Anuradhapura was the capital of ancient Sri Lanka for a thousand years before and after Christ - in effect from Old Testament Nebuchadnezzar to the Normans and William the Conqueror, losing ground to the empire building Chola rulers of the 10th and 11th centuries.
Its dagobas (shrines), which when built, were only shorter than the great pyramids of Giza.
Excavations have yielded copper kilns from 900 BC, Brahmi inscriptions, and pot burials from centuries before that. Its Port Mantai, drew Arab and Chinese traders exchanging silk, ceramic, spices, and other trade goods.
Anuradhapura itself was the centre of a fertile "rice bowl", supported by a vast network of reservoirs and irrigation canals which are engineering marvels themselves. With this wealth, successive kings built the massive brick and granite monuments, many lost to invaders and invading jungle: what remain today are mostly religious monuments, inspired by the philosophy of Buddhism.
Venerated as the most sacred place of worship in Anuradhapura, this temple stupa was built by King Dutugamunu who reigned from 137BC to 119BC. The King defeated the South Indian invader Ellara, united the country under one rule, and then began its construction. Ruwanveli Seya is said to enshrine the relic of the Lord Buddha. It is also one of the three places graced by Lord Buddha during his visits to Sri Lanka. The temple is considered one of the tallest monuments in the world.
Isurumuniya, standing just next to the Tissa Lake, beautifully combines spirituality with art. It is renowned for its stone carvings of which the most famous one is the “Isurumuniya Lovers”. The other carvings are of horseman, bathing elephants and the royal family. The temple was built by King Devanampiyatissa, who, during his reign, ordained 500 children to a life of priesthood and dedicated the temple as a monastic complex to house them all. The most popular tale about the lovers carving here is that it depicts Prince Saliya, the son of the great King Dutugamunu, and his lower caste mistress Asokamala. In the name of love, the Prince gave up the right to be King and married Asokamala.
Myth also has it that this temple and its pond were used by the King to perform ceremonies to the gods of rain.
With an original height of 400 feet, this was considered to be the tallest Buddhist stupa in the ancient world. It is believed that this monument was built upon the enclosure where Mahinda Maha Thero, the monk who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka, was cremated.
The sacred Bo (Sri Maha Bodhi) Tree has been protected and cherished by hereditary families, who reputedly brought the branch from Bodh Gaya, and have guarded it ever since. It is said to be the world's oldest recorded tree (288 BC), a branch of the very tree under which Gautama, the Buddha attained enlightenment.
This is perhaps the most further away from the Sanctuary at Tissawewa, but is well worth the 90 minute drive. Known as the eighth wonder of the world, Sigiriya is a lion shaped rock fortress built as a palace in the latter part of the 5th century by King Kasyappa. The palace was Kasyappa’s citadel, safely away from his half brother from whom he had usurped the throne.
The western wall of Sigiriya still features fascinating frescoes from the time of the King. Alongside the beautiful gardens, Sigiriya also has a complex hydraulic system, and is recognized as one of the finest examples of ancient urban planning. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Carved out of a rock boulder, the Avukana Buddha statue stands 46 feet high on a lotus stone pedestal. Just an hour away from our Hotel, this statue built in the 5th century is the tallest ancient Buddha statue in the country.
Ritigala is an ancient Buddhist monastery and mountain in Sri Lanka. The ruins and rock inscriptions of the monastery date back to 1st century BCE. It is located 43 km away from the ancient monastic city of Anuradhapura.
Mihinthale is a mountain peak near Anuradhapura and is just 15 minutes away from the hotel. Sri Lankans believe it to be the site of a meeting between the Buddhist monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa. This historic event marks the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
A Moonstone is an elaborately carved semi-circular stone slab, with a half lotus carved in the centre followed by carvings of swans, intricate foliage, elephants, lions, horses and bulls, each in bands. These can be spotted at the bottom of staircases and entrances of historic Buddhist architecture.
So named after its enormous size, and fenced in by a thick forest, this water storage tank that provided for a congregation of 5000 monks is easily the size of six Olympic swimming pools. It consists of a network of underground canals that still operate; in the rainy season one could see water pouring through these inlets from another tank.
Considered a hydraulic engineering marvel of ancient Sri Lanka, these ponds were supplied through underground pipelines; the water was sent through several filtering chambers before it flowed into the northern pond through a carved mouth of a dragon. The northern pond is 28m in length, and the southern pond is 40m long.
The unique feature of this Park is the existence of "Willus" (Natural lakes) - natural, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater. Located in the Northwest coast, lowland dry zone of Sri Lanka, the Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including the elusive leopard, elephants, sloth bears, deer, crocodiles and other fascinating species. The Park is located 30 km west of Anuradhapura, and takes about a 40 minute drive to get to.
Minneriya & Kaudulla National Parks are in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. Reachable within an hour’s drive time from the Hotel, these National Parks provide ample opportunity to spot elephants and other species of wildlife. The most important of them is the wild elephant, the population of which is about 200.