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The Ancient Cities

Anuradhapura

    Located in the north-west of the island, Anuradhapura was the capital of SriLanka for 1400 Years. It is

slightly more than 200KM from Colombo and a drive of around 6 hours Anuradhapura gained much greater prominence with the advent of Buddhism on the island, after which many significant buildins and monasteries were constructed.

 The three greatest Monastaries of SriLanka, the Mahavihara, the Abhayagiri of Sri Lanka, the Mahavihara and the Jethawana, were all located in Anuradhapura visitors will see mainly the ruins of these Monastaries and other structures associated with them all the other buildings have long since disappeared.

Due to its vulnerability to attacks from south Indian raiders, Anuradhapura gradually lost its importance by the 9th century, and the political seat of the island shifted south-east to Polonnaruwa it was abandoned by the 11th century and swallowed by the jungle, lost for almost a thousand years. The city and its important ruins were rediscovered only in the early 19th century with the help of the Britjsh.

 

Ruwanvalisaya

Simply known also as the great Stupa, the Ruwanvalisaya was constructed by Dutthagamini after he becomes king in 161 BCE. This was his most ambitious project and it is said that bubble of milk. Sadly the king did not live to see the completion of the Stupa.

When it was finally completed. it was one of the wonders of the ancient world, with a diameter of 90 meters. The compound of the sthupa is surrounded by four walls with elephant figures made into them. It is believed that relics of the Buddha are enshrined with in the stupa.

The Ruwanvalisaya was also designed with the teachings of the Buddha in mind. Its dome signifies the vastness of the doctrine, the four facets above it represent the four noble truths, the concentric rings indicate the noble eightfold path, and the large crystal at the pinnacle represents the ultimate Buddhist goal of enlightment. 

Sri Maha Bodhi

When a number of women wanted to become nuns shortly after the conversion of king Devanampiya tissa and royal family, sangamiththa, the sister of ven mahinda came to the island to start the order of bhikkunis. She brought with her a branch of the sacred bodhi tree from India umder which the Buddha meditated and attained enlightment.

This branch was planted in 288 BCE in Sri Maha Bodhi, or the Mahabodhi temple, and the tree is believed to be the oldest living planted tree in the world. It’s one of the most sacred and venerated relics in SriLanka

 

The Brazen palace

The brazen palace or lohapasada, was first built by king Devanampiya Tissa in the 3rd century BCE. It was later redesigned as a chapter house, or sima hall, by king Dutthagamini for the Mahavihara one side of the building was 120 meters long and it had a thousand rooms in its nine stories.

It is called the brazen palace because its roof was once covered with sheets of glit bronze made primarily of wood it burned down several times and was rebuilt for the last time by king Parakramabahu I in the 12th century. A total of 1,600 stone pillars supported the structure. Most of which can still be seen today.

 

The Thuparama

This was the first such stupa constructed following the introduction of Buddhism in Srilanka. Build by King Devanampiya Tissa, it believed to enshirine the collar-bone of the Buddha. The stupa was destroyed shape of a bell. The octagonal pillars around the Thuparama once supported a dome over it.

 

Mahasena’s pavilion

This location is known for its beautiful moonstone, the finest and most well-preserved in srilanka –moonstones are usually found at the entrances or at the bottom of stairways to temple and other importand Buddhist buildings. They are characteristic of ancient Sinhalese artwork. Stepping over a moonstone in to a temple signifies one’s passage from the mundane towards the path of enlightment.

In this excellent example , the outermost ring of flower petals signifies the fires of worldly existence,and the elephant, lion, horse and bull represent brith desease , decay and death In the adjacent ring,the scroll of leaves and flowers mean desire and craving, and further inwards, the geese represent those who have left their worldly attachments. The heavenly worlds and finally, the innermost are of lotuses signify the accomplishment of nibbana.

 

The Twin Ponds

These were large bathing tanks that catered to the needs of the monks and staff of the Abhyagiri and were built around the 8th century. Water was filtered several times before flowing in to ponds through a dragon headed spout. Other noteworthy features are the beautiful carryings around the ponds and the snake-shaped guard stone.

 

The Abhayagiri

The Abhayagiri monastery was built by King Vattagamini Abhaya in 88 BCE after regaining his nthrone. Ite constructed it over a jain monastery, fulfilling a vow made after being mocked by a jain ascetic while fleeing for his life from south Indian invaders It was the largest monastery in srilanka for over 600 years and at its peak, housed as many as 5,000 monks the The abhayagiri stupa was built by king Gajabhahu in the 2nd Century CE, and stands 72 meters high with a diameter of 94 meters the Chinese pilgrim fa-hien described the stupa as being converted with gold and jewels when he visited it in 412 CE after falling into neglect and covered by the jungle, it was rediscovered by the British in 1828.

 

The Samadhi Buddha statue

Made in the 4th century and above 1.75 meters high, the Samadhi Buddha statue is one of the best examples of SriLanken sculpture the statue shows the Buddha sitting cross-legged in a meditating or “Samadhi” posture Nehru, the first prime minister of this statue during his imprisonment by the British

 

The Jetawana Stupa

This colossal stupa was built by king Mahasena towards the end of the 4th century and is considered the largest stupa in the world, it was originally about 160 meters tall and an estimated 93 million bricks were needed in its construction. It is believed that a part of the Buddha’s belt is enshrined within this stupa is an excellent example of ancient SriLanken engineering and construction.

 

The Isurumuniya Temple

This temple was built by king Devanampiya Tissa for 500 children of noble birth to reside in, after they were ordained housed within the nearby museum is the famous 6th century carving called the “Isurumuniya Lovers”