Best places to visit in Sri Lanka in December

7 PLACES TO VISIT IN ANURADHAPURA

Sri Lankan archaeologists have been able to make another useful discovery pertaining to the history of Sri Lanka. Ruins of a two thousand years old hospital were discovered in the historical city of Anuradhapura. The recent discovery is valuable evidence to prove the existence of an advance health care system in ancient Sri Lanka. The hospital believed to have used Ayurveda medicine…Places To Visit In Anuradhapura

WHAT ARE THE 7 PLACES TO VISIT IN ANURADHAPURA?

  1. Isurumuniya temple
  2. Ranmasu Uyana
  3. The Balustrade ‘Korawakgala
  4. The Guard Stone ‘Mura Gala
  5. Site of the 2000 years old hospital
  6. Thuparama Dagoba
  7. Twin pond

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Anuradhapura is the most historical city of Sri Lanka and dates back to the 3rd century BC. Anuradhapura is located within the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka and included in most Sri Lanka trips. Anuradhapura had been the ruling capital of Sri Lanka for more than a thousand years, today Anuradhapura is a UNESCO world heritage site; for travellers, there are a large number of places to visit in Anuradhapura, however, in this article we discuss on several important places to visit in Anuradhapura.

moon stone

Isurumuni Lovers: Places To Visit In Anuradhapura

Isurumuniya is ranked among the most important places to visit in Anuradhapura and included in most Sri Lanka tour itineraries. The stone sculpture of Isurumuni lovers is one of the most striking artefacts in the island and it is now exhibited at the museum of Isurumuni Vihara, Anuradhapura. Even though it is located in the museum of Isurumuni and called Isurumuni lovers, this fine piece of sculpture has no relationship with the temple.

This stone sculpture is considered one of the most exquisite artworks of ancient Sinhalese artisans. Even though today it is residing at the museum of Isurumuni, it was discovered at Ranmasu Uyana, the pleasure garden of the king. Therefore, this sculpture considered to have no religious significance. The royal park was located adjoining the Isurumuni vihara.

Archaeologists are indifferent opinion with regards to the subject of the sculpture. Some scholars believe it to be Prince Saliya (the son of great king Dutugemunu) and his wife, Ashokamala. The romantic story of the duo is well known in the history of Sri Lanka. According to the historical information, price Saliya, a legitimate successor of the kingship had sacrificed his throne by marrying an outcaste beautiful lady.

Well-known writer Martin Wickramasinghe described the sculpture as a refined piece of erotic sculpture in his book ‘Buddhism and art’. He further elaborates it to be lovers. According to Mr Wikramasinghe, the gesture of the man’s head (raised shoulder touching the head) is known as ‘nihancita mudra’ denoting the pleasure of seeing the beloved.

He opines that the man could be a soldier, based on the dress and the sword and the shield behind figures. Therefore the sculpture may represent a soldier and his wife before the departure of the soldier or after his arrival from the duty.

Another group of artisans believes it to be the God Shiva with his wife Parvati. Some believe it to be ‘Bodhisatwa Manjusri’, the symbol of wisdom. The figure of the man is carrying a sword on the shoulder, which believed to be a symbol of wisdom. Today, this sculpture is well known throughout the region as a masterpiece of aesthetic beauty from the early days of Sri Lankan civilization.

Ranmasu Uyana: Places To Visit In Anuradhapura

Ranmasu Uyana is located adjoining Tisa wewa (reservoir) in Anuradhapura. It was used as the pleasure garden of the king and dating back to more than 2000 years. The well-planned garden was spreading over 40 acres of land. It showcases some important factors of gardening and urban planning in the days of the pre-Christian era. The garden was located in a rocky outcrop and huge boulders were carefully used to enhance the natural beauty of the garden.

The granite stones were extensively used for other constructions such as pillars and seating places in the garden. There are three ponds in Ranmasu Uyana and all of them are completely constructed by using nicely carved stone slabs. The water for the bathing ponds was supplied from the nearby Tissa wewa.

The water was directed through the underground canal system and there had been a mechanism to filter the water before pouring into the ponds. Ranmasu Uyana believed to be the spot, where Saliya and Ashokamala frequently met.

ruwanweli dagoba

The Balustrade ‘Korawakgala’: Places To Visit In Anuradhapura

The balustrade is one of the prominent architectural works of every Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka. Usually, all Dagobas and image houses are built on an elevated platform. Most of the time, the Bo-tree another important part of the temple is also planted on a raised platform. Flight of steps, from all major directions (North, East, West, and South) leads the devotees to the sacred area.

