Anuradhapura Temple Sri Lanka is not one temple but it is a collection of historical monuments. Anuradhapura is an archaeological zoo with thousands of ancient monuments and comprises a breathtaking collection of temples, dagobas, stupas, palaces, museums, rock inscriptions and ancient paintings. These monuments are thought to date back as far as the third century BCE. Some of the paintings in Anuradhapura include drawings of animals, people and musical instruments as well as messages, offerings and even laws inscribed in ancient languages. Here visitors will also find the Archaeological Museum, a must-visit for learning more about Sri Lanka’s rich historical past.
Table of Contents
- Anuradhapura Sri Lanka
- What are the major temples in Anuradhapura?
- Useful readings
- Anuradhapura city
- Is Anuradhapura worth visiting?
- Weather in Anuradhapura
- Anuradhapura temple tour
- What are the important places to visit in Anuradhapura?
- Anuradhapura temple tour in a nutshell
- Colombo to Anuradhapura
- The timetable for Anuradhapura bound trains from Colombo
- Price of the ticket from Colombo to Anuradhapura
- Travelling by bus from Colombo to Anuradhapura
- Price of the bus ticket from Colombo to Anuradha
- Anuradhapura ancient city
- History of the sacred city of Anuradhapura
- Destruction of Anuradhapura ancient city – 1846 – 866
- Places to stay in Anuradhapura
- Exploring Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
- Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura ancient city
- Isurumuniya- Anuradhapura historical places
- Attractions in Anuradhapura – Museum
- Aukana Buddha Statue of ancient Anuradhapura
- The gigantic Kalawewa of Anuradhapura Sri Lanka
- Abhaya wewa or Abhaya Tanka
- Anuradhapura temple -Jetawanarama Dagoba
- Ruwanweli seya/dagoba/chetiya
- Twin pond Anurahdpura Sri Lanka
- Ruins of a 1st-century Anuradhapura temple complex
- Ancient Ayurveda hospital found in Anuradhapura Sri Lanka
- Anuradhapura temple -Sadungira Raga Maha Vihara
- Anuradhapura temple – Nakolagane Raja Maha Vihara
- Siyabangamuwa Wewa
- Anuradhapura temple- Sri Namalu Raja Maha Vihara
- Anuradhapura temple-Buduruwa Kanda Raja Maha Vihara
- Anuradhapura Temple- Adiyagala Purana Raja Maha Vihara
The extent of the historical city of Anuradhapura Sri Lanka is about 40 hectares and many kilometres of travelling is required for anyone, who wishes to explore this historical city, some people call it Anuradhapura temple maybe because there are many dozens of Buddhist temples located within its borders. A large number of monuments are spreading over 40sqkm, in the historical city of Anuradhapura, therefore travellers, who wish to explore the city should allocate at least about half a day of their allotted time for the Anuradhapura city tours…
Anuradhapura Sri Lanka
Anuradhapura Sri Lanka is the most historical city on the island and it is the city with some of the most important historical attractions in the country. The history of this deep-rooted city of Sinhalese civilization is going back many years before the Christy. Therefore Anuradhapura is a part of almost every Sri Lanka road trip and it is one of the most visited UNESCO world heritage sites visiting Anuradhapura is an important activity and on the bucket list of most travellers.
Anuradhapura is an archaeological zoo with thousands of ancient monuments and comprises a breathtaking collection of temples, dagobas, stupas, palaces, museums, rock inscriptions and ancient paintings. These monuments are thought to date back as far as the third century BCE. Some of the paintings in Anuradhapura include drawings of animals, people and musical instruments as well as messages, offerings and even laws inscribed in ancient languages. Here visitors will also find the Archaeological Museums, a must-visit for learning more about Sri Lanka’s rich historical past.
What are the major temples in Anuradhapura?
- Sri maha bodhi
- Ruwanweli stupa
- Thuparama stupa
- Lankarama stupa
- Mirisaveti stupa
- Abhaygiri stupa
- Samadhi Buddha statue
- Tooth relic temple Kandy
- Golden temple Polgahawela
- Pahiyangala rock cave temple
- Gadaladeniya, embekke and Lankatilaka temple
- Hindagala cave temple
- Veheragala rock cave temple
- Visiting Gangatilaka temple on Galle one-day tour
- Sri Lanka temple etiquets
- Buddhist temple with the largest stone structure in Sri Lanka
- Sri Lanka trip from India to visit Sita Amman temple
- Tempel of Kataragama
- Escape from the beach and visit Anuradhapura
- Twin pond Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura is the capital of the north-central province of Sri Lanka, It is about 205 km to Anuradhapura from Colombo, and it lies north of Colombo. Anuradhapura is the most populated city in the North-central province of Sri Lanka. The city lies on the Colombo-Jaffna main road and allows easy access to travellers coming from any part of the island. Anuradhapura is the first city that you visit on your trip to Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle. Same time Anuradhapura makes one corner of the cultural triangle.
Is Anuradhapura worth visiting?
