25 Places to visit in Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka's first capital city, Even known as the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, is located in Northern Central Province, Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura is renowned for Archaeological sites, civilisation, food and attractions placed upon an iconic inheritance setting.

Anuradhapura is a sacred city founded in the 4th century B.C. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982 under the name of the Sacred City of Anuradhapura. The centre of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. Theravada Buddhism is a fork of Buddhism resting on its faith's oldest written Buddhist text.

The city of Anuradhapura held the capital city for the ethnic Sinhalese society from the 4th century B.C. till the beginning of the 11th century A.D. It remained one of the most stable centres of political power in South Asia throughout this time.

This early city is considered sacred to the Buddhist world. The town plays religious significance because it retains a cutting from the 'tree of enlightenment, the Buddha's fig tree which, was carried in the 3rd century B.C. by Sanghamitta – the originator of an array of Buddhist nuns.

Artificial lakes extending along the horizon, stupas that touched the sky and performed as data communications, dwellings atop rocks decorated with elaborate sculpture, water gardens and futuristic settings of technologies and stargates are just a few construction festivals of the ancient Sinhalese.
Enhanced with Buddhism brought down from India approximately three thousand years before Sri Lankan technicians and artisans built unique breath-taking constructions in the ancient society. Formulated with bricks and carved with stones, these productions observed in the ancient city of Anuradhapura continues to astound the world. Here are some of the finest places to visit in Anuradhapura.

1. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree -AnuradhapuraUNESCO has determined the sacred city of Anuradhapura as a World Heritage. The preliminary analysis for the historical city of Anuradhapura to become a sacred city was the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.
According to the documented evidence, this sacred tree was located in the old Maha Megha Vana Royal Park in Anuradhapura in ‘Unduvap’ (December), 236 BC. The sacred Bodhi sapling has been ceremonially taken here by Arahant Sanghamitta Maha There, under the guidance of Arahant Mihindu Maha Thero. King Devanampiyatissa, who ruled Sri Lanka, has settled this Bodhi tree with royal pageantry in the Maha Megha Vana Royal Park devoted to the grand bhikkhus. The existing age of the Anuradhapura Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is 2,247 years.
Therefore, the most beloved tree of the atmosphere with a written history is the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura. More Details

2. Ruwanwelisaya Stupa

Ruwanwelisaya Stupa - Anuradhapura

Ruwanwelisaya Stupa is a sizeable white stupa that predates the Jetavanarama stupa by over 1000 years. King Dutugemunu, who became king after defeating King Elara, managed its construction in 161 B.C. Wistfully, he did not live long enough to view its achievement. The gleaming white building is pretty extensive, with a height of 91.4 meters and a perimeter of 290 meters. It is the second-highest stupa in Anuradhapura and remains an influential site of worship. More Details

3. Jetawanaramaya

Jetawanaramaya at Anuradhapura Sri lanka

Jetawanaramaya was built by King Mahasen (276-303 AC). King Mahasen was a follower of Mahayana Buddhism. Jetavanarama is unique because of its massive stupa. The premises where the Jetavanarama is located earlier referred to Nandana Park. It is the area where Thera Mahinda preached the Dhamma for seven continuous days. Concluded with all the structures required for a monastery, buildings here, in addition to those built by King Mahasen, had been constructed by Kitisirimevan (303-331 AC) and kings who worked him. More Details

4. Isurumuniya temple

Isurumuniya temple - Anuradhapura

The Isurumuniya Viharaya is located near Tisa Wewa in Anuradhapura. There is a Viharaya attached to a cave, and above is a rock. A small stupa is established on it. Isurumuniya is renowned for its stone carvings, and the one is recognised as Isurumuniya Lovers is the most-admired and world-famous. The different carvings are of the Horseman, Elephant Pond and the Royal Family.
The Isurumuniya Viharaya was built through the regime of Devanampiya Tissa, who ruled the ancient capital Anuradhapura. The Temple was created as a spiritual complex to house recently orientated monks.
Some consider Isurumuni lovers are a representative of Hindu Gods Shiva and Parvati. However, according to Dr Paranawithana, it is thought that it’s a depiction of Prince Saliya, son of King Dutugemunu and Asokamala, a poor woman whom the prince preferred over the throne.
The Bathing Elephants are different stone carvings favoured by several, and they make an extraordinary impact as you enter the temple premises. But, the carvings differ in their reproduction. Hence it is assumed that two artists did the work with varied techniques at various ages.
The Man and the Horse is slightly ambiguous, and a man seated next to a horse is carved into the rock face over the pond. The man sits in a “King position”. His left arm extends vertically under where the hand is placed palm downwards. His right arm rests on his right leg bent at the knee. More Details

