Anuradhapura (Sinhalese: අනුරාධපුරය; Tamil:
அனுராதபுரம்) is a major city in Sri Lanka. It is
the capital city of
North Central Province, Sri Lanka
North Central Province, Sri Lanka and the capital
Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals
of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sri
Lankan civilization. It was the third capital of the Kingdom of
Rajarata, following the kingdoms of Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara.
The city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the centre of
Buddhism for many centuries. The city lies 205 km
(127 mi) north of the current capital
Colombo in the 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.
It is believed that from the fourth century BC until the beginning of
the 11th century AD it was the capital of the Sinhalese. During this
period it remained one of the most stable and durable centres of
political power and urban life in South Asia. The ancient city,
considered sacred to the Buddhist world, is today surrounded by
monasteries covering an area of over sixteen square miles
1 Urban Area
Buddhism and Anuradhapura
1.3 Great Building Era
1.4 The city grows
1.5 The Great City
2 Modern era
2.1 European discovery
2.3.1 Eight Great Places of Veneration in
Anuradhapura - Atamasthana
2.3.2 Other structures
6 External links
Protohistoric Iron Age
Although according to historical records the city was founded in the
5th century BC, the archaeological data put the date as far back as
the 10th century BC. Very little evidence was available about the
period before the 5th century BC (i.e. the protohistoric period),
though excavations have revealed information about the earlier
inhabitants of the city.
Further excavations in
Anuradhapura have uncovered information about
the existence of a protohistoric habitation of humans in the citadel.
The protohistoric Iron Age, which spans from 900 to 600 BC,
marked the appearance of iron technology, pottery, the horse, domestic
cattle and paddy cultivation. In the time period 700 to 600 BC,
the settlement in
Anuradhapura had grown over an area of at least 50
hectares (120 acres). The city was strategically situated of major
ports northwest and northeast. It was surrounded by irrigable and
fertile land. The city was also buried deep in the jungle providing
natural defence from invaders.
Lower Early Historic period
The Lower Early Historic period, spanning from 500 to 250 BC, is
studied on the lines of the chronicles. During this time King
Pandukabhaya formally planned the city, with gates, quarters for
traders etc. The city at the time would have covered an area of 1
square kilometre, which would have made it one of the largest in the
continent at the time.
The layout of
Anuradhapura as described in the Mahavamsa:
He laid out four suburbs as well as the Abhaya-tank, the common
cemetery, the place of execution, and the chapel of the Queens of the
West, the banyan-tree of Vessavana and the Palmyra-palm of the Demon
of Maladies, the ground set apart for the Yonas and the house of the
Great Sacrifice; all these he laid out near the west gate.
A hermitage was made for many ascetics; eastward of that same
cemetery, the ruler built a house for the Nigantha Jotiya. On the
further side of Jotiya's house and on this side of the Gamani tank, he
likewise built a monastery for wandering mendicant monks, and a
dwelling for the Ajivakas and a residence for the Brahmans, and in
this place and that he built a lying-in shelter and a hall for those
recovering from sickness.
It is believed that King
Pandukabhaya made it his capital in the 4th
century BC, and that he also laid out the town and its suburbs
according to a well-organized plan. He constructed a reservoir named
Abhayavapi. He established shrines for yakkhas such as Kalawela and
Cittaraja. He housed the Yaksini-Cetiya in the form of a mare within
the royal precincts, and offerings were made to all these demi-gods
every year. He chose the sites for the cemetery and for the place of
execution, the Chapel of the Western Queen, the Pacchimarajini, the
Vessavana Banyan Tree, the Palm of the Vyadhadeva, the Yona Quarter
and the House of the Great Sacrifice. The slaves or Candalas were
assigned their duties, and a village was set apart for them. They
build dwellings for Niganthas, for wandering ascetics and for Ajivakas
and Brahmanas. He established, the village boundaries. The tradition
Anuradhapura the capital city of Sri Lanka
as early as the 4th century BC had been very important.
The administrative and sanitary arrangements made for the city and the
shrines he provided indicate that over the years, the city developed
according to an original master plan. His son, Mutasiva, succeeded to
the throne. During his reign of sixty years, he maintained
Anuradhapura as his capital and further laid out the Mahameghavahana
Garden which was to play an important role in the early history of
Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It was in the period of his successor, his son
Devanampiya Tissa, that
Buddhism was first introduced to this island
236 years after the passing away of the Buddha.
Emperor Ashoka of
India was a contemporary of Devanampiya Tissa.
Mahinda was the son of
Emperor Ashoka of India.
Buddhism after he was inspired by a very small monk named Nigrodha.
The king, who was in great misery after seeing the loss of life caused
by his waging wars to expand his empire, was struck by the peaceful
countenance of such a young monk. Meeting this young monk made a
turning point in his life and he thereafter, renounced wars. He was
determined to spread the message of peace, to neutralize the effects
from the damages caused by him through his warfare. As a result, both
his son and daughter were ordained as Buddha disciples, and became
enlightened as Arahats. In his quest to spread the message of peace
instead of war, he sent his son Mahinda, to the island of Lanka, which
was also known as “Sinhalé”. According to Dipavamsa and
Mahavamsa, 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.