Often this question gets negative and positive answers. Some travellers find it very interesting and for some may be useless. However, it is a UNESCO world heritage site with many dozens of historical monuments dating back to the 3rd century BC. Some of the monuments are in very good shape while some others are ruined. So if you like exploring historical monuments and cultures Anuradhapura is going to be interesting.
Weather in Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura is in the north-central province of Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura is also coming under the dry zone of Sri Lanka, where the annual rainfall is between 1250mm to 2500mm. Anuradhapura shares all the other weather conditions of the dry zone of Sri Lanka such as high humidity and high temperature.
Anuradhapura temple tour
Anuradhapura city tour is part of most Sri Lanka trips such as Sri Lanka 5 days tour and 7 days Sri Lanka classical tour. Usually, travellers allocate one day of their trip to explore the ancient city of Anuradhapura. Most historical monuments in Anuradhapura are closely connected to Buddhism and large-scale ancient Buddhist monasteries are still scattered in the city once they were flourishing Buddhist religion teaching places. According to ancient information sources, these teaching centres attracted monks not only from Sri Lanka but also from other countries like China and Thailand. Therefore, Anuradhapura serves as the main highlight of every Buddhist tour in Sri Lanka.
Anuradhapura city tour starts early morning (04.00 am) from Colombo or other locations on the west coast of Sri Lanka such as Bentota and Negombo. It is important to start the tour early morning due to the long journey from Colombo to Anuradhapura. This is a one-day tour and it city tour of Anuradhapura is the main highlight.
After being picked up from your hotel in Colombo, you will drive to Anuradhapura, the duration of the journey will be around 5 hours. The city tour lasts 3-4 hours; during the Anuradhapura city tour, you will be visiting some of the important historical monuments such as Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweli Dagoba, Isurumuniya, Thuparama, Abhayagiri Dagoba, Jetawanarama monastery, museum, twin pond and many other places. You will be travelling with our experienced tour guide in an air-conditioned modern vehicle.
The tour will be finishing around 2.00 pm and you will leave for your hotel in Colombo and you will return to the hotel at around 7.00 pm. En route, you may stop at a restaurant for the dinner (At your own cost).
What are the important places to visit in Anuradhapura?
- Sri Maha Bodhi
- Ruwanweli Dagoba
- Abhayagiri Dagoba
- Jetawanarama monastery
- Abhaya wewa or Abhaya tank
Anuradhapura temple tour in a nutshell
- 04.00 am Start the journey from Hotel in Colombo
- 08.00 am start the Anuradhapura temple after a brief interval
- 08.30 am visit Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweli Dagoba, Isurumuniya, Thuparama, Abhayagiri Dagoba, Jetawanarama monastery, museum
- 01.00 pm start the return journey to Colombo
- 06.00 pm reach your hotel in Colombo
Colombo to Anuradhapura
The journey from Colombo to Anuradhapura might take about 4 hours by private transport. Therefore it is highly recommended to use a private vehicle with a local driver. Having a private vehicle saves time and it is comfortable too.
If you opt for the train it takes around 7 hours and it takes around 7 hours by bus. The train is a good option to travel on a long journey like this because it saves a lot of money. Usually, these long journey trains and buses are crowded, therefore getting the train from the central railway station is recommended in order to make sure you have a seat. The trains report to the station well in advance of the commencing time and therefore arriving at the railway station well in advance before starting the journey gives you a better chance of getting a seat.
The timetable for Anuradhapura bound trains from Colombo
- 05:45:00 A.C. – INTERCITY – Arrival to ANURADHAPURA 09:10:00 – daily (seats category 1,2,3 class)
- 06:35:00 YAL DEVI – LONG DISTANCE-Arrival to ANURADHAPURA 10:40:00-daily (seats category 2,3 class)
- 08:50:00 5452 – LONG DISTANCE-Arrival to ANURADHAPURA 14:14:00 daily (seats category 2,3 class)
- 11:50:00 UTTARA DEVI – A.C. – INTERCITY Arrival to Anuradhapura 15:29:00 daily (seats category 2,3 class)
- 13:45:00 RAJARATA RAJINI – EXPRESS TRAIN Arrival to ANURADHAPURA 18:46:00 daily (seats category 2,3 class)
- 15:55:00 INTERCITY EXPRESS – A.C. – INTERCITY Arrival to ANURADHAPURA 19:48:00 daily (seats category 1,2,3 class)
- 19:15:00 5067 – EXPRESS TRAIN Arrival to ANURADHAPURA 00:01:00 daily (seats category 1,2,3 class)
- 20:30:00 NIGHT MAIL TRAIN – NIGHT MAIL TRAIN Arrival to ANURADHAPURA 00:01:00 daily (seats category 2,3 class)
Price of the ticket from Colombo to Anuradhapura
1st Class LKR 520.00
2nd Class LKR 290.00
3rd Class LKR 160.00
Travelling by bus from Colombo to Anuradhapura
The journey from Colombo to Anuradhapura lasts about 7 hours. The buses leave the fort main bus station on a regular basis and a large number of busses are scheduled every day. The journey comes in 3 flavours regular buses, semi-luxury buses and luxury buses with air-conditioning. There is no point in travelling by so-called semi-luxury buses, they are similar to regular buses and on the rates side, they are higher.