5. The Star Gate of Ancient Anuradhapura

The Star Gate of Ancient Anuradhapura

There is an unusual and unexplained artefact of an old civilisation of Si Lanka built on the rock in Ranmasu Uyana, also known as Gold Fish Park, found in the ancient city of Anuradhapura. This artefact is called Sekwala Chakraya, moreover identified as The Star Gate of Sri Lanka. Magul Uyana, the Royal Pleasure Gardens, lies on large rock stones and some caves. Engraved on the steep rock face of these boulders is a puzzling sight: a large circular diagram with a span nearly two metres in diameter.
The circle is filled with different Opes of symbols and patterns- linear and circular in design. The most immediate reference to this artery curving was by H.C.P Bell, the first Archaeological Commissioner of Sri Lanka (1890-1912). It is assigned to in his 1901 Archaeology Survey Report of the North Central and Central Provinces. It is combined with the exploratory work he carried out in the area around the Isurumuniya Temple. More Details

6. Vessagiriya Buddhist forest monastery complex

Vessagiriya Buddhist forest monastery complex

Vessagiriya Buddhist forest monastery complex was built in the 3rd-century BC by King Devanampiyatissa. Twenty-three cases have been found in the complex. The legend implies it was supposed to be larger than presently, as rocks from this place have been used for other construction at later stages.
It is considered that the name Vessagiriya has continued to originate from the Sanskrit word Vaishya and Sinhalese word Giri. Vaishya is one of the power castes in Indian culture which serves people in business and merchants. Giri is a Sinhalese word for hill. Hence, Vaishya Giri would mean the mountain of people in industry and traders. It also suggests that the modest monks residing here would have been merchants in their secular lives.
The inscriptions carved on the stones by monks and enthusiasts reveal the story of Vessagiriya. According to the ancient records, Arahat Mahinda Thero, who founded Buddhism in Sri Lanka, ordained 500 Vaishyans in Vessagiriya. There are still flat granite surfaces where the ascetic monks have relaxed.
Vessagiriya was considered to be known formerly as Issarasamanarama during the times of King Devanampiya Tissa. More Details

7. Samadhi Buddha statue

Samadhi Buddha statue - Anuradhapura

The Samadhi Buddha statue at Anuradhapura is among the best-preserved figures in the country. It is famous for setting the bar against which all other statues of its kind are found. In age, the Samadhi Buddha statue records back to either the 3rd or 4th Centuries AD, albeit its producer and advocate are unknown. The park of Mahamewna, though, escorted back to the 3rd Century BC and was amongst the most advanced generous gardens in the nation, sponsored by King Mutasiva. The present Samadhi Buddha statue reveals him in a state of thoughtful consideration, one hand on top of the other on his seat in a dhyana mudra, a gesture of peace. His feet are joined in the veerasana pose. In sum, this is a giant statue, seven feet three inches high. As it is heavily restored, it is thought by many to have slightly lost its initial value. Particularly in the nose, this had to be revised with cement after being destroyed during the 19th Century. More Details

8. Abhayagiri Stupa

Abhayagiri Stupa - Anuradhapura

Abhayagiri Stupa in Anuradhapura, the second most abundant of the stupas in Sri Lanka, was constructed by King Vattagamini Valagamba (89-77 BC). This continues up to the area of approximately 200 hectares. According to Bhikkhu Fa-Hsien, who toured Sri Lanka in the fifth century, there had been three thousand resident monks in the Mahavihara and five thousand monks in the Abhayagiri.
The growth of Abhayagiri spread its peak in the reign of King Mahasen and was the core of Mahayana Buddhism. Buddhist structures found in the suburbs of Abhayagri show that this complex had been an essential educative institution both regionally and globally. More Details

9. Sandakada Pahana ( Moonstone)

Sandakada Pahana ( Moonstone) -Anuradhapura

Sandakada Pahana, also called Moonstone, is a semi-circular stone slab usually seen at the bottom of staircases of ancient religious places and any ancient royal palaces in Sri Lanka. It is a novel creation of ancient Sinhalese architecture. The Moonstone placed in the Mahasen’s Palace is the most elegant and best-preserved Moonstone found in Sri Lanka.

