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Tourist Places To Visit In Anuradhapura
One of the widely explored and distinguished cities from the ancient legacy of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura is renowned for its ruins and frequented by people who are inspired by Buddhist beliefs, making it a well-known Pilgrim Site in the country. Including several austere centres, inspired by the different Buddhist factions, Anuradhapura has 4 colossal stupas. The Citadel comprising the ruins of armored walls and a structure of trenches, the city’s outskirts were most utilized for agricultural purposes and an impressive water hydraulic system, which was highly advanced for continuous irrigation.
With most rulers based in Anuradhapura in the old days, it is titled a sacred world heritage spot for its fascinating structures like the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanwelisaya, Kuttam Pokuna and Jetavanaramaya, amidst many others. Tourism in Anuradhapura is at its optimum with great significance given to tourist comforts and hospitality. Here are some of the most popular tourist places to visit, when traveling to Anuradhapura.
Bodhi Tree Temple
The remnants of Anuradhapura make for a most notable attraction in South Asia and was established around a graft from the tree of enlightenment which was Lord Buddha’s Fig Tree. Being cared for nearly 23 centuries, the Bodhi Tree Temple is Anuradhapura's most blessed tourist attractions. While it is usual to witness olive trees that are as old as 2000 years in Greece or the Middle East, Anuradhapura’s Bodhi Tree, planted in 288 BC, is the oldest one in the world, that’s protected by a wall and revered by Buddhist Pilgrims in large numbers every year, adorned by strings of prayer flags meant to bless peace, good fortune and protection.
Labeled the Great Stupa, the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa’s a massive white dome that precedes the Jetavanarama Stupa by a 100 years, built by King Dutugemunu. Representing the Buddha’s head or heaven, the dome is supported by an arrangement of Elephants, as per a popular Buddhist belief that these mighty animals support the world. Almost 91.4 m tall, the luminous white shrine is the 2nd highest stupa in Anuradhapura with a circumference of 290 m and is a significant site for reverence.
There’s a squared part atop the Dome that signifies 4 honored truths, and 8 rings of the virtuous eight-fold path, both being the benchmarks of the Buddhist tradition.
On the north side of Anuradhapura, the Abhayagiri Vihara Monastery was built by King Vattagamini in 88 BC with a capacity to house over 5,000 monks at a particular time and was the largest for almost 600 years. The monastery spanning 500 acres holds Buddha Figurines, a magnificent moonstone, a stupa and the twin ponds or the Kuttam Pokuna with an impressive plumbing layout. The natives of Anuradhapura were ace engineers, which is quite evident in the way their elaborate irrigation systems are placed. The twin ponds or the bathing pools are characterized by the subversive conduits that were used to clean, fill and then empty the water tools.
The pools could be entered via the granite stairs or the monks could just sit by the edges and use vessels to bathe without going inside the pools. The pools aren’t really identical, with one constructed over a 6,732 sq ft area, and the other over a 4,641 sq ft area, each encompassed with guarded walls and gardens. While the visitors aren’t allowed to dip into the pools, you sure would enjoy the visual appeal of this site.
The Jetavanaramaya Stupa and Monastery were built by King Mahasen in the period of 273-301 AD, constructed at a height of 122 m, making it one of the tallest monuments, second to the Egyptian pyramids of Giza. Built of bricks that resulted from sand and clays, the Stupa is not only a spiritual representation, but also brings to light the ancient means of engineering used in its construction. It is believed that a fragment of Lord Buddha’s sash, considered an artefact, is preserved on the site.
The museum of Jetavanaramaya, situated right next to the Stupa, houses several archeological discoveries that were made during the reconstruction work and include a number of jewellery, ancient coins and religious items.
The moonstone or Sandakada Pahana, a unique architectural section of Sri Lanka which was developed during the last few years of the Anuradhapura Reign, is actually a semi-arched etched slab of stone, placed at the entrance of the Buddhist temple as per traditional norms. Dating far back to the 1st century, the moonstone illustrates a lotus flower leaf in the center, encompassed by a row of animals, each of which signifies a life stage.
While the elephants signify the birth stage, bulls represent old age, lions the stages of disease and horses signifying the end. The swans represent the joint forces of good and evil, thereby making the Moonstone a symbol of rising above the materialistic temptations and attaining Moksha, as symbolized by the Lotus. Carried through to the Polonnaruwa era, the moonstones evolved not only in terms of their designs but also their placement, at the entrance as well as at the base of other constructions at the Buddhist Temples.
A cloistral centre etched out of solid rock, the Isurumuniya Temple housed 500 Buddhist monks or children from the high caste of noble families, willing to dedicate themselves to Buddhist teachings and the pursuit of enlightenment, living differently from the Anuradhapura Society norms. Surrounded with bright murals that portray Lord Buddha’s life and the stories surrounding it from Anuradhapura’s ancient days, there are several shrines, stupa, pillars, figurines and Elephant carvings all over the temple complex.
There’s a museum also within the monastery premise that has etched fragments of stones that once adorned the Isurumuniya compound, including carved paintings of the royal family from the 6th & 7th centuries BC and stone benches. Visitors can enjoy a lovely view of the entire complex atop the high boulder, climbing up the stairs.
One of the oldest stupas in the country that carries Lord Buddha’s collarbone relic, the Thuparamaya Dagoba has witnessed constructions, destructions and restorations through centuries, and the remnants one sees now, is actually a restoration from 1862 with some original pillars still standing tall around the main structure. The Thuparamaya Dagoba was built by King Devanampiyatissa in the 4th century to place the collarbone artefact, and the structural ruins as such also include stone carvings, temple remnants, a gorgeous moonstone and pillar bases.
A Buddhist Pilgrim Site and a religious complex situated 13 km east of Anuradhapura, Mihintale is the place where King Devanampiyatissa was supposed to have converted himself to Buddhism at Mahinda’s behest, the son of an Indian emperor. Mahinda’s mountain or Mihintale ultimately became the framework for the Sinhalese culture and Buddhism. For epochs, Mihintale was just a compound of stupas, monasteries and cave homes for monks, the remnants of which can be seen even today.
King Sena II who ruled during 853-887 AD, built a hospital to care for thousands of Monks residing in Mihintale at the mountain base, which had a courtyard and 4 rooms used primarily for consultations, treatment, storage and bathing. Another significant aspect of this ancient structure is the great stairway which survives with an impressive 1840 steps that scale the mountainside, reaching the first level of the Mihintale complex, where you can see the chief shrine and the dining hall that can be accessed by another set of stairs with 2 large carved slabs of stone.
Located 3.4 km from Sangamitta Mawatha you will see the Gala Palama or the stone bridge, crossing the Mawathu Oya, which stands amidst ruins of stone slabs, laid across the line of 3 stone pillars, that date back to the 5th-9th centuries. There are other stone bridges in Anuradhapura as well, which include the one over Halpan Ela and the one close to Mahakanadarawa Reservoir, Mihintale.