Price of the bus ticket from Colombo to Anuradha
Normal bus Rs252
Semi-luxury bus Rs378
Luxury (with air-conditioning) Rs505
Anuradhapura ancient city
Anuradhapura is the capital of the north-central province of Sri Lanka, It is about 205 km to Anuradhapura from Colombo, and it lies north of Colombo. It is the most populated city on the way to Jaffna from Kandy or Colombo on the A9 road. The city lies on the Colombo-Jaffna main road and allows easy access to travellers coming from any part of the island. Travellers who come from Kandy and the east coast can travel to the historical city of Anuradhapura via Dambulla.
Visitors should pay the entrance fees before entering Anuradhapura Sri Lanka. The cost of entrance is USD 25 for adults and USD 12.5 for children. The entrance tickets for the sacred city can be bought at the entrance. However, the entrance fees for travellers from SAARC can be bought at a much lesser price. There are no entrance fees for local travellers.
The extent of the historical city is about 50 hectares and a large amount of travelling is required for anyone who wishes to explore this historical city. A large number of monuments are spreading over 30sqkm, in the city of Anuradhapura, therefore travellers who wish to explore the city should allocate at least half a day of their allotted time for the Anuradhapura city tour.
Depending on the travelling time between sites the time required here differed. Having a private transport option such as a car is the best way to explore the city. Therefore you can save time on travelling and avoid the oppressive heat of the dry zone sun as well as the dusty wind in the city. Travelling by Bicycle is the most affordable option within the historical city but travelling on the dusty road will be difficult.
History of the sacred city of Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura is an ancient city with well-preserved ruins of an ancient civilization. Anuradhapura was established in the 4th century B.C by King Pandukabhaya and it was the first capital of the country. Anuradhapura is the sacred city, with Jayasri Maha Bodhi (the sacred tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment).
Anuradhapura is declared a world heritage site by UNESCO owing to its historical and religious importance to the world. Anuradhapura had been a large city and it was around 10km² in extent. It is laid out with a well-organized road network, palaces, religious buildings, schools, parks, cemeteries for low and high casts etc.
There had been a well-planned water supply system with Tanks, reservoirs, and a well-laid canal system, Tissawewa, Abhayawewa, and Basawakkulam are a few huge reservoirs that were used for water management in the city. These tanks were built in the Pre-Christian era and are still being used today.
During 1300 years, as it was the capital of the country, it came under many South Indian invasions. Tamils, Pandyan and Cholas invaded the city-destroying most of the religious buildings, palaces and other important properties in the city.
The city lost its function as the capital in the 10th century A.D. as a result of the South Indian invasions. Most of the monuments were restored after regaining power from the invaders. But the city was abandoned by the Sri Lankan monarchy after the invasion by Chola Rajaraja in 993 making the Polonnaruwa 2nd capital, owing to its militarily and politically strategic location in the region. When Anuradhapura was abandoned in 993 cities encroached by the jungle hiding it for many centuries.
- Highlights-Water rafting, Boat tour, Rainforest trek, Visit temples, Jeep safari
- Duration-4 Days
- Places- Pinnawala elephant orphanage, Kithulgala, Tooth relic temple, Sinharaja forest, Udawalawe national park, Mirissa, Galle Fort, Bentota
- Transport-Private vehicle
- Accommodation 3-star hotel
- Meals-Breakfast and Dinner
- Availability-From Nov 2019 to Nov 2021
Special Price US$ 550, save $125, Regular Price US$675
Anuradhapura was predominantly a Buddhist city and is considered to be the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Buddhism was introduced in 250 B.C. during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa, converting the King to Buddhism recorded being the first Buddhist mission in the country. The second Buddhist mission also took place in the 3rd Century B.C. in which nun Sangamitta brought a sampling of Bo-tree from Bodhgaya to the country.
Sri Maha Bodhi was received with great respect by King Devanampiyatissa and planted in the royal pleasure garden. Buddhism considered the state religion since the advent of Buddhism in the country and the majority of the people in the country believe in Buddhism. Anuradhapura is partaking in all these significant events in the country’s history.
The arrival of Buddhism made a huge impact on civilization. There had been a revival in all angels of the life. Ayurveda medicine, architecture, language, arts and crafts, irrigation systems and literature all these aspects were enriched and enhanced with the incoming knowledge from India. Mirisaweti Dagoba, Ruwanweliseya Dagoba, Brazen Palace, Baddasima pasada, Shiwa Devala and Jetawanarama Dagoba are a few of the huge Buddhist monuments that resulted after the advent of Buddhism.
Today Anuradhapura is the main city in the north-central province and the most important historical city on the island. Anuradhapura draws tens of thousands of tourists every year owing to its significance as one of the oldest cities in the world.