The symbols and their combination describes a tremendous religious meaning. Prof. Senarath Paranavithana introduced the widely trusted interpretation.

According to his statement,
The Moonstone means the cycle of Sansara.
The level symbolize worldly passions Thanha
The lotus represents the final achievement of Nirvana.
The elephant, bull, lion and horse represent birth, decay, disease and death.
The swans signify the distinction between good and evil.
More Details

10. Eth Pokuna ( Elephant pond)

Eth Pokuna ( Elephant pond) - Anuradhapura

Eth Pokuna, also called Elephant pond, is a massive artificial pond situated close to Lankaramaya Anuradhapura. This pond is 159 meters long, 52.7 meters crossed, and 9.5 meters in-depth, with 75,000 cubic meters of water holding volume.
The water to this pond has been provided from the Periyamkulama Tank through a system of underground waterways, and you still can see part of the water lines built out of rock slabs.
Those underground waterways still work after so many hundreds of years, and in 1982 after a hefty rainy season, you could see water pouring through these channels from the Periyamkulama tank.
This tank has been utilised by the Abayagiri monastery monks, who amounted to over five thousand priests. More Details

11. Lankarama stupa

Lankarama stupa -Anuradhapura Lankarama stupa was constructed by King Valagamba in an ancient place at Galhebakada in the early kingdom of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Nothing is known about the old form of the stupa, and later this was renovated. The ruins show rows of stone pillars, and it is no doubt that a house has been built encircling the stupa vatadage to embrace it. The round courtyard of the stupa seems to be three over the area. The diameter of the stupa is 14 m. The yard is round in form, and the diameter is 406 m. More Details

12. Abhayagiriya Museum

Abhayagiriya Museum - Anuradhapura

The Abhayagiriya Museum was established within the ancient monastery complex of Abhayagiriya in Anuradhapura. It was opened for a public exhibition on 13th June 1992. The museum, designed in the old Panchavasa monastery plan, was developed by the Central Cultural Fund under economic aid from China. The Abhayagiriya Museum is classified as ‘Mahatissa-Faxian Cultural Complex’ to commemorate Ven. Kupikkala Mahatissa, the first chief administrator of the Abhayagiri Maha Vihara, and Ven. Fa-Xian, the Chinese Buddhist monk who studied Buddhism at the Abhayagiri Maha Vihara from 411 to 412 AD. It centres against the Abhayagiriya archaeological complex.
The primary purpose of this museum is to manifest through artefacts recovered from Abhayagiriya that Sri Lanka was a prosperous country that flourished through international relations and a country where arts and technology harmonized remarkably. More Details

13. Thuparamaya Dagoba

Thuparamaya Dagoba Stupa - AnuadhapuraThis stupa is the oldest in Sri Lanka. Though not as crucial as other stupas in Anuradhapura, it is sacred because it retains a collarbone relic of the Buddha. The construction that we see today is a complete renovation that was done in 1862, although some of the original columns still stand throughout the main building.
King Devanampiyatissa first built Thuparama Dagoba in the 4th century to residence the collarbone relic. Other parts from the original dagoba hold pillar bases, stone carvings, temple ruins, and an excellent moonstone. More Details

14 . Kuttam pokuna ( twin pond )

Kuttam pokuna ( twin pond ) - AnuradhapuraKuttam Pokuna Twin Ponds is a set of dressed-stone ponds located near Abhayagiri Monastery. Bases in Anuradhapura District, Sri Lanka.
The story of the pools is considered to have been built during King Aggabodhi I (564-598 A.D.) to use the Buddhist monks of the Kapara Mula society. Although, some say that the more small pool has better features than the bigger pool. Accordingly, they believe that these two pools were not planned and built at the same time.

The pools The two pools are rectangular and built lower than the ground level. One of the pools is tinier than the other, and a narrow corridor separates both. Both pools have the same width but different lengths. The dimensions are making shorter towards the bottom of the collections. At the ground level, the size of the larger pool is 132 ft, while the smaller pool is 91 ft. The width of both reservoirs is 51 ft. More Details

