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Sacred City of Anuradhapura

This sacred city was established around a cutting from the
‘tree of enlightenment’, the Buddha’s fig tree, brought there in the 3rd
century B.C. by Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns.
Anuradhapura, a Ceylonese political and religious capital that
flourished for 1,300 years, was abandoned after an invasion in 993.
Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, the splendid site, with its
palaces, monasteries and monuments, is now accessible once again.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0




Sacred City of Anuradhapura
© Vincent Ko Hon Chiu


Media

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/200/video

UNESCO/NHK Videos on Heritage


This sacred city was established around a cutting from the
‘tree of enlightenment’, the Buddha’s fig tree, brought there in the 3rd
century B.C. by Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns.
Anuradhapura, a Ceylonese political and religious capital that
flourished for 1,300 years, was abandoned after an invasion in 993.
Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, the splendid site, with its
palaces, monasteries and monuments, is …

Source: UNESCO TV / © NHK Nippon Hoso Kyokai
URL: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/200/

English

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anuradhapura


Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura

අනුරාධපුරය
அனுராதபுரம்

City

Kuttam Pokuna

Anuradhapura is located in Sri Lanka

Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura

Location in Sri Lanka

Coordinates: 8°21′0″N 80°23′7″ECoordinates: 8°21′0″N 80°23′7″E

Country
Sri Lanka

Province
North Central Province

District
Anuradhapura

Established
4th century BC

Government

 • Type
Municipal Council

Area

 • City
7,179 km2 (2,772 sq mi)

 • Urban
36 km2 (14 sq mi)

Elevation
81 m (266 ft)

Population (2012)

 • City
50,595

 • Density
2,314/km2 (5,990/sq mi)

Demonym(s)
Anuradhians

Time zone
Sri Lanka Standard Time Zone (UTC+5:30)

Postal code
50000

UNESCO World Heritage Site

Official name
Sacred City of Anuradhapura

Criteria
Cultural: (ii), (iii), (vi) Edit this on Wikidata

Reference
200

Inscription
1982 (6th Session)

Anuradhapura (Sinhalese: අනුරාධපුරය; Tamil: அனுராதபுரம்) is a major city in Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of North Central Province, Sri Lanka and the capital of Anuradhapura District. 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 Theravada 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 (40 km²).

Contents

Urban Area

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.[1]
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.

Beginnings

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.[2]
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.[2]

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 that King Pandukabhaya made
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. Ashoka embraced 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.[3]

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 used in 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 city clean.

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.

Modern era

European discovery

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”.[4] 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.”[5]

Excavations

Various excavations have taken place at the site, beginning in 1884-86 by Stephen Montagu Burrows.[6]

According to carbon dating, the ruins excavated were from the 10th century BC.[citation needed]

Ruins


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 * Ruwanwelisaya * Thuparamaya * Lovamahapaya * Abhayagiri Dagaba * Jetavanarama * Mirisaveti Stupa * Lankarama

Other structures

Demographics

Ethnicity Population % Of Total
Sinhalese 51,775 91.42
Sri Lankan Moors 3,825 6.75
Sri Lankan Tamils 850 1.50
Indian Tamils 45 0.08
Other (including Burgher, Malay) 137 0.24
Total 56,632 100

Source: www.statistics.gov.lk - Census 2001

Transportation

Anuradhapura is served by railway and highways. The Northern railway line connects 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, Kurunegala and 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.

References


  • Deraniyagala, SU. The Prehistory of Sri Lanka, Vol II, Department of Archaeological Survey, Colombo: 1992. p435.

  • Mahavamsa X, trans. Wilhelm Geiger

  • 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 this 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.”

    1. Department of Archaeology - Sri Lanka:
      “The first methodical excavation of the Department of Archaeology had
      been carried out by Mr. S.M. Burrows in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa
      during 1884 to 1886. Subsequently, the exploration and excavation
      activities were undertaken mainly in Anuradhapura and 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
      Archaeology in 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. Vikas)
    • 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.

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