Why Anuradhapura Is A Must Visit For A History Buff
Anuradhapura is one of Sri Lanka’s most evocative sites entrenched in history, culture and religion. It is one of the country’s ancient capital cities and it is also where Buddhism was first introduced in Sri Lanka. If you’re travelling alone and interested in history you should visit Anuradhapura because it is incredible to see these magnificent ruins of a civilisation which dates back as far as the 10th century BC. Here are some of the most interesting parts of Anuradhapura.
Sri Maha Bodhi
Sri Maha Bodhi is more of a shrine rather than a temple dedicated to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Tree, one of the oldest trees in the world. Emperor Ashoka of India sent a mission, led by his son, to preach a Buddhist sermon to the Sri Lankan King Tissa who was residing in Anuradhapura, eventually leading to the country’s adoption of Buddhism. Ashoka also sent his daughter with a sapling of the original Bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment. The tree is now a sacred site for Buddhists around the world and it is surrounded by statues, gold fences and with Buddhist flags hanging from its branches.
Next to Sri Maha Bodhi, you will find the magnificent Ruwanwelisaya. This temple was built by the warrior king Dutugamunu, who reigned from 137 BC to 119BC, after he defeated the invading Chola king, Elara, and brought the country under one rule. The stupa alone is awesome, originally reaching up to 180ft in height and with a circumference of 951ft, it’s hard to believe that such a colossal structure was built so long and still remains. King Dutugamunu did not live long enough to see its completion, and on the king’s deathbed, his brother brought him to the temple. Covering the dome in a white cloth, he constructed the upper part with bamboo which was painted gold to show the king what his temple would look like for the years to come.
Thuparamaya is the oldest Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, built by King Devanampiya Tissa in the 3rd century BC, and he is said to have enshrined the right collar bone of the Buddha in the Thuparamaya stupa– the oldest dagoba on the island. While it is a lot smaller in size to other temples in Anuradhapura, it has a very tranquil ambience as the white stupa is set against the greenery of the surrounding forest.
Abhayagiri Vihara dates back to the 1st century BC, and was the focus of the 5000 strong Abhayagiri Monastery. It was originally 115m high, one of the largest ancient structures of the world, only matched by the Pyramids of Giza. It is also one of the most beautiful temples in the area because unlike Thuparamaya and Ruwanwelisaya, Abhayagiri is not covered by plaster, and instead you can see the yellow-brown brick stupa looming over the surrounding jungle as you make your way towards it.