Destruction of Anuradhapura ancient city – 1846 – 866
The Tamils had been very busy settling themselves safely in Sri Lanka for many years and soon after ascending the throne King Sena 1 (1846 – 866), was compelled to give up Anuradhapura as his capital altogether. Then he chose Polonnaruwa as his capital which had been built up in the meanwhile by some of the kings. Polonnaruwa remained the capital of Lanka for the following 130 years, and then later on again for more than one hundred years.
According to historical evidence that King Sena 1 possessed great riches and he was very generous, he considered his subjects as his children. He even treated birds and beasts and fishes with consideration and he gave alms to the poor and needy. His wife, Queen Sangha, was also a very good and beautiful woman, and the people of Lanka would have been quite happy if the Tamils had not come again in great numbers and begun to ravage the northern part of the island.
Even the king of Pandya came himself with a great army and when the Tamils, who dwelt on the island, saw the Tamil king so stately and gorgeously attired, sitting on his magnificent elephant, going to war against the Sinhalese king, they all gathered around him and his army became larger every day. It grew so large and strong that the Sinhalese army, under the King’s brothers, Mihindu and Kasyapa could not stand against it.
Mihindu killed himself when he saw that there was no possibility of victory, and Kasyapa after very bravely trying to overcome the Tamils, almost single-handed, and to make up thus for his brother’s weakness, had to give up. He had to leave Anuradhapura to its fate.
And now the Pandyans began to plunder and ruin everything. They destroyed the king’s palace and robbed its wealth. They pulled down the golden covering of the Thuparama. They destroyed the brazen palace. They stole the jewels from the treasury. They mutilated the statues in order to get the jewels with which they were adorned. They melted the golden images. They broke the Pokunas (baths). They made some of the tanks useless and they left the city of Anuradhapura desolate. The poor beautiful “Queen of cities” in Lanka lay in ruins.
History says they made Lanka of no value whatsoever. When all this had been done, the King of Pandya sent messengers to King Sena 1 that he was willing to make a peace treaty with him. Sena 1 received his messengers very kindly. He made peace with the Pandyan King so that he left Lanka with his army.
Now the enemies were gone, but the desolation, which they left behind, the city, was in ruins and it was not possible to restore it to its former grandeur again. Besides, almost all the King’s treasures were gone and all the rich Sinhalese were reduced to poverty.
King Sena 1 tried very hard to do all he could to bring prosperity to the island. But the King made very meagre progress as far as development is concerned, owing to the dilapidated strength and wealth of the country. It was reported that the King grieved towards the end of his reign after seeing Anuradhapura in ruins.
Places to stay in Anuradhapura
Since Anuradhapura is visited by a large number of tourists every year and is a major part of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, the tourism infrastructure is well-developed here. Finding places to stay in Anuradhapura for travellers who wish to experience this historical city is not a daunting task, especially for people who travel on a tight budget. But there is a scarcity of star-class accommodations within the city and finding a star-class hotel will be a difficult task within the city of Anuradhapura. Even though there are not many options left for travellers, who look for luxury accommodation within Anuradhapura, plenty of opportunities await surrounding cities such as Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Habarana.
Travellers can find any type of accommodation from homestay accommodation to luxurious hotels and villas in nearby cities such as Habarana, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Dambulla. All of these cities are only 30 minutes away from the sacred city. Most travellers who wish to explore Anuradhapura and other historical sites in the cultural triangle are based mostly in the above-mentioned cities. It allows them to reach all the important sites such as Sigiriya, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura even the east coast within a short period of time.
Exploring Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
If you are ready to walk for about 4 hours you can explore the city on foot. In fact, that’s the best way to experience this archaeological zoo. It gives you the freedom to explore the monuments at your own pace, visit every piece of an ancient monument in the city, interact with local people, have a look into wayside trees and plants, and check on the birds occurring in the dry zone.
You can hire a TUK TUK in order to explore the historical monuments if you find it difficult to have about 4 hours of walking through the city. It will cost 700 LKR to 1500 LKR for the TUK TUK. The TUK TUK ride through the historic site takes around 3 hours.
Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura ancient city
The Sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka is considered the oldest recorded surviving historical tree in the world. The tree is called the “Bo tree” and the Botanical name is known as “Ficus Religiosa”, which is a giant tree of the Ficus family. Historical information from India, as well as Sri Lanka, suggests that the Bo-tree was brought to the island during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa in 244 BC.
Bo-tree was brought to the island by Sangamitta, daughter of Emperor Asoka and was planted in the Mahamegha Uyana or royal pleasure garden in Anuradhapura. This sapling of the Bo tree was received by the king and planted in the Mahamegha Uyana, a Royal pleasure garden to the south of the city of Anuradhapura. It is said the great ceremony was performed with the planting of the Bo-tree. It is a sapling of Bo-tree in Buddha Gaya, India under which Buddha attained Enlightenment in the 6th Century B.C.
The historical chronicles such as Mahawamsa, Chulawamsa, and Bodhiwamsa provide elaborate descriptions of the establishment of the Bodhi tree on the island. Bodhi means the wisdom that understands the Four Noble Truths. Thus the tree which helped Buddha to attain enlightenment or achieve wisdom is called the Bodhi tree.
