Anuradhapura, an ancient Sri Lankan city that flourished under the reign of various kingdoms has a glorious history that dates back to 4th century BC. Well-preserved remnants such as monasteries, stupas, palaces, and monuments dot this sprawling UNESCO World Heritage Site. These archaeological wonders of Anuradhapura draw millions of tourists every year to Sri Lanka.
Although when in Anuradhapura you should visit almost all the attractions, here are 5 places that you must not miss.
Maha Bodhi Tree
Legend has it, Maha Bodhi Tree or Sri Maha Bodhiya was brought to Anuradhapura from India. First planted in 249 BC, the tree is a part of the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India under which Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment. The spiritual centre of Anuradhapura, this tree attracts thousands of visitors who come here to make offerings during full moon days and weekends.
The massive dabgoba or stupa was a part of Abhyagiri Monastery and was built around 1st century BC. Originally, the structure stood over 100 meters high, a few meters short of the pyramid of Giza, and was one of the highest structures in the ancient world. The exceptional bas-reliefs around the dagoba are worth a sight and include Buddha footprint, elephants, moonstones, and more.
One of the iconic landmarks of Anuradhapura, this huge white dagoba enshrines Lord Buddha’s ashes. Dating back to 140 BC, it was originally the biggest stupa in the world when built, but now it only stands 55 meters high. Ruvanelisya Dagoba is guarded by walls that have 344 elephants sculpted on them. Ruins of ponds, columns, and pillars surround this ancient dagoba.
Kuttam Pokuna or Twin Ponds are nothing less than an impressive example of ancient engineering. The two adjacent ponds are connected by underground ducts, and had systems in place to filter water and empty the pools. Although known as twins, one of the pools is larger than the other. Water used to enter the larger pool first and flowed to the smaller one via underground duct.
Built around 300 BC, this monastery complex was carved out of a single huge rock. The complex houses a reclining Buddha statue which is surrounded by colourful paintings. Lovely carvings of elephants and various other figures find place on the rock and among the boulders that lay around the complex. A path leads to the top of the rock where you will find Buddha footprints. You can also visit the small museum known for a collection of beautiful stone carvings.