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  • Anuradhapura is among the 8 World Heritage Sri Lankan sites. The town is at 205 kilometres north of Colombo in Anuradhapura District. It’s among the ancient Sri Lankan capitals, renowned for its well-preserved relics.
  • For many centuries the town was the centre of Theravada Buddhism. It’s among the oldest constantly populated towns in the world.
  • The ancient city is sacred to Buddhists all over the world and monasteries spread over an area of 40 square kilometres surround it.
Protohistoric Iron Age
  • The protohistoric Iron Age covers from 900 to 600 BC during which paddy cultivation, domestic cattle, the horse, pottery and iron technology appeared. From 700 to 600 BC, the town had developed over an area of more than 120 acres. Fertile and irrigable land surrounded the city. It provided natural defence from attackers because it was covered up by the jungle.

Lower Early Historic period

  • From 500 BC to 250 BC was the Lower Early Historic period. The town was formally planned with quarters for merchants, gates etc. by King Pandukabhaya during this period. At the time the city spread over 1 square kilometer which made it among the biggest in the continent.


  • It is believed that the city was made capital in the 4th century BC by King Pandukabhaya who also built the city and its suburbs as per a well-organized plan. He built Abhayavapi reservoir. Shrines for yakkhas like Cittaraja and Kalawela were also built by him. The Yaksini-Cetiya in the shape of a mare was housed inside the royal areas. He selected the sites for the Great Sacrifice’s House, the Yona Quarter, the Palm of the Vyadhadeva, the Vessavana Banyan Tree, the Pacchimarajini, the Chapel of the Western Queen, the location of execution and the cemetery. Duties were assigned to the slaves or Candalas and they were provided a separate village. They constructed houses for Brahmanas, Ajivakas, wandering ascetics and Niganthas. Village boundaries were built by him. Mutasiva, his son succeeded him and Mutasiva’s son Devanampiya Tissa succeeded him. During the period of Devanampiya Tissa, 236 years following the passing away of the Buddha, Buddhism was first introduced in this island.
  • Emperor Ashoka of India was shocked to see death of a large number of people because of his wars to extend his empire and after inspiration from Nigrodha, a young monk, the king embraced Buddhism and renounced wars. To compensate damages due to his wars, he made a decision to propagate peace. Consequently his daughter and son destined as disciples of Buddha, and turned into Arahats. He sent Thera Mahinda, his son to Sri Lanka to preach peace in place of war.

Buddhism in Anuradhapura

  • Nobility and the royal family supported Buddhism. The great building period started after the introduction of Buddhism. They frequently donated works of art to Buddhist temples. To return the favour local Buddhist public supported the king.

The city grows

  • The reputation of the city increased and therefore many people shifted to the city for permanent accommodation. To take care of the increasing population, amenities were improved. King Vasabha built a number of ponds. Abhayavapi and Tissa tanks were made. The city also got parks. Special attention was paid to education and health care. The city had many hospitals. For every 10 villages, a doctor of great reputation was appointed by King Buddhadasa as in charge. In every village he also established refuges for the sick. Doctors were also recruited to take care of the animals. A hospital near the southern gate of Anuradhapura was built by Kassapa V (914-923 AD). A hospital near the ceremonial street was built by General Sena in the 10th century.
  • To supply water to the city and to irrigate paddy lands, big lakes were also built. Tissa wewa and Nuwara wewa were among the best known lakes in the town.

The Great City

  • To irrigate the land many reservoirs were built. Some of the most intricate irrigation systems of the ancient world were in the city. Most of these reservoirs still exist.


  • The ruins consist of 3 types of buildings, pokunas, monastic buildings and dagobas. The Pokunas are tanks for bathing or for the supply of drinking water, which are spread everywhere through the forest. Relics of the monastic constructions are in every direction in the form of stone pillars, foundations and elevated stone platforms. The Brazen Palace built by King Dutugamunu about 164 BC is the most famous. The city has also a sacred Bo-Tree believed to date back 245 BC.


Eight sacred places in Anuradhapura

  • Eight sacred places or Atamasthana are 8 places in the country where the Buddha visited during his 3 visits to Sri Lanka. These 8 places are:

1.     Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

2.     Ruwanwelisaya

3.     Thuparamaya

4.     Lovamahapaya

5.     Abhayagiri Dagoba

6.     Jetavanarama

7.     Mirisaveti Stupa

8.     Lankarama

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

  • It is a sanctified Fig tree in Anuradhapura. It’s believed to be the branch of Sri Maha Bodhi tree below which Lord Buddha got enlightenment. It was sown in 249 BC and is the first living human-planted tree in the world. It is among most revered remnants of the Buddhists throughout the world. Other surrounding trees protect it from animals and storms. The government imposed a ban on all construction activities within 500 meters of the tree in April 2014. Only constructions which will obviously not damage the tree will be permitted.


  • The daughter of Emperor Asoka, Sangamitta Thera brought it to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC. King Devanampiya Tissa planted it in Anuradhapura in 288 BC.


  • A number of kings took part in developing this site. Four Buddha sculptures in 4 sides of the tree were placed by King Vasabha (65 - 107). Metallic sculptures were added by King Voharika Tissa (214 - 236). A water canal around the tree was built by King Mahanaga (569 - 571) and renovation was carried out by King Sena II (846 - 866).
  • In order to protect it from wild elephants, Ilupandeniye Athtadassi Thero built the existing wall during the rule of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha. The wall is 3 meters high and 1.5 metres thick. It is 83.5 metres long from east to west and 118.3 metres from north to south. In 1969 the 1st golden boundary around the tree was built by some Buddhist followers in Kandy. People of Gonagala built the iron fence under the golden fence.

Ancient models

  • There are 2 sculptures of Lord Buddha in the image-house, in the right side of the stone wall there is a stone-standing sculpture. An extremely unusual creation, the cobra-stone depicts embossed picture of cobra.


  • Remains of an ancient building known as Mayura Pirivena have been found and ruins of a stupa known as Dakkhina Tupa can be seen near.
  • During diggings for rebuilding the existing wall, a rubble wall with its foundation and a rock-laid terrace along with a lattice wall were found. These were conserved at place and were opened to general public in 2010.


  • During storms in 1907 and 1911, two branches of the tree were broken. In 1929 a foolish person cut down a branch. In 1985 Tamil Tiger separatists massacred many Buddhists on the upper balcony.


  • The Ruwanwelisaya is a Sri Lankan stupa. For its architectural features it is considered as a wonder and revered by Buddhists throughout the world. King Dutugemunu, who became king after defeating the Chola King Elara, constructed this stupa which is among world's tallest shrines, standing at 103 metres having a perimeter of 290 metres. It is also called as Rathnamali Dagaba, Suvarnamali Mahaceti, Swarnamali Chaitya and Mahathupa. King Dutugemunu could not see it in its completed form. He was shown a deceitful bamboo-and-cloth finish around the dagoba as his completed masterwork when he was on his deathbed.
  • These days it is 55 metres high substantially less as compared to original height because it suffered too much damage from attacking Indian troops. Its shape has also changed. South of the dagoba, a limestone sculpture is widely believed to be that of King Dutugemunu.