Anuradapura

Anuradhapura is a major city in Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of North Central Province, Sri Lanka and the capital of Anuradhapura District. Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of ancient Sri Lankan civilization. It was the third capital of the Kingdom of Rajarata, following the kingdoms of Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara.

The city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the center of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. The city lies 205 km north of the current capital Colombo in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province, on the banks of the historic Malvathu Oya. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka.

Buddhism and Anuradhapura

With the introduction of Buddhism, the city gained more prominence and the great building era began. The Mahavansa states that King Kutakannatissa built the first city wall to a height of seven cubits with a moat in front of the wall. This fortification was further enlarged by raising the wall a further 11 cubits to 18 cubits by King Vasabha. The king also added fortified gatehouses at the entrances of which the ruins can be seen to date. The Mahavamsa also states that soothsayers and architects were consulted in the construction.

During the late Anuradhapura period, the royal family and nobility of Sri Lanka strongly supported Buddhism. As such, they frequently commissioned works of art and donated these items to Buddhist temples. In return, the temple and local Buddhist community supported the king’s rule. Art works featuring depictions of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Mercy and Compassion, became increasing popular.

Great Building Era

The Ruwanwelidaham Saya Stupa in Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is famous for its well-preserved ruins of ancient Sri Lankan civilization

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Anuradhapura.

Abhayagiri Dagaba.

A Moonstone from Anuradhapura

A vamana sculpture from Anuradhapura

The city grows

The city’s popularity grew both as a ritual centre and as the administrative centre, a large population was attracted to the city for permanent settlement. Thus the living facilities were improved to accommodate the expanding population. King Vasabha constructed many ponds which were fed by a network of subterranean channels which were constructed to supply water to the city. Tissa and Abhayavapi tanks were built, the Nuwara weva was built and the Malwatu Oya was dammed to build the Nachchaduwa wewa which was 4,408 acres (17.84 km2) in size.

Parks were also provided in the city. The Ranmasu Uyana below the bund of Tissavapi or Tissa weva was one such, but it was strictly reserved for the members of the royal family. Health care and education were two other aspects to which the authorities paid attention. There were several hospitals in the city. In the 4th century King Upatissa II provided quarters and homes for the crippled and the blind. King Buddhadasa (337-365 AD), himself a physician of great repute, appointed a physician to be in charge of every ten villages. For the maintenance of these physicians, one tenth of the income from the fields was set apart. He also set up refuges for the sick in every village. Physicians were also appointed to look after the animals. Kassapa V (914-923 AD) founded a hospital close to the southern gate of Anuradhapura. General Sena in the 10th century is believed to have built a hospital close to the ceremonial street (Managala Veediya). The history of medical care began early, for in the 4th century BC King Pandukhabaya, in the course of sanitizing the town constructed a hospital. A large workforce was entrusted with the task of keeping the city clean.

Large lakes were also constructed by the city’s rulers to irrigate paddy lands and also to supply water to the city. Nuwara wewa and Tissa wewa are among the best known lakes in the city.

The Great City

Anuradhapura attained its highest magnificence about the commencement of the common era. The city had some of the most complex irrigation systems of the ancient world, situated in the dry zone of the country the administration built many tanks to irrigate the land. Most of these tanks still survive.

Pictures found in the oldest great city at Anuradhapura excavations

According to carbon dating, the ruins excavated were from the 10th century BC.

In ruins

The ruins consist of three classes of buildings, dagobas, monastic buildings, and pokunas. The dagobas are bell-shaped masses of masonry, varying from a few feet to over 1100 ft (340 m) in circumference. Some of them contain enough masonry to build a town for twenty-five thousand inhabitants. Remains of the monastic buildings are to be found in every direction in the shape of raised stone platforms, foundations and stone pillars. The most famous is the Brazen Palace erected by King Dutugamunu about 164 BC. The pokunas are bathing-tanks or tanks for the supply of drinking water, which are scattered everywhere through the jungle. The city also contains a sacred Bo-Tree, which is said to date back to the year 245 BC.

Eight Great Places of Veneration in Anuradhapura – Atamasthana

Main article: Atamasthana

  • Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

  • Ruwanwelisaya

  • Thuparamaya

  • Lovamahapaya

  • Abhayagiri Dagaba

  • Jetavanarama

  • Mirisaveti Stupa

  • Lankarama

  • Other structures

  • Abhayagiriya Monastery with Samadhi Statue, Kuttam Pokuna (twin pond) and moonstone.

  • Isurumuniya

  • Magul Uyana

  • Vessagiri

  • Rathna Prasadaya

  • Queen’s Palace

  • Dakkhina Stupa

  • Sela Cetiya

  • Naka Vihara

  • Kiribath Vehera

  • Kuttam Pokuna

  • Samadhi Statue

  • Toluwila Statue

  • Ranmasu Uyana