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anuradhapura kingdom

Anuradhapura Kingdom

Anuradhapura Kingdom

The Anuradhapura Kingdom (Sinhalese: අනුරාධපුර රාජධානිය, Anurādhapura Rājadhāniya) is Sri Lanka’s first organized Kingdom and the capital city found in 377 BC by King Pandukabhaya. The reign of this kingdom spanned over 1300 years and known as the Golden era of Sri Lanka. Most of the major events of Sri Lanka’s Singhalese culture, Buddhism, and wisdom emerged during this period. Buddhism played the main role in the Anuradhapura period influencing almost every aspect of human life. Misled society was revolutionized with the introduction of Buddhism by Mahinda maha thero. Civilization was far more strengthen with the concurrent arrival of highly skilled Aryans in 18 industries.

Soon Anuradhapura became one of the ancient world’s main trading hubs and a top attraction. Traders, travelers, sailors from every corner of the world wanted to witness this magical kingdom overflowing with sheer architectural beauty and Buddhist civilization. Nevertheless! what caused this kingdom to fall is no mystery, but prosperity itself. Most of the neighboring rulers wanted to conquer this booming, prosperous land. Invaders, mostly from South India, were lurking around and tried in every way to take control. However, most of them and their forces were sunk in the Indian Ocean itself by mighty kings who ruled during this era. Even today, rulers such as Duttagamini, Valagamba, and Datusena are remembered and honored for their remarkable and heroic commitments in defeating the south Indian rebels and uniting the country under one flag.

~ The Fall

Unfortunately, in 1017 AD, Considering these constant invasions and threats, the ruler who was weak in both spirit and political power has decided to despair the kingdom. Which, the once prosperous capital turned into ruins. What you see today are the most strong remains of a capital city that existed over 2000 years. The City entirely is a UNESCO world heritage site due to its archeological and religious values. While there is so much to see in Anuradhapura, we selected some places which are valuable and loved by both locals and tourists. These 8 places are simply the best of the best, and essence of this ancient proud Kingdom.

 


7 Awesome Places to Visit in Anuradhapura

07. Isurumuniya

Isurumuniya is a charming rock temple that is mostly famous for the ‘Isurumuniya Lovers’ carving. There are other carvings including a man and a horse as well as some elephants splashing about. There is a rather large pond in the courtyard which is perfect for pictures. Inside, the temple, you will get to see some gorgeously done murals. The Isurumuniya lovers carving has been brought to the Isurumuniya museum from the Royal pleasure gardens.

Most believe that this is a carving of Prince Saliya and his lover, Ashokamala. Their love was prohibited because Ashokamala belonged to a lower caste. Historians say that Prince Saliya eventually gave up the throne to marry Ashokamala. After seeing this romantic couple with an equally romantic story, go around the back of the temple and climb up the Isurumuniya rock. The scenery along with the white Stupa at the top is truly mesmerizing.


 06. Kuttam Pokuna

The two ponds that make up the Kuttam Pokuna is found at the Abayagiri residence area for monks. These almost resemble modern swimming pools. The northern pond of the two is smaller than the other. This pond was used by senior monks while the larger one was used by other monks. The architecture of the two ponds is nothing short of beautiful. The water for the ponds is spouted from a dragon’s mouth. You can also see a five-headed cobra figure at the northern pond.

But what is more impressive is the technology behind these ponds. You’ll be surprised to hear that a pipeline system was used to supply water to the ponds. The two ponds are also connected from the underground. But, that’s not all. There is also an impressive filtration system to filter water. This filtration system has several filtration chambers and the water was filtered about 4 times before being pumped into the pond. Kuttam pokuna is a must-visit place to witness the genius of the ancient hydrological systems in Sri Lanka.


 05. Samadhi Buddha Statue

This statue is one of the best statues in the Anuradhapura era. This is entirely made out of dolomite. The eyes are blank, indicating that there must have been some precious stone or gem inserted into the eyes in the past. This statue has undergone some construction. But, the solemn beauty of the statue still remains.

Lord Buddha is in the Samadhi mudra or meditating pose here. The pose can be identified easily by the crossed legs and right hand placed over the left hand. It is believed that Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment in this pose. One special characteristic about this statue is that it portrays three different emotions of Lord Buddha from the two sides and front. One side shows slight sadness while the other shows a slightly smiling expression. From the front, the expression is neutral. Samadhi Buddha statue is a masterpiece of the Anuradhapura era and is still highly regarded and worshipped by Buddhists.


