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Ruwanwelisaya - Anuradhapura

Embarking on a journey to Anuradhapura, nestled in Sri Lanka’s North Central Province, is best started early in the morning. The trip covers approximately 180 km from Negombo, a journey of about four hours through Puttalam and Wilpattu National Park. Anuradhapura is a holy city, home to the revered Bo-Tree, or ‘Sri Maha Bodhi’ as it’s known to Buddhists, located in the Mahamewna Gardens. This tree has a rich history, having been grown from a twig of the Sacred Bo-Tree in Buddagaya, India, under which Lord Buddha achieved Enlightenment. This sacred twig was brought to Sri Lanka by Sangamitta Thera in 249 B.C. during King Dewanam Piyatissa’s reign. The Sri Maha Bodhi is highly respected and worshipped by Buddhists worldwide. A tour of Anuradhapura’s ancient city takes about two hours. Buddhists make pilgrimages to Anuradhapura to pay homage to ‘Atamasthana’, the eight sacred places of worship. Visiting these ancient monuments, constructed by Sri Lanka’s mighty kings, is an unforgettable lifetime experience.

The ‘Atamasthana’ consists of eight sacred places of worship, including the aforementioned Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwaveliseya, a 2172-year-old bulb-shaped stupa standing 338 feet tall, built by King Dutugemunu. This stupa, the highest in Sri Lanka, is believed to house a vast treasure of precious gems and gold, a golden dome, and relics of Lord Buddha buried within the stupa, located near the Sri Maha Bodhi. Thuparama, believed to be the island’s first stupa, was built by King Devnam Piyatissa in a granary shape. Lowamahapaya, located on the right of the road to Ruwaveliseya, was also constructed by King Dutugemunu to fulfill a vow made by King Devnam Piyatissa to Mahinda Thero. Abhayagiriya is an ancient temple built by King Walagamba, inhabited by about 5000 Buddhists, and houses a golden casket containing Buddha’s relics. Jetavanarama is the largest stupa in the Sacred City, with a circumference of 11000 feet. The stupa alone covers an area of 3 acres in an 8-acre land and is believed to be second in size only to the pyramids of Egypt. Mirisawetiya, a 200-foot-tall stupa, was the first stupa built by King Dutugemunu at a location where Lord Buddha is believed to have set foot. Lankaramaya is a stupa built by King Walgamba for monks. In addition to these monuments, visitors should also explore the Koottam Pokuna (Couple Bathing Ponds) built for the royalty during the reign of ancient kings, the archaeological museum which is a National Museum where you may see ancient Buddha statues, inscriptions, drawings, puppets, coins, jewelleries, beads and other miscellaneous things. The “Samadhi Buddha Statue” is situated in Mahamewna Garden and is a wonderful creation of sculpture depicting Lord Buddha sitting cross-legged with upturned palms on either side of the laps and in deep meditation. Two of the largest lakes are’ Thisawewa’ and Nuwwara Wewa. Near Thisawewa is another large lake ‘ Basawakkulama’. The ‘Isurumuni Temple’ is also in close proximity and the “Lovers of Isurumuniya’ a world renewed marvel of art of ancient sculpture on granite.

Seven kilometers from Anuradhapura lies “Mihintale’, a rocky hill where the Buddhist Monk, Mahinda Thero met King Devanam Piyatissa. This is the site where Buddhism was first introduced to Sri Lanka on the full moon day of the month of ‘Poson’ (June). It is a sacred site, and pilgrims from all over the country visit this site, especially on Poson full moon day. On its right-hand side is the ancient ‘Black Water Pond and the rooms where King Kashpyapa used to meditate. In front are the ruins of the ancient hospital built by King Kashpyapa. On this tour, you may learn about the calm and simple rural life of villagers whose main occupation is chena cultivation.