According to historical information, Thera Sangamitta started her journey from the port of Tamralipti south India, at the mouth of the Ganges. She landed in Jambukola Patuna (an ancient port in Northern Sri Lanka). From the beginning of the journey to the landing at Jambukola Patuna, it is full of descriptions of important events.
According to Mahawamsa or the great chronicle, which was written in the 6th Century A.D, the ship, which was bringing the sacred sapling of Bo-tree ventured forth into the sea. A yojana around the waves of the great ocean was stilled. Lotus flowers of five different colours blossomed all around and heard music in the air. The journey which had been six days long and many offerings were also done by Devas and Nagas, while it was in the sea. The sapling of the sacred Bo-tree arrived on the island on the last day of the week.
On hearing of the arrival of the sacred sapling or Bo-tree on the island, the king ordered to decorate of the road from the Jambukola Patuna to the capital of the island (Anuradhapura). The king with his splendid retinue marched in a celebratory procession and arrived at Samuddapannasala (the sea hut) in Jambukola on the same day to receive the Bodhi sapling.
It is said the joyful king, seeing the arriving great Bodhi sapling and though full of anxiety, walked even neck-deep into the sea with nobles of sixteen families. Placing the sacred Bodhi sapling on his head the king of Lanka walked back onto the shore and placed it on a beautifully decorated pavilion. The king himself worshipped the Bodhi sapling by bestowing his kingdom and innumerable offerings were also made for many days and nights.
Today the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura is the second most sacred and venerated spot on the island. Its importance is not restricted to only Buddhists around the world but also to the whole world which celebrates its fame as the oldest recorded tree in the world.
The Sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura is reckoned as the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date of 288 BC.
Isurumuniya- Anuradhapura historical places
Isurumuniya is one of the most important historical places as well as tourist attractions in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Even though Isurumuniya is not one of the eight holy places within the borders of Anuradhapura, it is visited by thousands of foreign and local travellers every day. Isurumuniya is one of the oldest Buddhist temples on the island. And it is dating back to the 3rd century BC. The temple is located in a very suitable environment for a Buddhist temple. The surrounding area is very calm and quiet enabling the monks to have peace of mind and concentrate on religious activities such as meditation.
Isuruimuniya rises in between the Tisa wewa (reservoir) and a beautiful paddy field. On the day that we visited Isurumuniya, a lot of people were harvesting the paddy. The temple is built on a spacious garden with a rocky outcrop.
The first sight of the temple for people, who enters through the main gate of Isurumuniya, is a gigantic boulder that rises up to about 10 meters. Several important parts of the temple such as Dagoba and Sripatula (footprint of Buddha) are located on the boulder. A flight of steps carved on the rock leads the visitors to the top of the rock. One can have an awe-inspiring bird’s eye view of the surrounding area from the summit of the rock.
The name of Isurumuniya has derived from the Pali term Issara-samnarama or Issara samana vihara. The location of the temple is believed to be the spot, where noblemen were ordained as monks by Mahinda Thera (monk Mahinda). The beginning of the Isurumuniya temple is attributed to King Devanampiyatissa.
As the tooth relic was brought from India, it was temporarily kept in Isurumuniya for a brief period of time. Therefore Isurumuniya is one of the few temples that are purified by the touch of the tooth relic of Buddha. Other than being one of the tooth relic temples, it is the home of one of the first eight saplings of Sri Maha Bodhi, the holiest tree on the island. The Bo-tree can be seen in the temple even today and it is estimated to be more than 2000 years old.
Other than being one of the most historical religious sites, Isurumuniya showcases some of the most outstanding artworks of the ancient Sinhalese artisans. Some of the popular sculptures found in Isurumuniya are the Isurumuniya lovers and the royal family. Both these sculptures are exhibited in the museum along with many other great artistic examples. Even though this sculpture is identified as a royal family, some archaeologists believe it to be the Bodhisattva figure with his wife and followers. This opinion is further strengthening the way the legs of the male figure are positioned in the sculpture.
Right after the entrance, on the right-hand side is a big pond with two valuable sculptures. One is a group of elephants bathing in the pond and the other is a man and a horse head behind him. According to Prof. Paranawithana, these two figures (man and the horse) are representing Parjanya (the God of rain) and Agni (the horse of Parjanya).
Attractions in Anuradhapura – Museum
The historical monuments in the city are scattered over a large area and you need many hours to explore even the most important places. Since it takes a lot of time, most tourists try to see as many historical places within their short stay in the city and purposely bypass important places such as museums while some other visitors are not aware of museums.
There are several museums within the borders of Anuradhapura and Anuradhapura archaeological museum is the most visited museum in Anuradhapura. Large numbers of artefacts are stored in the museum and it can takes days to explore a large number of exhibits, a person who is interested in the history of Sri Lanka.
The museum is housed in a building on the road to the Ruwanweliseya Dagoba. One can see a large number of stone inscriptions, stone pillars and various other stone carvings on the premises of the museum. Even though most artefacts in the museum are discovered in Anuradhapura, there is a large number of various artefacts found in various other places in Sri Lanka. A separate spacious building is constructed to house important stone sculptures. The number of sculptures exceeds many hundreds and they belong to various periods in history.
