The city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the centre of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. The city lies 205 km north of the current capital Colombo in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province, on the banks of the historic Malvathu Oya. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka. Founded in the 4th century BC it was the capital of the Anuradhapura Kingdom till the beginning of the 11th century AC. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centers of political power and urban life in South Asia. It was also a wealthy city which created a unique culture and a great civilization. Today this ancient city of Sri Lanka, which is sacred to the Buddhist world, which its surrounding monasteries covers an area of over sixteen square miles ( 40 km²) and is one of the world’s major archaeological sites.
The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders in 1070 CE to reunite the country once more under a local leader. While Vijayabahu’s victory and shifting of Kingdoms to the more strategic Polonnaruwa is considered significant, the real Polonnaruwa Hero of the history books is actually his grandson, Parakramabahu I. The city Polonnaruwa was also called as Jananathamangalam during the short Chola reign. Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archeological relic sites in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the kingdom’s first rulers.
Sigiriya, considered by some as the eighth wonder of the world, consists of an ancient castle used by King Kasyapa of the 5th century AD. The Sigiriya site has the remains of an upper Sky Palace sited on the flat top of the rock, a mid-level terrace that includes the Lion Gate and the Mirror Wall and the world famous Sigiriya Frescoes, the lower palace that clings to the slopes below the rock, and the moats, walls and gardens that extend for some hundreds of metres out from the base of the rock. The site is both a palace and fortress. Sufficient remains to provide the visitor with a stunning insight into the ingenuity and creativity of its builders. The upper palace on the top of the rock includes cisterns cut into the rock that still retain water. The moats and walls that surround the lower palace are still exquisitely beautiful.
Kandy – Temple of the Tooth
The “Sri Dalada Maligawa” or The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a temple in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. It was built within the royal palace complex which houses the tooth relic of the Buddha, a tooth, which is venerated by Buddhists. The relic has played an important role in the local politics since ancient times, it’s believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country, which caused the ancient kings to protect it with great effort. Kandy was the capital of the Sinhalese Kings from 1592 to 1815, fortified by the terrain of the mountains and the difficult approach. The city is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO, in part due to the temple.
Dambulla – Cave Temple
Dambulla Cavekovil also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla) is a world heritage site (1991) in Sri Lanka, situated in the central part of the country. This site is situated 148 km (92 mi) east of Colombo and 72 km (45 mi) north of Kandy. It is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock towers 160 m (525 ft) over the surrounding plains.There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding. Major attractions are spread over 5 caves, which contain statues and paintings. This paintings and statues are related to Lord Buddha and his life. There are total of 153 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of gods and goddesses. The later 4 include two statues of Hindu gods, god Vishnu and god Ganesh. The murals, covers an area of 2,100 square meters. Depictions in the walls of the caves include Buddha’s temptation by Mara (demon) and Buddha’s first sermon.
Mihintale is a mountain peak near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It is believed by Sri Lankans to be the site of a meeting between the Buddhist monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa which inaugurated the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is now a pilgrimage site, and the site of several religious monuments and abandoned structures. Eight miles east of Anuradhapura, close to the Anuradhapura – Trincomalee Road is situated the “Missaka Pabbata” which is 1,000 feet (300 m) in height and is one of the peaks of a mountainous range. Thera Mahinda came to Sri Lanka from India on the full moon day of the month of Poson (June) and met King Devanampiyatissa and the people, and preached the doctrine. The traditional spot where this meeting took place is revered by the Buddhists of Sri Lanka. Therefore in the month of Poson, Buddhists make their pilgrimage to Anuradhapura and Mihintale. “Mahinda” was the son of Emperor Ashoka of India. King Ashoka embraced Buddhism after he was inspired by a very small monk named “Nigrodha.”