Explore Anuradhapura, The Ancient Capital Of Sri Lanka

A World Heritage Site, Anuradhapura is one of the longest continuously occupied cities in the world
The Village of Anuradha
The Village of AnuradhaShutterstock

Travellers often find themselves in the current capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo, for its exotic harbours and tropical ecosphere. Understandably, Colombo remains a must-visit site; however, only a few care to explore the ancient capital of Sri Lanka, the Village of Anuradha. At 205 km north of Colombo, Anuradhapura is swamped with history. Besides boasting a landscape full of glorious heritage sites, it rubs shoulders with Mihintale. This site bears witness to the meeting between Buddhist monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa, which ensued in Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

The Village of Anuradha

Anuradhapura was established around the 4th century BCE by King Pandukabhaya, the first King of Sri Lanka. Following its establishment as a city, in the 3rd century BCE, Emperor Ashoka of India sent the emissaries of his son Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitta to spread Buddhism in Sri Lanka. As Buddhism spread, the place saw the emergence of stupas, monasteries, and other religious structures. Over the years, the city saw various invasions, attacks, and pillages, leading to its abandonment in the 11th century. Rediscovered only during the British colonial era, the city was excavated and later declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

Places to Visit

Jethawanaramaya Stupa
Jethawanaramaya StupaShutterstock

Jethawanaramaya Stupa

The surviving Jethawanaramaya Stupa is the third tallest structure in the ancient world. Built by King Mahasen in 307 AD, it served to enshrine the sacred relics of the Buddha. The Stupa is only lightly restored and remains a crucial site of both archaeological and cultural importance. Travellers can roam about its premises and marvel at the divinity it emits. It is known to have left lasting impressions on its visitors.

Timings: 8 am to 5 pm

Jaya Sri Mahabodhi Temple
Jaya Sri Mahabodhi TempleShutterstock

Jaya Sri Mahabodhi Temple

Only a few kilometres from the Stupa stands the Jaya Sri Mahabodhi Temple. It is a pilgrimage site with the oldest historical tree in the world. It was in the vicinity of the tree associated with the Buddha that the Stupa was built. Visitors can rest under the shade of the grand old tree as they observe the place's various statues and the flora and fauna.

Timings: 6 am to 12 pm and 2 pm to 9 pm

Isurumuniya Temple
Isurumuniya TempleShutterstock

Isurumuniya Temple

The Isurumuniya Temple is a sacred site of Buddhist pilgrimage. The place is globally famous for its sculptures. Travellers will have to go through a slight hike as the temple is situated on a rock. It was built by King Devanampiya Tissa, who once ruled Anuradhapura. The place boasts a serene pond known as the Elephant Pond and exhibits elegant carvings of animals and flowers, among other things.

Timings: 9 am to 5 pm

Ranmasu Uyana
Ranmasu UyanaShutterstock

Ranmasu Uyana

Located close to the Isurumuniya Temple is the Ranmasu Uyana which hides within it the Magul Uyana (Royal Gardens) – a place for the kings to relax. King Tissa built the gardens in the 3rd century BC. It is spread over about 40 acres and is built in the elegant Sri Lankan style of the pre-Christian era. The place was viral in popular culture some time ago as some believed that a carving in the park known as the Sakwala Chakraya is an interface between humans and outer space. Travellers can bask in the tropical serenity of the place as they explore the simplistic beauty of the ancient garden.

Timings: 9 am to 5 pm 

The Peak at Mihintale
The Peak at MihintaleShutterstock

Mihintale

About 13 km east of the village of Anuradha is the mountain Mihintale. It is a steep 1800 steps climb to the top of the rock mountain, but the view there is rewarding. The place houses rich ancient inscriptions, frescoes, refectory, stupas and stone pillars. The site bears witness to the emergence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and holds ample historical importance.

Timings: 8 am to 5 pm

How to Reach

Air: The nearest airport is Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo, accessible to cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Kolkata. From Colombo, you can take a flight to Sigiriya, Dambulla, about 79 km from the place.

Rail: You can take any train on the Colombo-Anuradhapura route, which leaves Colombo at 5:45 am and reaches Anuradhapura at 9:15 am.  

Road: Anuradhapura is also accessible from all nearby cities by road. 

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