylon. At his request, this Dageba was built by king Dewanampiyathissa. This is first dageba in Sri Lanka after the introduction of Buddhism.

The Right collarbone of the Lord Buddha is enshrined, as the Relic of Thuparama stupa. It is located in the sacred area of Anuradhapura, Mahamewna uyana. The name Thuparamaya comes from “stupa” and “aramaya” which is a residential complex for monks.

Thuparamaya has been built in the shape of a heap of paddy. This dageba was destroyed from time to time. During the reign of King Agbo II it was completely destroyed and the king restored it. What we have today is the construction of dagaba, done in 1862 A.D. As it is today, after several renovations in the course of the centuries, the monument has a diameter of 59 feet, at the base. The dome is 11 feet 4 inches in height from the ground 164 ½ diameter. The compound is paved with granite and there are 2 rows of stone pillars round the dagaba. During the early period vatadage was built round the dagaba.


5. Lankaramaya

This is a smallest Dageba in out of the Atamasthana. This Dageba was built by king Valagamba, in an ancient place at Galhebakada. Nothing is known about the ancient from of the stupa and later this was renovated. The round courtyard of the stupa seems to be 10 feet above the ground. The diameter of the stupa is 45 feet. The courtyard is circular in shape and the diameter is 132 feet. The ruins show that there are rows of stone pillars and it is no doubt that there has been a house built encircling the stupa (vatadage) to cover it.

6. Abhayagiriya Dagaba

This is 2nd highest bricks monument in the world. This is a spherical shape of Dageba. It was built by King Valagamba. He waged war with the Tamil and was defeated. When he fled a Nigantha named Giri shouted words of derisive mockery at him.Later the king collected an army attacked the Tamils by slaying the last of their leaders, and recovered the throne he had lost. It is said that he demolished Nigantaramaya (the temple of the Niganthas) and built the Abhayagiri Vihara in the same premises. Shortly after this event, the monks of the Mahavihara took disciplinary action against one of the monk of the Abhayagiri Vihara, for violating a rule of the vinaya. There after the monk of the Abhayagiri Vihara founded a separate sect there. King Valagamba’s reign is marked by an important event – the first schism in Buddhism in Ceylon. Most learned bhikkus lived in Abhayagiri Vihara. It consisted of a large library. King Parakrambahu renovated Abhayagiri Vihara. Then the height is said to have been 140 cubits. In the year 1875 Abhayagiri Vihara which had a diameter of 307 feet at its base, stood to a height of 231 feet. The relics of the Buddha is said to have been enshrined in a figure of a bull made out of thick gold.

7. Jethawanarama Dagaba

This is a largest stupa in Sri Lanka and it was built by King Mahasen. It is a highest bricks monument in the whole world. A part of Sash (belt tied by the Buddha) is believed to be enshrined here. Its height is said to be 400 feet. This stupa belongs to the Sagalika sect. the compound of the stupa is 8 acres. One side of the stupa is 576 feet in length. The 4 flight of steps at the four sides is 28 feet in depth. The doorpost to the shrine which is situated at the courtyard is 27 feet in height. There are some stone inscriptions in the courtyard with the names of donors inscribed.


8. Mirisawetiya Stupa

King Dutugeminu after defeating King Elara, built the Mirisaweti Stupa. After placing the Buddha relics in the scepter, he had gone to Thissawewa for a bath leaving the scepter. After the bath he returned for the place where the scepter was placed, and it is said that it could not be moved. The stupa was built in the place where the scepter stood. It is also said that he remembered that he partook a chilly curry without offering it to the Sangha. In order to punish himself he built the Mirisawetiya Dagaba. Therefore this Dageba was made to symbolize this event and this name was given.

The extent of this land is about 50 acres and the height of it is around 60 feet. Although the King Kashyapa I and King Kashyapa V renovated this from time to time it was dilapidated. What stands today is the renovation done by the cultural Triangle Fund.


Samadhi Buddha Statue

In Anuradhapura the Samadhi Statue is one of the greatest master pieces. This is carved out of the stone. This symbolizes the meditating picture of Load Buddha. That is way this called “Samadhi Statue”. It built at Anuradhapura in the Mahamevunawa Park. It is said that this is one of the best pieces of sculpture. The statue is 8 feet in height and made of granite, the posture of meditation in which Buddha sits in the cross-legged position with upturned palms, placed one over the other on the lap.

Sandakada pahana (Moonstone)

The Moon stone is also in Anuradhapura. This is the one and only creation founding Sri Lanka. This was created at the entrance of temples or the royal palace. This is a half spherical shape and there are many animals are carved line by line.


Awukana Buddha Statue

Awukana is situated in Anuradhapura district and could be reached by travelling along Kurunegala-Dambulla road or through Galewela-Kalawewa road. This is one of the largest statues in Ceylon and situated facing Kalawewa. This standing Buddha statue including the pedestal is 42 feet in height. The right hand depicts the Abhaya Mudra (the posture of hand in icons in which the raised upper arm of the right hand is held, palm outwards indicating freedom from fear). The left hand shows that it is holding the robe. One of the special features of this statue is that both hands are turned upwards. On the head is the Siraspatha (a feature over head of the Buddha statue), excluding the Siraspatha and the pedestal the height is 38’10’.

The rock cut colossus at Awukana, which is almost in the round and there being a narrow strip left to hold the image to the rock is one of the magnificent statues of Ceylon. From the ruins of the foundation and the walls, it can be seen that the statue would have been enclosed in a building. The hood over the statue is a modern construction. It is believed that King Dhatusena the architect of Kalawewa is the builder of the statue.



Isurumuniya Viharaya

In situated near Tissawewa and was built by King Dewanampiyathissa. After 500 children of high-caste were ordained, Isurumuniya was built for them to reside. King Kashyapa I (473-491 A.D.) renovated this viharaya and named it as “Boupulvan, Kasubgiri Radmaha Vehera” this name is derived from names of his two daughters and his name. There is a viharaya connected to a cave and above is a cliff. A small stupa is built on it. It can be seen that the constructional work of this stupa belong to the present period. Lower down on both sides of a cleft; in a rock that appears to rise out of a pool have been carved the figures of elephants. On the rock is carved the figures of horse. The carving of Isurumuniya lovers on the slab has been brought from another place and placed it there. A few yards away from this Vihara is the Magul Uyana.




Kuttam pokuna (Twin onds)

This is another monument called “Twin Ponds”. There are two equal made out of the stone. It was made during the reign of king 1st Agbo. It is believed that this was made for the bathing purpose of the Buddhist monk. It is also an outstanding creation of the ancient time.

The most magnificent specimen of bathing tanks is the pair known as Kuttam Pokuna at Anuradhapura. This is situated in close proximity to Abhayagiri Vihara. The garden which separates these 2 ponds is 18 ½ feet. The largest of this pair is 132 feet in length and 51 feet in breadth, while the smaller is 91 feet long the breadth is the same. The depth of the smaller pond is 14 feet and the larger pond is 18 feet. The sides and the bottom of the ponds were faced with well-cut granite slabs. Round the pond is a magnificent wall. Leading to the pond are a beautiful flight of steps on both sides, and decorated with “Punkalas” and scroll design. There were underground ducts bringing water into these ponds and others emptying them. A wall is built to enclose the ponds, and it is a small compound. These historical and ancient monuments are protected.


  • These historical and ancient monuments are protected.


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