The sacred city of Anuradhapura
This World Heritage site was established in the 4th century BC, rising to prominence with the arrival of Buddhism. It became one of the grandest monastic cities in the world. The great kings of Anuradhapura oversaw a golden age in the island’s history, building colossal dagobas soaring over the vast acres of field. At the centre of the city is the Mahavihara, the oldest of the city’s monasteries, and also the site of the Sri Maha Bodi, grown from the original tree in northern India under which Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. The Thuparama dagoba, erected in the 3rd century BC, was the first dagoba to be built in Sri Lanka and enshrine the Buddha’s right Collarbone. The red brick Jetavana dagoba was once the third tallest structure in the world. Anuradhapura nestles between three vast reservoirs known as tanks. These were part of a sophisticated irrigation system developed from the 4th century BC onwards. These still bring irrigation water to the fields in the dry zone, a living testament to the engineering skill of ancient times.
This standing statue of the Buddha stands 12m high and has been carved out of a large granite rock face during the 5th century. It is still joined to the rock face by a narrow strip of rock at the back of the statue. However its carved lotus flower pedestal has been carved separately and positioned under the statue.