A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Anuradhapura is the perfect place to learn more about Sri Lanka’s heritage by unearthing the years of history buried in this ruined ancient city.
Established around the 4th century BCE, Anuradhapura was Sri Lanka’s first capital and is one of the oldest cities in the world. It functioned as the island’s centre of temporal and spiritual power and was one of the world’s grandest monastic cities, with its fame spreading as far as Rome, Greece, India and China. The city rose to prominence when Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns, brought and planted a sapling of the historical Bodhi tree from India, under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Today, the tree is known as the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi and is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date.
Anuradhapura is home to some of the tallest dagobas in the country, as well as remains of palaces, temples, monasteries, ceremonial baths and the temple of the holy Bo-tree. The Brazen Palace, or Lovamahapaya, is a nine storey building that was constructed in 150 BCE by King Dutugemunu. With its roof covered in bronze tiles, it was built to accommodate over 3000 monks who studied at Mahavihara Buddhist University. The oldest dagoba in Sri Lanka, the Thuparamaya, is also situated in Anuradhapura and was built by King Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BCE. It is associated with the Maha Vihara Temple, and is believed to hold the collarbone of the Buddha. Another dagoba in Anuradhapura, the Jetavanaramaya, took 27 years to build, and is the largest structure made entirely out of brick in the world. Constructed during the 2nd century BCE by King Dutugemunu to house relics, the Ruwanweliseya Dagoba is the most revered dagoba in Anuradhapura and has a circumference of 950 feet and rises to a height of 300 feet. It was recorded that priests from all over India were present for the enshrinement of the relics in 140 BCE.
Anuradhapura was also equipped with a well-designed sanitary system, gardens, a proper irrigation system and water supply systems, making it one of the most advanced cities of its age.