Historically this period is believed to extend from 250 to
210 BC. This is the point at which a kingship began and a
civilization developed based on one of the most significant religions
of South Asia, Buddhism.
Buddhism and Anuradhapura
With the introduction of Buddhism, the city gained more prominence and
the great building era began. The
Mahavansa states that King
Kutakannatissa built the first city wall to a height of seven cubits
with a moat in front of the wall. This fortification was further
enlarged by raising the wall a further 11 cubits to 18 cubits by King
Vasabha. The king also added fortified gatehouses at the entrances of
which the ruins can be seen to date. The
Mahavamsa also states that
soothsayers and architects were consulted in the construction.
During the late
Anuradhapura period, the royal family and nobility of
Sri Lanka strongly supported Buddhism. As such, they frequently
commissioned works of art and donated these items to Buddhist temples.
In return, the temple and local Buddhist community supported the
king's rule. Art works featuring depictions of Avalokitesvara, the
Bodhisattva of Mercy and Compassion, became increasing popular.
Great Building Era
The architectural remains can still be seen and gives a glimpse of
what had been the country at that time.Abayagiri
Stupa or the
Abayagiri Dageba was constructed in 1 Century BC by King Vattagamini
Abaya. The Abayagiri complex covers an area of 200 hectares. The
height of the stupa is 235 feet and has a diameter of 310 feet at the
base of the dome. It is built on a stone paved platform.The techniques
Anuradhapura era is outstanding.
The city grows
The city's popularity grew both as a ritual centre and as the
administrative centre, a large population was attracted to the city
for permanent settlement. Thus the living facilities were improved to
accommodate the expanding population. King
Vasabha constructed many
ponds which were fed by a network of subterranean channels which were
constructed to supply water to the city. The Tissa and Abhayavapi
tanks were built, the Nuwara weva was built and the Malwatu Oya was
dammed to build the Nachchaduwa wewa which was 4,408 acres
(17.84 km2) in size.
Parks were also provided in the city. The
Ranmasu Uyana below the bund
of Tissavapi or Tissa weva was one such, but it was strictly reserved
for the members of the royal family. Health care and education were
two other aspects to which the authorities paid attention. There were
several hospitals in the city. In the 4th century King Upatissa II
provided quarters and homes for the crippled and the blind. King
Buddhadasa (337-365 AD), himself a doctor of great repute,
appointed a physician to be in charge of every ten villages. For the
maintenance of these doctors, one tenth of the income from the fields
was set apart. He also set up refuges for the sick in every village.
Doctors were also appointed to look after the animals. Kassapa V
(914-923 AD) founded a hospital close to the southern gate of
Anuradhapura. General Sena in the 10th century is believed to have
built a hospital close to the ceremonial street (Managala Veediya).
The history of medical care began early, for in the 4th century BC
King Pandukhabaya, in the course of sanitizing the town constructed a
hospital. A large workforce was entrusted with the task of keeping the
Large lakes were also constructed by the city's rulers to irrigate
paddy lands and also to supply water to the city. Nuwara wewa and
Tissa wewa are among the best known lakes in the city.
The Great City
Anuradhapura attained its highest magnificence about the commencement
of the common era. The city had some of the most complex irrigation
systems of the ancient world, situated in the dry zone of the country
the administration built many tanks to irrigate the land. Most of
these tanks still survive.
The area was uninhabited for many centuries, but the local population
remained aware of the ruins. In Robert Knox's 1681 An Historical
Relation of the Island Ceylon, he wrote: "At this
City of Anurodgburro
is a Watch kept, beyond which are no more people that yield obedience
to the King of Candy". In 1821, John Davy wrote that:
"Anooradapoora, so long the capital of Ceylon, is now a small mean
village, in the midst of a desert. A large tank, numerous stone
pillars, two or three immense tumuli, (probably old dagobahs,) are its
principal remains. It is still considered a sacred spot; and is a
place of pilgrimage."
Various excavations have taken place at the site, beginning in 1884-86
by Stephen Montagu Burrows.
According to carbon dating, the ruins excavated were from the 10th
century BC.
Abhayagiri Dagoba in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
1890 map of
Anuradhapura by Harry Charles Purvis Bell
The ruins consist of three classes of buildings, dagobas, monastic
buildings, and pokunas. The dagobas are bell-shaped masses of masonry,
varying from a few feet to over 1100 ft (340 m) in
circumference. Some of them contain enough masonry to build a town for
twenty-five thousand inhabitants. Remains of the monastic buildings
are to be found in every direction in the shape of raised stone
platforms, foundations and stone pillars. The most famous is the
Brazen Palace erected by King
Dutugamunu about 164 BC. The pokunas are
bathing-tanks or tanks for the supply of drinking water, which are
scattered everywhere through the jungle. The city also contains a
sacred Bo-Tree, which is said to date back to the year 245 BC.