The flights of steps are very artistically done with intricating carvings. Flights of steps at temples are made of durable materials such as granite and cement due to the frequent direct exposure to the rain wind and sun. The two balustrades or better known as ‘Korawakgal’ are flanking the two sides of the flight of steps. The architectural work of balustrade resembles the mythical animal Dragon or ‘makara’.

The Guard Stone ‘Mura Gala’: Places To Visit In Anuradhapura

Two stone slabs with beautifully carved upright figure and floral designs, which are at the lower end of the flight of steps of sacred areas, are known as the guard stones or Muragala. One of the most common figures in the guard stone is known as naga-raja. It has a figure of a king (raja) and a cobra (naga) hood; therefore it is called Naga-raja or king of the Nagas.

According to the Sinhalese culture, the cobra is given a prominent place as a living being, which is entrusted with protecting valuables and important places. The two guard stones at the entrance of Abhayagiri show many differences from the orthodox guard stones found on the island.

Two guard stones are known as Sanka and Padma the guards of Kuvera. The gourd stone with a figure and a conch-shell on its head is known as Sanka and the figure with a lotus flower on the head is known as the Padma.

As the name suggests Guard stone is functioning as protectors of the place, where they reside. It keeps the malicious forces away from the property. On one hand of the figure is a pot of flowers and it is a symbol of prosperity of the site. Guard stones are mostly found in religious places but they may occur in palaces and other constructions aimed at the royal family.

Ruins of a 2000 years old hospital

Ruins of a 2000 years old hospital

Sri Lankan archaeologists have been able to make another useful discovery pertaining to the history of Sri Lanka.  Ruins of a two thousand years old hospital were discovered in the historical city of Anuradhapura. The recent discovery is valuable evidence to prove the existence of an advance health care system in ancient Sri Lanka. The hospital believed to have used Ayurveda medicine.

Earlier an Ayurveda hospital that dates back to more than 2000 years was discovered in the historical city of Mihintale, near Anuradhapura. The recent discovery is made near one of the oldest dagobas in the country, which known as Thuparama, in Anuradhapura. Archaeologist opines that initial constructions of the hospital started in the 3rd century BC.

The hospital had been well planned and was consisting of medical rooms, treatment rooms, spas and separate rooms for the production of medicine. The equipment used for the preparation of medicine such as grinding stones and knives were also discovered at the site.

There is a well-laid latrine among the discoveries. Recently ruins of another hospital with similar age discovered at Anuradhapura Maha Vihara Temple complex. The site is under excavation at the moment, under the supervision of the archaeological department.

Thuparama: Places To Visit In Anuradhapura

Thuparama is a dagoba found in the historical city of Anuradhapura. Thuparama was built in the 3rd century BC by King Devanampiyatissa. King Devanampiyatissa was the first Buddhist king of Sri Lanka. The teaching of Buddha was introduced to the island from India in the 3rd century BC, since then, Buddhism is the main religion in Sri Lanka.

According to the information the site of the Dagoba was selected by unseen forces. It is said that, when the collarbone relic was transporting over the site, the elephant, which was carrying the relic stopped and could not be moved. Then the king had decided to build the Dagoba at the same spot where the elephant stopped.  Once the relic removed from the animal, it had started to move.

Thuparama is the oldest such construction in the historical city of Anuradhapura. The Dagoba is about 65 feet in height and 60 feet diameters at the base, which is smaller than most leading tourist attractions such as Jetawanarama or Ruwanweliseya.

Thuparama is located in the historical city next to Ruwanweliseya. The travellers need to go about 200 meters in the north-ward direction from Ruwanweliseya to reach Thuparama. Next to Thuparama dagoba is another tourist attraction of Anuradhapura, known as Basawakkulama or Abhaya wewa, which is one of the oldest man-made reservoirs in the country.

The name “Thuparama” is originated from Pali language and it can be divided into two words, “Thupa” and “Arama”.  Arama denotes the garden or park according to Pali and Thupa means stupa. Like most historical temple such as Jetawanarama, Veluwanarama, Thuparama was also located in a garden.

Historians believe due to this fact it was named as Thuparama. Dagoba had been a part of a large monastery complex and it was called Thuparama. However, the rest of the monastery is slowly diminished during the last several hundred years. As nothing much of the monastery to be found, people started to apply the name “Thuparama” to the dagoba. The stupa was built after the shape of paddy heap and right collar-bone of Buddha is deposited in the dagoba.

The Dagoba reside on a circular elevated platform. There had been four concentric granite stone pillars all around dagoba, supporting a roof. This type of architecture (circular building protecting a dagoba) is known as Cetiyagara. 