15. Awkana Buddha statue

Awkana Buddha statueAwkana Buddha statue is the highest ancient Buddha sculpture of Sri Lanka 12 meters height Standing posture statue built-in 5th Cent. AD. As considered a masterpiece of Sri Lankan, early iconography is carved out of a natural rock stone. On the way to Awkana, you will pass the drive along with the bunt of Kala wewa. Awkana Buddha statue is found about 180 kilometres to the north of Colombo, or 30 km northwest of Dambulla, near the Kala wewa Tank. It can be reached from Dambulla, Anuradapura, through Kekirawa road.
According to the Mahawansha, The Awkana statue is to have been built in the 5th century through the reign of King Dhatusena (455AD-473AD) and under his rules. More Details

16. Kalawewa National Park

Kalawewa National Park

Kalawewa National Park was declared a National Park in 2015; it includes the impressive Kalãwewa and Balaluwewa water tanks built by King Dhatusena in the 5th century. This Park of over 6000 hectares is home to elephants but with a critical feature - the herd has a great group of tuskers, male elephants with tusks (ivory). Only about seven per cent of the male elephant population have them, making tuskers a noble sight to see.

When the water levels drop from the tank beds in the dry zone, a lush grassland reveals itself – which is much interrogated after by the elephants. Resident herds and migratory herds from nearby forests all congregate to have the grass. As the Park is only open during the dry season, the chances of such sightings are very encouraging. And this is in addition to recognising large flocks of open-billed storks.

The monsoons arrive around October – November, and the grasslands disappear to give way to loaded up reservoirs. While the resident elephant herds remain, the migratory elephants return. The Park’s beautiful kumbuk trees and vegetation addition the reservoirs, birdlife and rustic surroundings. More Details

17. Mihintale

Mihintale near Anuradhapura Mihintale is a hill peak near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It is assumed by Sri Lankans to be the site of a meeting between the Buddhist hermit Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa, which inaugurated the appearance of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is now a pilgrimage place and the site of several religious monuments and abandoned structures. According to the Mahavamsa, Thera Mahinda (son of India’s Emperor Asoka) came to Sri Lanka on the full moon day of Poson (June) and met King Devanampiyatissa preached the doctrine to the King and his people. The Buddhists of Sri Lanka revere the traditional spot where this meeting took place. More Details

18. Tissa Wewa Reservoir

Tissa Wewa Reservoir - Anuradhapura King Devanampiya Tissa built Tissa Wewa Reservoir in the 3rd century B.C. It was produced to supply water to the capital city of Anuradhapura, including the Royal Gardens located just over the wewa bund, and provide much-needed precipitation to the paddy fields in the area. Life by the old Tissa Wewa in Anuradhapura remains as it did in years gone by, and the lake still works as a vital help to the villagers in the region.
If the water level at Tissa Wewa is below, an early morning walk on the shores gives a brilliant insight into village life in the neighbourhood. Fishers are netting in their catch of Wew Maalu (small lake fish), cattle herders taking their cattle to feed on the grasses.

For birders like us, the scene is pleasant. Egrets, Grey Herons, Cormorants, Black-winged Stilts, Pelicans, Painted Stork and in season, migrants such as Kentish Plovers, Little-ringed Plovers, Barn Swallows, Sandpipers and others that frequent the lake are such a treat to observe. More Details

19. Ancient Stone Bridge ( Gal Palama)

Ancient Stone Bridge ( Gal Palama) - AnuradhapuraAncient Malwathu Oya bridge in Anuradhapura was built from stone blocks; this is not the entire column but preferably a tiny portion of it. Regionally this Ancient Stone Bridge is recognised as Gal Palama. It was initially built over the Yodha Ela, a canal and water outlet that brought water from the nearby tank to water the neighbouring rice paddies. But now, there is no more Yodha Ela under the bridge and alternately a smaller, more recent waterway.
There are two such ancient stone bridges, one over the waterway and the other over the Malwathu Oya, the central river that feeds the region. Both probably date back to the late Anuradhapura Era; dating is undesirable. More Details

20. Jethawanarama Image House (Palimage)

Jethawanarama Image House (Palimage) - AnuradhapuraImage House Also known as Palimage, the most prominent image house found in the Jethawanarama monastery complex in Anuradhapura, is located west of Jethawanarama stupa. It is a vaulted image house known as gedige. The eight-meter high solid door side-posts make way for the twenty-five chamber stone reliquary (yantragala) and the lotus pedestal of the Buddha image. This vaulted type of house is continued at Polonnaruwa: Thuparama, Lankatilaka and Tivanka image house. More Details

21.The Ancient Hospital (Vedahala)

