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When it comes to major city’s in Sri Lanka, one can not overlook the capital city of the North Central Province, Anuradhapura. It was a seat of power in Sri Lanka from 380BC and 1100BC. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the center of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. “Tambapanni”, “Upatissa Nuwara” and “Anuradhapura” were known as the three capitals of the “ Kingdom of Rajarata”. Being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and also being one of the eight world heritage sites of Sri Lanka; Anuradhapura is famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sri Lankan Civilization. This city lies in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka and stands 205 Km (127 mi) from the current capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo.
The city origins are set to be brought around in the time of Prince Vijaya, an Indian prince, who was exiled from his homeland. After his banishment, he arrived at Ceylon and conquered the island and established himself as King. During his regime many colonies and Villages were built, one such city was established by one his ministers, Anuradha. Anuradha built his city near the banks of Kolon and named it Anuradhagama.
The First ruler and Founder of the Anuradhapura Kingdom were King Pandukabhaya.During his reign, he constructed Houses for the poor, hermitages, Cemeteries and irrigation tanks. He also managed to bring a large portion of Sri Lanka under the control of the Anuradhapura Kingdom. But, it was during the reign of King Dutthagamani, that the whole country came under the rule of the Anuradhapura Kingdom. The great chronicle of Sri Lanka, “the Mahanvamsa” dedicated 11 out of its 37 chapters solely to describe his reign. He was said to be a dedicated Buddist and a warrior king. We can say his praise is rightfully deserved because he defeated 32 minor rulers of the country before he killed ‘Elara’ the south Indian king who was occupying Anuradhapura at the time. After finally unifying the country under him, he built many monasteries and shrines, including “ Ruwanwelisaya” and “Lovamahapaya”; establishing Buddishm firmly and securely throughout the country. “Saddha Tissa”, “Mahaculi Mahatissa”, “Gajabahu”, “Dhatusena” and “ Vasabha” were some of the kings who ruled over Sri Lanka from Anuradhapura. Another notable King from the Era of the Anuradhapura kingdom is King Valagamba, he was overthrown by 5 invaders from south Indian and then regained his throne by overthrowing and killing these invaders one by one to rule over Sri Lanka once again.
The outskirts of Anuradhapura was mainly used for agriculture. The Construction of large irrigation tanks and Canals were also given priority during this period. More than 45 tanks and 13 canals were built in “ Rajarata”, all of these contributed and supported the agriculture of the country. The rule of the Anuradhapura kingdom gradually started to fail when the last kings who ruled from Anuradhapura could not maintain their rule over the whole kingdom, eventually, rebellions sprang up and the authority of kings faded. It is said that during the reign of the last king of the Anuradhapura Kingdom, King Mahinda, the rule of the king was so weak that he could not even properly organize the collection of taxes.
The sacred city if Anuradhapura is rich in historical monuments and temples. It is mostly made up of “monastic complexes” dedicated to Buddhism. Anuradhapura is also home to four monumental Stupas: Jetavana, Ruyanvelisaya, Mirisavati, and Abhayagiri.
The best way to see Anuradhapura is on bikes which can be rented out at many guesthouses located throughout the city. The Perfectly flat and largely free of traffic area is made for bikes. Anuradhapura is an excellent city to explore with so many excursions to complete that it will need days to fully explore the place.Its rich religious background and unique dry environment beckon to travelers from all over the world.
THINGS TO DO:
Visit Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba
Visit the Sri Maha Bodhi Temple
Visit Ranmasu Uyana
Visit Sabdakada Pahana or Moonstone
Visit Vijayabahu Maligaya or the Royal Place
Visit the “ Short Handed statue”
Visit the Jethawanaramaya Stupa
Visit the Isurumuniya Temple
Visit the Kuttam Pokuna or the twin baths
Visit the Abhayagiri Dagoba
Visit Samadhi statue
Take a Safari of Wilpattu National Park
Visit Ranmasu Uyana
Visit Mirisaveti Stupa
Visit Lankarama Stupa