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Culture

Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura

205 km North of Colombo, Anuradhapura was the ancient capital of Sri Lanka from the 4th century to early 11th century AD, also known as the sacred city to the Buddhists with ruins of Buddhist Temples, Monasteries & shrines found in an area encompassing 40 square kilometres, a very important Buddhist landmark in Anuradhapura is the Jaya Shri Maha Bodhi or the Sacred Bo tree, a sapling of the very tree under which the Lord Buddha became enlightened, planted in 288 BC it is believed to be the oldest documented tree in the world.


Mihintale

Mihintale

13 km East of Anuradhapura, Mihintale or the Sinhalese translation ‘Mahinda’s mountain’ is believed to be the place where in the year 247 BC the Sinhalese King Devanampiyatissa was converted to Buddhism by Arahat Mahinda; the son of Ashoka, the last Mauryan Buddhist emperor of India. This event took place on the full moon day in the month of June. Known as the cradle of Buddhism, it is a revered site for Buddhist pilgrims from around the world.


Aukana

Aukana

50 km South of Mihintale, Aukana is the site of the 12 metre high rock sculpture of the Lord Buddha, standing on a decorated lotus plinth it is a marvellous work of art by an unknown sculptor, the best time to see this sculpture is in the morning when the first rays of the sun falling upon it makes it come alive against the deep green of the trees in the background.



Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa

216 km from Colombo in the North-Central province, Polonnaruwa was established as the second ancient capital of Sri Lanka 11th century AD. Parakramabahu 1 was hailed as the greatest King to rule from Polonnaruwa, it was during his reign that Polonnaruwa reached its golden age. Under his patronage trade & agriculture flourished especially agriculture, with the construction of a number of reservoirs and irrigation systems, the most important being the Parakrama Samudra, one of his greatest works, so vast that it was mistaken for the ocean. It was built as a defence against intruders and most important a steady source of water during the dry season. Important sites in Polonnaruwa include the Gal Viharaya, with its gigantic rock sculptures of the Lord Buddha, the ‘Quadrangle’ with the ruins of 12 buildings described as some of the finest in Buddhist architecture. The ‘Potgul Vehera’ the library monastery and the ‘Lankatilaka’ image house to name a few.


Sigiriya

Sigiriya

175 km from Colombo in the North-Central province, the 5th century AD rock fortress of King Kasyapa, also known as the ‘Lion Rock’ standing at a height of almost 200 metres is steeped in legend and is an architectural and engineering masterpiece. The summit of the rock is approximately 3 acres in extent and consists of ruins of palace buildings, entertainment halls, baths and ponds. At the foot of the rock are remains of palace buildings, pleasure gardens and ponds. The rock carvings of the lion’s paws at the entrance still remains, unfortunately the upper part including the jaws of the lion through which a person had to pass through to enter the fortress is no more.


Dambulla

Dambulla

150 km from Colombo and the geographical centre of Sri Lanka, the Rock Cave Temple of Dambulla consists of 5 caves which have been converted to shrines. During an invasion from South India in the 1st century BC, The Sinhalese king Walagambahu took refuge in the caves at Dambulla and through meditation gained the strength to drive the invaders away, as a token of gratitude for providing him refuge he declared the caves as a sacred area and built the first cave shrine, since then 4 more caves were converted into shrines and the Rock Cave Temples of Dambulla is today an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists from around the world.


Kurunegala

94 km from Colombo in the North-Central province, Kurunegala is famous for its huge rocky outcrops, some of the rocks resemble life forms such as an Elephant, a Monkey, a Tortoise, an Eel and even a Kandyan Dancer and many more. It was also an ancient capital for a short period with three archaeological cities nearby; Panduvasnuwara, Dambadeniya and Yapahuwa. The area is also known for its rice paddy & coconut cultivation.

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