Anuradhapura archaeological museum was founded in 1895 under the British administration. But the modern museum is housed in a new building, which was built in 1960. The main building of the museum is built after the typical Sri Lanka architecture of the 19th century. One can see a large number of granite stones with the footprint of Buddha, Buddha statues in different postures, stupas, ancient paintings, Hindu sculptures, various metal objects, floral designs, stone pillars, ancient coins, weapons and terracotta items in the collection. Most of the Buddha statues are in the standing posture, numbering 21.
One of the very valuable exhibits of the museum is the copies of the paintings found in Mahiyangana Stupa and Mihintale Stupa. Nataraja sculpture, Ganesh, Parvati, Agni, Sun God, Nagini, Brahma, and Indra are the most occurring Hindu God figures in the museum. Various archaeological items found at the twin pond of Anuradhapura are also included in the collection with many other Guard stones, Moonstones, dwarf figures, tiles, and drainage pipes.
The museum is a 2 storied building with a wooden upper floor and spacious verandah. There is a large number of metal sculptures, terracotta items, and old coins that can be seen on the upper floor of the museum.
Aukana Buddha Statue of ancient Anuradhapura
The Aukana Buddha statue of Anuradhapura is considered to be one of the masterpieces of Images of Buddha in ancient Sri Lanka. Copies of Aukana Buddha statues are to be found in many parts of the island. The Original image of Aukana is situated in the Anuradhapura district. However, this Buddha statue is not located within the border of ancient Anuradhapura. It is located near Anuradhapura ancient city in a small, picturesque village called Nagampaha.
The Buddha statue is located close to Kekirawa city on the Kandy-Jaffna main road. This massive Buddha statue is built on the east bank of the Kalawewa (Kalawewa Lake) facing the lake and against the shining sun. From the top of the temple, one can have a magnificent view of the surrounding vegetation and the villages.
Aukana is an important pilgrimage as well as an archaeological site in Anuradhapura ancient city. One can see the remnant of a roof of the Buddha statue, it had been built using bricks and placed above the stone walls. The roof was destroyed at the time of the discovery of the statue. And the roof which was built in 1976 removed later because it did not match the statue. Now it can be seen as it was founded in 1895.
Aukana Buddha statue is one of the biggest standing Buddha statues in Sri Lanka. The rest of the statues are the Rasvehera Buddha statue, the Maligavila Buddha statue, the Buduruwagala Buddha statue and the Buddha statue at the Dova temple in Bandarawela. All these Buddha statues are hew out of granite stone.
The statues of Dova rock temple and Buduruwagala are considered to be in Bas-relief. Aukana and Raswehera Buddha statues are carved in a rounded style. There are different opinions among the archaeologists calculating the beginning of the Aukana Buddha statue. It has been dated to the 4th, 5th, 8th, 11th, and 12th centuries A.D.
Well, known archaeologist, Mr Paranavithana claims that the Buddha statue was done in the 2nd half of the 5th century A.D. And the statue was hew during the rule of king Dhatusena (459-477). King had ordered his artisans to build the Buddha statue facing the Kalawewa (one of the biggest man-made lakes in Sri Lanka) and both constructions of the tank and the statue to be finished simultaneously.
The height of this massive granite statue is 11.36m measuring from the Lotus pedestal to the top of the head. The estimated weight of the statue is 75-80 tons. This Buddha statue is one of the most beautiful Buddha statues in the world. It is indescribably impressive, the face a perfection of benign power, confirming the blessing given by the right hand. The robe flow, if you think granite could never be made to flow, in this Buddha statue they almost move in the wind. The style of the statue shows that it belongs to one of the schools of art in the Anuradhapura period.
The gigantic Kalawewa of Anuradhapura Sri Lanka
There is no other irrigation work of such a magnitude size as Kalawewa in the whole Anuradhapura district in the North-central province of Sri Lanka. The water mass stored by this reservoir is capable of irrigating thousands of acres of fields throughout the year. It was not only supplying water for irrigation but also supply water to the royal city. Even today this stupendous irrigation work is immensely utilized by the people of the dry zone. Kalawewa is located in the popular holiday destination of Anuradhapura.
Anuradhapura inherits great feats of ancient Sinhalese civilization, dating back to the 4th century BC. Kalawewa originated in the 5th century AD it had supplied water to Anuradhapura for more than 500 years. A giant dam, which was built across the Kala Oya holds the waters of the River and forms the Kalawewa.
The king came to the idea of creating the tank in the early days of his childhood. According to historical evidence, the invasion of south Indian king Pandu was the reason for him to flee the city. Pandu ascended the throne and hatched a plot to assassinate the prince, the legitimate heir to the throne. The prince and his uncle fled the city for safety; they had to cross the Kalawewa with great risk and difficulty to reach a monastery south of the river.