Eight Great Places of Veneration in
Anuradhapura - Atamasthana
Main article: Atamasthana
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi *
Abhayagiri Dagaba *
Mirisaveti Stupa * Lankarama
Abhayagiriya Monastery with
Kuttam Pokuna (twin pond)
% Of Total
Sri Lankan Moors
Sri Lankan Tamils
Other (including Burgher, Malay)
Source: www.statistics.gov.lk - Census 2001
Anuradhapura is served by railway and highways. The Northern railway
Anuradhapura with Colombo, Jaffna, and Kankesanthurai.
Anuradhapura railway station is the city's rail gateway, with major
services, such as the Yal Devi, calling there.
Anuradhapura is a
central city of Sri Lanka. It is directly connected to a large number
of major cities and towns of the island. By road, it is connected to
Vavuniya, Dambulla, Puttalam, Trincomalee, Jaffna,
Kandy. Due to its status as a crossroads city, the city is a good base
for exploring many important ancient landmarks a short distance away.
^ Deraniyagala, SU. The Prehistory of Sri Lanka, Vol II, Department of
Archaeological Survey, Colombo: 1992. p435.
^ a b
Mahavamsa X, trans. Wilhelm Geiger
Birmingham Museum of Art
Birmingham Museum of Art (2010). Birmingham Museum of Art :
guide to the collection. [Birmingham, Ala]: Birmingham Museum of Art.
p. 57. ISBN 978-1-904832-77-5.
^ Robert Knox (1681), Historical Relation chapter 2, full quote "There
are besides these already mentioned, several other ruinous places that
do still retain the name of Cities, where Kings have Reigned, tho now
little Foot steps remaining of them. At the North end of this Kings
Dominions is one of these Ruinous Cities, called Anurodgburro, where
they say Ninety Kings have Reigned, the Spirits of whom they hold now
to be Saints in Glory, having merited it by making Pagoda’s and
Stone Pillars and Images to the honour of their Gods, whereof there
are many yet remaining: which the Chingulayes count very meritorious
to worship, and the next way to Heaven. Near by is a River, by which
we came when we made our escape: all along which is abundance of hewed
stones, some long for Pillars, some broad for paving. Over this River
there have been three Stone Bridges built upon Stone Pillars, but now
are fallen down; and the Countrey all desolate without Inhabitants. At
City of Anurodgburro is a Watch kept, beyond which are no more
people that yield obedience to the King of Candy. This place is above
Ninety miles to the Northward of the
City of Candy. In these Northern
Parts there are no Hills, nor but two or three Springs of running
water, so that their Corn ripeneth with the help of Rain."
^ John Davy (1821), An Account, full quote: "Anooradapoora, so long
the capital of Ceylon, is now a small mean village, in the midst of a
desert. A large tank, numerous stone pillars, two or three immense
tumuli, (probably old dagobahs,) are its principal remains. It is
still considered a sacred spot; and is a place of pilgrimage. This
information was collected partly from the natives, and partly from an
officer who visited it during the rebellion."
^ Department of Archaeology - Sri Lanka: "The first methodical
excavation of the Department of Archaeology had been carried out by
Mr. S.M. Burrows in
Polonnaruwa during 1884 to 1886.
Subsequently, the exploration and excavation activities were
undertaken mainly in
Sigiriya with the guidance of
Mr. H.C.P. Bell in 1890. Similarly archaeological excavations in
Anuradhapura and other areas of the island were carried out under the
supervision of Mr. E.M. Ayrton (1912-1914) and Mr. Raja De Silva
(1983). Mr. E.M. Hocart who was appointed as the Commissioner of
Sri Lanka in 1926, carried out excavations using the
method of stratification, in places such as Mathota, Pomparippu,
Anuradhapura inner city and Ambalantota."
Harischandra, B. W.: The Sacred
City of Anuradhapura, Reprint. New
Delhi, Asian Educational Services, 1998.
Nissanka, H.S.S.: Maha
Bodhi Tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka :
The Oldest Historical Tree in the World, New Delhi 1996, (Reprint.
R. A. E. Coningham.: The Origins of the Brahmi Script Reconsidered:
The New Evidence from Anuradhapura, Minerva 8(2): 27-31, 1995.
R. A. E. Coningham.:
Anuradhapura Citadel Archaeological Project:
Preliminary Results of a Season of Geophysical Survey. South Asian
Studies 10: 179-188, 1994.
A. Seneviratne.: Ancient
Anuradhapura The Monastic City,
Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka. p. 310, 1994.
S. M. Burrows, The Buried Cities of Ceylon - A Guide Book to
Anuradhapura and Polonaruwa Reprint, p. 120, 1999.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Anuradhapura.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Anuradhapura.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
UNESCO World Heritage List - Sacred
City of Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura Case-Study by students of School of Planning &
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