 04. Jethawanaramaya

Jethawanarama stupa is said to be the third tallest building in the ancient world. This stupa underwent renovations during King Parakramabahu’s rule in the Polonnaruwa era. But it was not possible to build this stupa back into the same height it was. And, Jethawanarama was also a direct target of raiders which resulted in it degrading more. However, this stupa is still an impressive structure. It is the largest of its’ kind and has a massive base area of 233,000 m2 (2,508,000 sq. ft.). Historians say that over 90 million baked bricks were used to construct this stupa.

Jethawanarama stupa is also a major turning point in Buddhist history. This stupa was a result of the division of Buddhism in Sri Lanka into two sects as Mahavihara and Sagalika. It is said that a large Mahaviharian temple was destroyed and the materials from it were used to construct this stupa. Although the king eventually had to beg pardon from people and turn to Mahaviharian Buddhism again, this red brick stupa is still here as a reminder of the past.


 03. Mihintale

The Mihintale rock is where Buddhism originated in Sri Lanka. Mihintale or ‘Mihindu rock’ has been named after the monk Mahinda who came to Sri Lanka and preached Buddhism for the first time from the top of the rock. He was the only son of King Ashoka who ruled India at the time. The king who ruled Anuradhapura, King Dewanampiyatissa was hunting deer and was called by Mihindu Thero. After listening to the preaching, the king immediately turned to Buddhism along with the rest of the country. From that moment onwards, Buddhism deep-rooted in Sri Lanka.

Mihintale is very steep and the steps that have been carved on to the rock can be very slippery. So, be careful when climbing. Also, the rock at the top can hold no more than 4 or 5 people at a time. On a crowded day, you will have to wait in a long line just to get to the top. Visit in early mornings to avoid the crowds. From the top of this rock, you can witness an incredible view of the Mihintale region.


 02. Sri Maha Bodhi

Sri Maha Bodhi is a tree that has both historic as well as religious importance. It is believed that Lord Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating under this tree. So, the tree is a symbol of enlightenment and is an important place of worship for Buddhists all over the world. The Sri Maha Bodhi was brought to Sri Lanka by Sanghamitta Therini, sister of the monk Mahinda who preached Buddhism for the first time in Sri Lanka at Mihintale. The small cutting was planted in the royal garden and what you see today is the very same tree.

This sacred tree is the oldest tree planted by people in recorded history. It survived several wars and invasions and is still healthy and green. So, the Bodhi tree is basically a legend. Today, this old tree is surrounded by a golden gate and has dedicated protectors to take care of it. As history suggests, these protectors have been relentlessly protecting the tree for over 2000 years! When visiting the Bodhi tree, make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing. This is a very sacred place for Buddhists.


 The Ruwanweli Maha Seya: Top Attraction of Kingdom of Anuradhapura

This is, without a doubt, the most popular stupa in all of Sri Lanka. Although it’s a regular stupa in the shape of a water bubble, the all-white dome somehow looks magnificently attractive. As for the inside of the stupa, 1/8th of Lord Buddha’s remains are kept in a metal bowl which was gifted from the Naaga realm. Hence, it is known that this particular stupa beholds most amount of Buddha’s remains in a single place and is the most sacred site in the Buddhist World.

Apart from religious purposes, the stupa is built in such height to protect the city constructions and temples from thunderbolts. As it’s the tallest place on terrain, it attracts all thunder. Also, there are three stupas( Jethawanaramaya and Mirisawetiya) located in a way similar to Egyptian pyramids parallel to Orayan’s stars on the belt.

The Construction

This 103 meters( 338 feet)  tall stupa was built by one of the greatest kings of the Anuradhapura era, King Dutugamunu in 140 BC. However, as the king died while building this, his brother was the one to finish the project. In Mahawamsa, it is recorded that rare elements needs for the construction of this stupa magically started appearing from all around the country. The construction period of this stupa is heavily explained in historical records.

The foundation of Ruwanweli Maha Seya is made of several layers of rare materials such as wood apple resin, mercury, rock crystals, silver sheets, bronze sheets, and other materials such as stones, wood, bricks, and so on. It is explained that the foundation of this structure was as same in height as the Stupa. The stupa is highly venerated and is also quite the sight to behold against the clear blue sky of Anuradhapura.

This Magnificent structure wins our Number 1 spot out of all attractions of Anuradhapura Kingdom, due to its religious importance and sheer mighty power it spreads over the land.

While in Sri Lanka, the one place you should not be missing out on is Anuradhapura. This city used to be a massive kingdom and is home to many important historical sites. From beautifully white stupas to abandoned ruins of royal palaces, the vibe of this ancient city is unexplainable. Other than that, keep in mind to dress appropriately because most places have some religious importance.

 

 

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