At that time uncle had told the king “Even as this river holds us back, so do thou in future time hold back its course by collecting its waters in a tank.” It was not a piece of advice to ignore, due to the immense benefit that can be reaped upon accomplishing it. Kalawewa was one of the topmost priorities of King Dhatusena after ascending the throne.
Today the Kalawewa is restored to its former glory and performs the same function as in the 5th century AD. The great King Dhatusena is attributed as the creator of Kalawewa. He had earned a reputation as a great king, a fine ruler, and a brave and undulated character. But, the king had such a merciful end, only a few others were destined to have such a grim end. This powerful monarch and sovereign ruler were killed by his own son, the creator of the Sigiriya fortress.
Travelling on the bund of Kalawewa gives you the pleasure of enjoying the fascinating dry-zone countryside. You can spot flocks of waterbirds in the marshes near the bund. The sheet of endless reflecting water, Surrounding hills and the blue sky with little white clouds as the background create an unparallel beautiful scene.
According to Chulawamsa, King was at Kalawewa, just before his death, plunged into the water, bathed and drank. Same time, the king had pointed the eyes of the king’s henchmen to the waters of Kalawewa and said: “This here, my friends, is my whole wealth.” But, Kalawewa is not only the wealth of King Dhatusena but also an immense treasure of the people of the dry zone. Today, 1500 years after the origin of Kalawewa, it still serves the people in many ways and continues to so many years in the future.
Abhaya wewa or Abhaya Tanka
According to the Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO (SLNCU) Abhaya tank or better known as “Abhaya Wewa”, which was constructed during the reign of King Pandukabhaya in the 4th century BC, is to be named another UNESCO world heritage site. King Pandukabhaya is one of the best kings, who ruled the island in ancient times and he especially contributed immensely to the development of Sri Lanka by building many tanks. The king was in the throng from 437 BC to 367 BC, during his tenure he had undertaken many large-scale irrigations works such as the Abhaya tank, in order to improve agriculture on the island. Abhaya tank is not only the first tank built by the King but also it is the very first man-made tank on the island.
According to the archaeologists, the Abhaya Tank was built in the 4th century BC by King Pandukabhaya and no previous reservoirs have been reported from other countries.
Anuradhapura temple -Jetawanarama Dagoba
Jetawanarama had been a Buddhist monastery complex in Anuradhapura. It was occupied by hundreds of Buddhist monks. The dagoba of Jetawanarama was built by King Mahasen in the 3rd century AD. Jetawanarama had been the tallest Buddhist monument at that time and it was the 3rd highest construction in the world.
This giant dagoba is built with millions of bricks and rises up to 400 feet from the ground. The pinnacle of the dagoba collapsed during the last several centuries. Therefore it is measured to be only 231 feet tall, at present. It is believed, that a piece of Buddha’s robe is enshrined in Jetawanarama dagoba. This dagoba is considered one of the greatest achievements of the ancient Sinhalese engineers.
Ruwanweli Seya is one of the great contributions to the Buddhist world by the great King Dutugemunu (137 BC-119 BC). This valiant king had been able to defeat the south Indian invaders and unite the country under the Sinhalese ruler. The original structure of this Anuradhapura temple was 180 feet tall and it was built after the water bubble shape. Dagoba was renovated many times since it was discovered in the 1800s. Today due to the reconstruction its original shape is diminished.
Twin pond Anurahdpura Sri Lanka
Twin pond shows the thorough grasp of hydraulic principles by the engineers of Sri Lanka, way back in the 6th century AD. The ponds were used by the monks of the Abhayagiri temple complex. There are two beautifully built ponds at the site.
The two ponds were constructed in different periods and it can be clearly observed with the differently styled stone carvings. The bigger pond is believed to be built in a later period than the smaller pond. Two ponds are interconnected with an underground pipe at the bottom of the ponds.
The water was directed to the ponds from a tank and was situated outside the city. The engineers have used the hydraulic principle to direct the water through the underground tunnel. The advanced filtering mechanisms had been in place to make sure only the clean water is coming into the tank.
Ruins of a 1st-century Anuradhapura temple complex
Thuparama Dagoba is one of the oldest Buddhist constructions on the island and one of the leading monuments coming under the Anuradhapura ruins. It was built by King Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BC. According to historical information, the collarbone Relic of Buddha is enshrined in the dagoba. The Dagoba was renovated many times in the past and it is in good shape at present. The stone pillars around the construction were supporting the protective roof, once existing above the dagoba.
The Thuparama is the first dagoba built by King Devanapiyatissa in the 2nd century B.C. Thuparama dagoba was built in the capital of the island (Anuradhapura) at that time. This complex consisted of other ruins of the religion’s buildings within the city. Even today the ruins of this complex cover an area of nearly three and a half acres. The ancient residential quarters were situated in this area. All the ruins are covered by the boundary wall as is seen now about 4.6 feet. this Anuradhapura temple is believed to be the first Dagoba constructed after the advent of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C.
Ancient Ayurveda hospital found in Anuradhapura Sri Lanka
The ruins of a building were discovered in the Thuparama monastery complex, which was built by King Kassapa 4 (898-914). The building is situated South-east of the Dagoba and had been used as a hospital as is evident by the presence of a medicinal trough.
