Anuradhapura: The Ancient Center Of Sri Lankan Civilization

Anuradhapura, is one of the major historic place in Sri Lanka, appreciated for its well preserved ruins of ancient Sri Lankan civilization. The city got listed under the UNESCO world heritage site in the year 1982. The ancient city, sacred to the Buddhist world, is surrounded by monasteries spread over an area of 40sq km. the city is strategically located between major ports of northwest and northeast.

Where it is located

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.

From the pages of past

As per the historical records the city was founded in the 5th century and during the time period 700 to 600 BC the settlement in Anuradhapura grew over a region of 50 ha. It was surrounded by irrigable and fertile land; the city was miraculously buried deep in the jungle, and thus getting natural defense from the invaders.

During the lower early historic period, spanning from 500 to 250 BC, the King Pandukabhaya formally planned the city, with gates, quarter for traders etc.

The King Pandukabhaya made it his capital, and laid out the towns and suburbs according to the plan. He constructed a reservoir and named it Abhayavapi. After his death, his son took over; Devanampriya Tissa introduced Buddhism to the island.

With the arrival of Buddhism, the city gained prominence and the era of great constructions began.

Anuradhapura got permanently abandoned after the invasion in 993 AD. For centuries the city remained away from public’s eye until it got rediscovered by British in the 19th century, Anuradhapura once again gained the reputation of a Buddhist pilgrimage site.

The revival of the city started in the 1870s.

What you must see

Eight Great Places of Veneration

Sri Maha bodhiya

Believed to be the oldest living tree in the world. Around 245 BC, a branch of Bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained enlightment was brought by Sanghamitta Theri and the tree was planted 21 feet above the ground on a high terrace, surrounded by railings. The sacred tree is respected by Buddhists all over the world.


This is a stupa, built by King Dutugemunu of Sri Lanka after chasing down the Tamil king Elara. The compound is supported by stone elephants, 1,900 figures of elephants decorates the surrounding wall.


Thera Mahinda introduced Theravada Buddhism and chetiya worship to Ceylon and at his request the King built Thuparamaya in which was enshrined the collarbone of Buddha. It is consdired to be the first dagaba ever built in Sri Lanka. The dagaba was destroyed from time to time and what we can see today is construction of dagaba, done in 1862 AD.


It is situated amid Ruvanveliseya and Sri Mahabodiya. It is also popular as the Brazen Palace or Lohaprasadaya. During ancient years the building also had refectory and uposathagara. The famous building an edifice of nine storeys, was building of a class and it is said that it took 9 years to build this building. The building was completely destroyed in the ruling years of King Saddhatissa.

Abhayagiri Dagaba

King Valagamba demolished Nigantaramaya and built the Abhayagiri Vihara in the same premises. Most learned bhikkhus lives in Abhayagiri Vihara. In the year 1875, Abhayagiri Vihara which had a diameter of 307 feet at its base, stood to an elevation of 231 feet. The relics of Buddha are said to be enshrined in figure of a Bull which is made of thick gold.


King Mahasen(273-201AD) built this stupa and possibly this is largest stupa in the world. Its height is around 400 feet and is located in a compound of 8 acres. One side of stupa is even said to be of 576 feet and the 4 flight of steps at the four sides is 28 feet in depth. You can find some stone inscriptions in the courtyard with the names of donors inscribed.

Mirisaveti Stupa

King Dutugamunu built this in about 50 acres of land. From time to time and it got dilapidated, although the King Kasyapa I and King Kasyapa V tried to renovate it. What you can see today is the renovation done by cultural triangle found.


It was built by King Valagamba, in an old place at Galhabakada. The ruins shows that there has been a house built to encircle the stupa, the courtyard is rounded in shape, and with the diameter of 1332.

Popular structure in Anuradhapura:

  • Isurumuniya
  • Magul Uyana
  • Vessagiri
  • Rathna Prasadaya
  • Queen’s Palace
  • Dakkhina Stupa
  • Sela Cetiya
  • Naka Vihara
  • Kiribath Vehera
  • Kuttam Pokuna
  • Samadhi Statue
  • Toluwila Statue

The city of Anuradhapura is not only a major Buddhist site but also a rich historical heritage. You should come here not only to cater to your Buddhist instincts but also to nourish yourself with the rich ancient Sri Lankan culture.

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