Today Cetiyagara is not to be found anymore and what is let from Cetiyagara are several stone pillars with beautiful, intricate stone carvings. There had been 48 stone pillars in the outermost row of the four concentric stone pillars. The pillars were decorated with beautiful stone carving. Some of the stone carvings depicting figures of animal, human and floral designs can be seen even today.

twin pond

Twin pond: a unique well that addresses the water shortage

This unique well is among the least popular Anuradhapura ancient places, which is an architectural invention of ancient engineers of Sri Lanka. The twin pond or Kuttam pokuna in the native language dates back to the Anuradhapura period (3rd Century BC to 11th century AD), and the exact dates of its construction the ancient ponds. These twin ponds are considered to be an ingenious solution for the water shortage during the dry season in the region.

Concealed from the plain sight, a few minutes away from the newly emerged bustling city of Anuradhapura, the commercial hub of North-central province is the Anuradhapura ancient city, popular far and wide in the world for its crumbling historical monuments. However, I have great doubt about the popularity of twin ponds in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, because it seems like just another ordinary well with steps and rarely gets the attention of visitors.

This ancient landmark is overlooked by many travellers due to the other major attractions such as Jetawanarama, Ruwanweliseya, which are much much larger than the twin ponds and has more religious significance.

The weather pattern in Anuradhapura

Sri Lanka weather north east Sri Lanka

According to the weather pattern, there is an acute shortage of water in the dry-zone of Sri Lanka from November to April due to the lack of rain. The archaeologist believes that weather pattern we have today shows a lot of similarities to the weather pattern existed during the Anuradhapura period, ancient people also had to find a solution for the water shortage during the dry season.

Advanced water management installed by the Sri Lanka kings in the past

On account of this phenomenon, the ancient Kings has installed thousands of lakes across the northern dry-zone of Sri Lanka, in order to collect water during the rainy season (monsoon season). The collected water was subsequently served the people under the stringent control of officials. Labyrinthine of canals built by ancient kings dating back to 3rd century BC is still serving the people of dry-zone, and they are the lifeblood of farmers in the dry zone of Sri Lanka.

The unique architecture of twin pond

Twin ponds have a unique architectural design that was an ingenious answer for the water shortage in the area during the dry season. Anuradhapura kingdom is in the heart of Sri Lanka’s dry zone, where the perennial water resources dry out during the dry season. To make it worst the rain is also seldom during this period. As the perennial, water resources deplete and the rain does not contribute considerably to the water level of water storages (tanks, lakes and rivers) in the regions sinks.

By creating enormous twin ponds deep below ground, helped the monks, who used this ponds to access the groundwater level even during the prolonged drought. The depth of the ponds is 18 feet (6 meters), making it possible to tap into the groundwater table, therefore this step-well has year-round water supply, even after many centuries of its inception.

As you stand on top of the flight of steps going deep down into the earth at Anuradhapura, you can see the thick forest and the crumbling historical monument in the backdrop, remembering that you are in the most historical archaeological site on the island.

Places To Visit In Anuradhapura

The Number of Anuradhapura ancient places exceeds many thousands and the old city expands over a large area. Anuradhapura is an archaeological zoo with hundreds of thousands of historical monuments and twin pond is one of them.

The step-wells are to be found very commonly in north India, and some other part of western Indian states. However, they are originated during the medieval period and twin ponds of Anuradhapura are much older than the Indian step-wells. The twin pond is primarily served the temple monks and it was not for the purpose to serve the general public, therefore it was a temple tank.

There are few differences between the step-wells of India and the twin pond of Sri Lanka such as decorations, twin pond is lavishly decorated but most Indian ponds are basic and not decorated. The flight of steps of the twin pond is lavishly decorated with niches, stone sculptures and arches, floral designs, and animal figures.

Even though the concept behind the step-wells seems to be similar in both countries, but in the Sri Lankan case, it is much more complicated and more advanced. The Indian step wells solely depend on the groundwater level in order to fill the pond but at twin ponds, the ancient engineers installed an underground terracotta pipe to direct water to the pond from the nearby tank. The water which was coming in the direction of the pond directed to a tank before it fills the step-well, thereby all the residue that mix with the water settled in the tank before recedes to the well and only the clean water flows into the pond.

Twin pond of Anuradhapura is the oldest and most well-known stepwell on the island. The twin pond is still in very good shape even after about 1500 years. The twin pond was built for the use of monks of Mahavihara and it was a part of to the temple complex and was abandoned when the capital of Sri Lanka was moved to Polonnaruwa from Anuradhapura in 11th century AD.

After many centuries of disuse, it was discovered during the excavation in the old city. Today the twin pond is one of the very valuable artefacts that show the architectural and engineering skills of ancient people and it is clever and sophisticated engineering, could be relevant again today, because Sri Lanka dry-zone facing the spectra of drought over the past few decades.