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