The hospital had been used to treat the sick monks. An image house of the Thuparama temple complex is located towards the south of Dagoba. This image house is a classic example of Anuradhapura period architecture. At the entrance of the image house, on either side, two guard stones suppose to be keeping malicious influence away from the building and the moonstone at the entrance depicts Buddhist philosophy, both are constructed in the 9th century A.D.
Padalachan Chetiya is another building to be found on the right side of the Dagoba. It is identified with four dagobas and the footprints of the four Buddhas of this Kalpa also can be seen. Earlier it was erroneously identified as Sangamitta Chetiya. Close to the entrance of the Dagoba, there had been a building with a courtyard and collection rooms. This had been the living quarters of the monks and by estimating the magnitude of the building archaeologists opine that there had been a large number of monks in the monastery complex.
Anuradhapura temple -Sadungira Raga Maha Vihara
This historical Anuradhapura temple can be reached within a short period of time from Padeniya. One can reach the Kettapahuwa junction along the Padeniya-Anuradhapura main road. At the Kettapahuwa junction, travellers need to take the narrow road that leads to the temple. Sandungira Buddhist temple is about 3 kilometres from the main road. There are several routes providing access to the temple.
The temple is picturesquely located among the thick vegetation in the village of Kumbukwewa. The temple is believed to be built by a regional leader called “Deva”. Sadungira Raja Maha Vihara is one of the temples in a group that religious places comprised of several temples such as Nilagiri, Devagiri, Dibulgiri, Abulgiri and Hansagiri.
According to historical information, King Saddatissa renovated the temple during the Anuradhapura period (4th century BC-11th century AD). Today the temple is a popular Buddhist attraction in the area and a large number of people visit the site every day.
Anuradhapura temple – Nakolagane Raja Maha Vihara
There are three routes that can be used to reach the temple. Nakolagane Raja Maha Vihara is located on the Abanpola-Ehetuwewa road. It is about 6 km from the city of Abanpola. This historical temple is blessed with very beautiful surroundings. It is surrounded by patches of jungles, tanks, paddy fields and villages. One can enjoy the beautiful surrounding along the way to the temple.
The temple houses many historically important elements such as guard stones, moonstones, footprint stones and stone carvings. Several natural caves had been used as the dwelling houses of monks in the past and drip edges can still be seen in these caves, which are believed to be one of the most ancient engineering works of Sri Lanka engineers.
In order to see this beautiful lake, one needs to take a narrow road upon reaching the Amunukola junction on the Abanpola-Anuradhapura main road. It is about 4 kilometres from the main road. Siyabangamuwa Lake is one of the oldest irrigation works in the area. It was constructed by King Mahasen (276-303 AD), in the early days, it was called Chinchinagama wewa. It is renovated in 1955.
At present, the lake is spread over 71 sq miles of the surface at its maximum capacity. The bund of the lake is 4700 feet in length and it irrigates 679 acres of paddy field in the area.
Anuradhapura temple- Sri Namalu Raja Maha Vihara
This historical Anuradhapura temple is located about another 2 km down the road after the Siyabangamuwa Wewa and is also a very popular temple Anuradhapura temple. This ancient cave temple is believed to be originated during the Anuradhapura period. This Anuradhaoura temple is located beneath the gigantic granite rock known as Usgala and it is about 400 feet in height. There are steps carved on the rock surface to climb to the summit of the rock.
A beautiful dagoba can be seen on the top of the rock. A large number of artefacts are discovered at the site in the past. These artefacts show the characters of the early Anuradhapura period. Stone pillars, guard stones, moonstones, and Buddha statues are among the discoveries.
Anuradhapura temple-Buduruwa Kanda Raja Maha Vihara
This is a rock cave Anuradhapura temple is located in the district of Anuradhapura and it is about 6 km from Kala Oya. Despite its location on the main road providing easy access to the site, the temple is not included in most Anuradhapura tours. But if you have some extra time after visiting the historical monuments, it is well worth visiting this ancient temple.
The temple is picturesquely located on top of a mountain. The location of the temple commands a beautiful view over surrounding mountains such as Torawamailewa, Sangappali, Hastikuchchi, Nagala, and Resvehera. Escapements, paddy fields, lakes and patches of forests enhance the natural beauty of the surrounding area of the temple.
Anuradhapura Temple- Adiyagala Purana Raja Maha Vihara
This is a popular gigantic cave temple in Anuradhapura and is believed to be occupied by Buddhist monks many centuries before. A large number of artefacts were discovered at the site. Moonstones, guard stones, stone pillars, and inscriptions, stone carvings are some of the noteworthy.
However, this Anuradhapura temple is not included in most Anuradhapura tours. Even most local travellers omit this historical temple from their Anuradhapura tours due to its location, which is off the main site. Usually, the Anuradhapura tours cover major historical monuments in the old city, but you have to allocate about a half-day for the Anuradhapura city tour.
The ancient city of Anuradhapura