The first ever capital of Ceylon, Anuradhapura is a City of Kings. Reigned by over 100 kings it was more sophisticated in its time than any other civilisation. Its architectural marvels and engineering excellence have survived for over 2500 years and need more than a day to absorb and appreciate. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Anuradhapura is the most celebrated of Sri Lanka’s ancient ruined cities.
An approximate 4.5 hours drive from the airport, Anuradhapura could be reached via three routes – Puttlam, Kurunegala or Kandy. Anuradhapura is a popular pilgrimage destination for many owing to its rich historical ties to Buddhism.The city’s most renowned relic is the Sacred Bo Tree, which was grown from a sapling of the Bo Tree under which the Buddha gained Enlightenment. The Sacred Bo Tree in Anuradhapura was planted 2250 years ago and is the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world.The city has earned a place as a world famous destination due to its many treasures, the Dagobas (Stupas), which are hemispherical shaped gigantic brick structures only second in size to the great pyramids in Egypt and are the tallest brick structures in the world.
The first Dagoba in Anuradhapura is the Thuparama Dagoba, which is enshrined with the collarbone of the Buddha. Jethawanaramaya, Ruwanveliseya and Abhayagiriya are the three largest Stupas in the city with the associated monasteries resided by more than 10 000 monks at one time.
Thousands of building ruins, bathing and drinking ponds, exquisitely crafted stone sculptures are found as evidence of this city’s historic glory. 1600 stone columns of the seven storey Brazen Palace (Lovamahapaya) still remain erect for a proud expression.What was excavated in the last 100 years by archaeologists, especially by the UNESCO – Sri Lanka project of the Cultural Triangle are exhibited for visitors in the following museums.
Abhayagiriya Fa-Hsien Museum – which contains a very good collection of artifacts found at the sites excavated in the 500 acre Monastery Complex, which was occupied by 6000 monks in Abhayagiriya.Jetavanaramaya Museum – has a great collection of items found at the 200-acre site including the largest and tallest Dagoba in Sri Lanka, at the Jethavanarama Monastry Complex, which was occupied by 5000 monks. The Archaeological Museum – contains a large number of statues, other sculptures and many more interesting objects of art, collected from the Anuradhapura District. The Folk Museum – located near the Archaeological Museum, houses a collection of objects from the North Central Province, reflecting the rural life of the people.