Anuradhapura Travel Tips අනුරාධපුරය

Elephant wall at Ruwanweliseya Dagoba, AnuradhapuraElephant wall at Ruwanweliseya Dagoba, Anuradhapura (28 August 2005)

The Sacred City of Anuradhapura (Sinhala: අනුරාධපුරය; Tamil: அனுராதபுரம்) is the first historical capital of Sri Lanka. Today recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site, Anuradhapura was established in the 5th century BC. It is located 203 km northeast of Colombo, in the arid northern plains. Anuradhapura was considered the greatest monastic city of the ancient world. At its peak, it had dozens of monasteries housing thousands of monks. I had the privilege of this ancient city with members of AsiaExplorers on an AsiaExplorers Scenic Tour.

Approaching the Ruwanweliseya DagobaApproaching the Ruwanweliseya Dagoba (28 August 2005)

Map of Tourist Attractions in Anuradhapura

World Heritage Site Inscription Details

Location: N8 20 E80 23
Inscription Year: 1982
Type of Site: Cultural
Inscription Criteria: II, III, VI

Anuradhapura was a royal capital from which a succession of 113 kings reigned here. It was made the capital by King Pandukabhaya who reigned from about 437 BC to 367 BC. Their patronage saw the blossoming of the arts, producing magnificent palaces, sculptures, ornate pleasure gardens, and huge dagobas, the Sri Lankan bubble-shaped stupas that protected the most sacred relics of Buddhism.

Devotees wrapping the Ruwanweliseya DagobaDevotees wrapping the Ruwanweliseya Dagoba (28 August 2005)

The people of ancient Anuradhapura enjoyed freedom of worship. The kings of ancient Lanka in Anuradhapura built hospitals for people as well as veterinary hospitals for animals. But the most impressive civil engineering feat in Anuradhapura was for irrigation. These are the man-made reservoirs built to preserve the waters of the monsoon rain. They put in place a sluice system to ensure the rice fields receive enough water and are productive.

Ancient Anuradhapura traded with faraway civilisations. The discovery of Roman coins showed that Lanka was active in trading - and was probably an early tourist destination as well, visited by among others, Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to India, and in the early 5th century, Fa Hien, the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim.

Pilgrims encircling the massive Ruwanweliseya DagobaPilgrims encircling the massive Ruwanweliseya Dagoba (28 August 2005)

Anuradhapura derived its name from Anuradha, the name of one of the chief minister during King Vijaya's time, who founded the city around 500BC during the reign of King Pandukabhaya. By 161BC, the whole island was the control of King Dutugemunu with Anuradhapura as the capital. Anuradhapura was only abandoned in 1073 when Polonnaruwa became the new capital.

Major Tourist Attractions in Anuradhapura

Abhayagiri Giant Pond


Abhayagiri Vihara


Dakkhina Stupa


Jetavana Dagoba


Kuttam Pokuna


Lankarama Dagoba


Ruwanweliseya Dagoba


Sri Maha Bodhi


Thuparama Dagoba


Additional Sights in Anuradhapura

  1. Abhayagiri Museum
  2. Anuradhapura Museum
  3. Basawakkulama
  4. Dalada Maligama
  5. Isurumuniya
  6. King Mahasen's Palace
  7. Loha Pasada
  8. Mahapali Refectory
  9. Mirisaweti
  10. Nakha Vihara
  11. Northern Bath
  12. Nuwara Wewa
  13. Ratnaprasada
  14. Royal Pleasure Gardens
  15. Samadhi Buddha
  16. Tissa Wewa
  17. Vessagiriya Ruins and Caves
  18. Vijayabahu I's Palace
  19. Western Monasteries

Visiting Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is about four to five hours by road from Colombo. You can in fact take a bus or a train from Colombo. Within Anuradhapura, you can hire an auto-rickshaw to take you around and visit the ancient ruins.

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