The sacred city of Anuradhapura was established around asaplingfromthe‘treeof enlightenment’, the Buddha’s Bo tree, brought to the country in the 3rd century BCE from India. Anuradhapura, was a political and religious capital that flourished for almost 1,400 years. It was the royal capital for 119 successive Sinhala Kings. It was abandoned after an invasion in 993.
Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, the splendid site, with its palaces, monasteries and monuments, is now accessible once again. Many historic monuments and buildings still remain in the acres of this sacred land. Anuradhapura continued to be the seat of power from the 4th Century BCE to 11th Century CE. During this period, there were intermittent invasions by armies from India, but it remained the stronghold of the King of Lanka until Polonnaruwa was declared the capital city in 1070.
Located on the banks of a river, Anuradhapura is now a picturesque ruined city, filled with mystery and steeped in a rich Buddhist culture. Tour groups and pilgrims alike visit this city, and this diverse and versatile city caters to a locals and visitors alike. Theancientcitylies adjacenttothemodern, and ruined buildings, ancient temples, cobbled streets, and even crumbling fort walls are spread out and interspersed with all signs of modern life in this bustling and thriving city. Sri Lanka’s historical chronicle, the Mahavamsa, records that Anuradhapura first became the capital of ancient Lanka in 4th Century BC, during the reign of King Pandukhabaya. The King is attributed with designing the city, developing a core town and even surrounding suburbs based on a highly complex plan.
Anuradhapura came into prominence after Buddhism was introduced to the island in the 3rd Century BCE during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa.Hebuiltthecountry’sfirststupatheThuparama, which is said to house a relic of the Buddha, his right collarbone. This same king commissioned the planting of the sacred Bo sapling brought to the country by Princess Sangamitta, daughter of Emperor Asoka of India. This is today the venerated Sri Maha Bodhi, which is considered the oldest living tree in the world.
The city was the target of invading armies from India, falling under the rule of King Elara at one point, but was famously recaptured and established as the pinnacle of the country’s development and culture by King Dutugemunu in the 2nd Century BCE. During his reign in Anuradhapura, he embarked on a colossal construction project which created many of the magnificent monuments which have survived up to today, chief amongst them the Ruwanweliseya stupa (built to house the begging bowl of Lord Buddha), the Mirisavetiya temple and the Lohapasada or Brazen Temple.