The Ancient Hospital (Vedahala) Mihintale Anuradhapura Vedahala – the Ancient Hospital at the base of the mountain at Mihintale.
With the growth of the monks and the pious laymen, the inevitable need for a hospital arose. Thus, the primary Hospital at Mihintale was established by King Sena, the second (853-887 AC) at Mihintale. The description was based on a tenth-century inscription found at the site.
Presently, the ruins of a hospital with its layout restored can be seen at the entrance to the site of Mihintale. At the access to the Hospital is the outer Courtyard that consists of four rooms:
Consulting room
Room for preparation
Storage of medicine
Room for hot water baths
At the end of the outside Courtyard, to the north, is the principal building: the quadrangular Courtyard having a little shrine in the middle. The rooms are arranged on a two-high platform on all four sides of the Central Courtyard. The rooms face the shrine, which is within the Courtyard. The space of each room is approximately 100 square feet. The rooms open upon an inner Veranda delivering all cells open. More Details

22. Sasseruwa Buddha statue

Sasseruwa Buddha statue - Anuradhapura Sasseruwa Buddha statue is located 11km west of the Aukana Buddha statue on a stony mountain with a pathway of 300 steps, rests another standing Buddha sculpture. As at the Aukana statue, as shown by the holes for beams cut into the rock around it. Marauding Dravidian enemies from South India destroyed this covering structure & all other buildings.
There are incomplete works from the very head to toe of the statue: the decoration above the head, "Siraspata", wasn't craved into the rock; one of the ears is incomplete; the final shine to the robe of the Buddha was not done; the foundation is only an undecorated square block of rock.
Two legends join the Sasseruwa Buddha Statue with the Aukana Buddha. Primary, some say that the cracks on the statue's torso during the construction began the craftsman to abandon it & create a new sculpture at Aukana. More Details

23. Haththikuchchi Temple

Haththikuchchi Temple - AnuradhapuraHaththikuchchi Temple is found about 3.5 km west of Mahagalkadawala on the Anuradhapura-Kurunegala-Padeniya road, Rajanganaya and Giribawa Divisional in Anuradhapura District. This stone pagoda network was built during King Devanam Piyatissa, and it can be observed amidst beautiful ponds and flora and lush greenery and natural rocks. It is now accepted as King Sirisangabo, who governed in Anuradhapura, gave his head. Several archaeological studies of evidence associated with it have been found in this area. King Sirisangabo, who controlled Anuradhapura, left the kingdom and meditated at this place. The story has it that the king gave his head to the poor man who came beyond, and he took the lead to the king's brother Gotabhaya. According to Records, after the king came to this area and confirmed that a Stupa with a Vatadage and a Bodhi tree was established. There are many corresponding factors and sign on this site to prove it from the third century BC. Archaeological proof suggests that the site was a successful Buddhist site till the tenth century. The pond on a rock that is nevermore affected by the sun or the moon, the reserved pavva like a stone trap, the temple, the Bodhi Ghara are the most evident archaeological miracles in this place. The Department of Archeology of Sri Lanka crew should also be recommended for their constant attempts to protect and manage this site. More Details

24. Sila Chethiya dagoba (kujja thissa Dagoba)

Sila Chethiya dagoba (kujja thissa Dagoba) - Anuradhapura Sila stupa is an archaeological site located close to the Ruwanweli Seya but has not gained much recognition from tourists and pilgrims touring Anuradhapura. This Dagoba is situated in front of Ruwanweliseya, about 2 km from the railway station in Anuradhapura. It is considered that this Dagoba was constructed during King Saddhatissa, who ruled Anuradhapura during the period 119 – 137 BC. According to the Mahavansa and the Manorathapurani, the remains of Arahant Kujjatissa had levitated and moved to the place where the selachethiya is found and perform a great miracle. It is thought that this Dagaba has architectural features relating to the late Anuradhapura era. If you are visiting Anuradhapura, don't forget to check out this historically significant site. More Details

25. Kaludiya Pokuna ( black water Pond )

Kaludiya Pokuna ( black water Pond ) Mihintale Anuradhapura Kaludiya Pokuna is a pond located in Mihintale, Anuradhapura. It presents evidence of holding one of the most exceptional water-powered developments of the Sinhalese monarchy. The Pond is one of the three surviving millponds and waterways which breathe up-to-date in the area. The Pond, established at the foot of the western slopes of Mihintale, is enclosed by what is considered to be the remains of a stupa and monastery. The Pond receives its name because it appears dark most of the time due to trees and bushes nearby jungles. More Details 

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