The Sacred City of Anuradhapura 

The city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies 205 km north of the current capital Colombo in Sri Lanka's North Central Province, on the banks of the historic Malvathu Oya.

From the 4th century BC, it was the capital of Sri Lanka until the beginning of the 11th century AD. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centers 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).

         In 543 BC, prince Vijaya (543–505 BC) arrived in Sri Lanka, having been banished from his homeland in India. He eventually brought the island under his control and established himself as king. After this, his retinue established villages and colonies throughout the country. One of these was established by Anuradha, a minister of King Vijaya, on the banks of a stream called Kolon and was named Anuradhagama.

         In 377 BC, King Pandukabhaya (437–367 BC) made it his capital and developed it into a prosperous city. Anuradhapura (Anurapura) was named after the minister who first established the village and after a grandfather of Pandukabhaya who lived there. The name was also derived from the city's establishment on the auspicious asterism called Anura. Anuradhapura was the capital of all the monarchs who ruled the country during in the Anuradhapura Kingdom, with the exception of Kashyapa I (473–491), who chose Sigiriya to be his capital. The city is also marked on Ptolemy's world map

Eight Great Places of Veneration in Anuradhapura - Atamasthana

  • Sri Maha Bodiya
  • Ruwanwelisaya
  • Thuparamaya
  • Lovamahapaya
  • Abayagiriya
  • Jethavanaramaya
  • Mirisavetiya
  • Lankaramaya

Sri Maha Bodiya

Entrance Sri Maha Bodiya
The Bodhi tree at the Mahabodhi Temple is called the Sri Maha Bodhi. According to Buddhist texts the Buddha, after his Enlightenment, spent a whole week in front of the tree, standing with unblinking eyes, gazing at it with gratitude. A shrine was later erected on the spot where he stood, and was called the Animisalocana cetiya.
Jaya Sri Maha Bodiya
According to the Mahavamsa, the Sri Maha Bodhi in Sri Lanka was planted in 288 BC, making it the oldest verified specimen of any angiosperm. In this year (the twelfth year of King Asoka's reign) the right branch of the Bodhi tree was brought by Sanghamitta to Anuradhapura and placed by Devanampiyatissa his left foot in the Mahameghavana. The Buddha, on his death bed, had resolved five things, one being that the branch which should be taken to Ceylon should detach itself. From Gaya, the branch was taken to Pataliputta, thence to Tamalitti, where it was placed in a ship and taken to Jambukola, across the sea; finally it arrived at Anuradhapura, staying on the way at Tivakka. Those who assisted the king at the ceremony of the planting of the Tree were the nobles of Kājaragāma and of Candanagāma and of Tivakka.

According to the Mahavamsa, branches from the Bodhi trees of all the Buddhas born during this kalpa were planted in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) on the spot where the sacred Bodhi tree stands today in Anurahapura.


The Ruwanwelisaya is a stupa in Sri Lanka, considered a marvel for its architectural qualities and sacred to many Buddhists all over the world. It was built by King Dutugemunu, who became lord of all Sri Lanka after a war in which the Chola King Elara, was defeated. It is also known as Mahathupa, Swarnamali Chaitya and Rathnamali Dagaba.

The stupa is also one of the Solosmasthana (the 16 places of veneration) and the Atamasthana (the 8 places of veneration in the ancient sacred city of Anuradhapura). The stupa is one of the world's tallest monuments, standing at 300 ft (92 m) and with a circumference of 950 ft (292 m).


Thuparamaya is a dagoba in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is a Buddhist sacred place of veneration.

Thera Mahinda, an envoy sent by King Ashoka himself introduced Theravada Buddhism and also chetiya worship to Sri Lanka. At his request King Devanampiyatissa built Thuparamaya in which was enshrined the collarbone of the Buddha. It is considered to be the first dagaba built in Sri Lanka following the introduction of Buddhism. This is considered the earliest monument, the construction of which was chronicled Sri Lanka. The name Thuparamaya comes from "stupa" and "aramaya" which is a residential complex for monks.

Thuparamaya dagoba has been built in the shape of a heap of paddy. This dagoba was destroyed from time to time. During the reign of King Agbo II it was completely destroyed and the King restored it. What is seen presently is the construction of the dagoba, done in 1862 AD. As of today, after several renovations, in the course of the centuries, the monument has a diameter of 59 ft (18 m), at the base. The dome is 11 feet 4 inches (3.45 m) in height from the ground, 164½ ft (50.1 m) in diameter. The compound is paved with granite and there are 2 rows of stone pillars round the dagaba. During the early period vatadage was built round the dagoba.


Lovamahapaya is a building situated between Ruvanveliseya and Sri Mahabodiya in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is also known as the Brazen Palace or Lohaprasadaya because the roof was covered with bronze tiles.

In ancient times, the building included the refectory and the uposathagara (Uposatha house). There was also a simamalake where the Sangha assembled on Poya days to recite the sutra of the confessional. The famous Lohaprasada built by King Dutugemunu, described as an edifice of nine stories, was a building of this class. One side of the building was 400 ft (120 m) in length. There are 40 rows, each row consisting of 40 stone pillars, for a total of 1600 pillars. It is believed that it took six years for the construction of the building and the plan was brought from the heavens. The building was completely destroyed during the reign of King Saddhatissa. The small building in the center is late construction and is the Venue of Uposatha (chapter house)of the Maha Vihara even now.


The Abhayagiri Dagaba is situated in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It is one of the most extensive ruins in the world and one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage cities. Historically it was a great monastic centre as well as a royal capital, with magnificent monasteries rising to many stories, roofed with gilt bronze or tiles of burnt clay glazed in brilliant colors. To the north of the city, encircled by great walls and containing elaborate bathing ponds, carved balustrades and moonstones, stood "Abhayagiri", one of seventeen such religious units in Anuradhapura and the largest of its five major viharas. Surrounding the humped dagaba, Abhayagiri Vihara was a seat of the Northern Monastery, or Uttara Vihara.

The term "Abhayagiri Vihara" means not only a complex of monastic buildings, but also a fraternity of Buddhist monks, or Sangha, which maintains its own historical records, traditions and way of life. Founded in the second century BC, it had grown into an international institution by the first century of this era, attracting scholars from all over the world and encompassing all shades of Buddhist philosophy. Its influence can be traced to other parts of the world, through branches established elsewhere. Thus, the Abhayagiri Vihara developed as a great institution vis‑a‑vis the Mahavihara and the jetavana Buddhist monastic sects in the ancient Sri Lankan capital of Anuradhapura.


The Jetavanaramaya is a stupa, located in the ruins of Jetavana Monastery in the sacred world heritage city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. King Mahasena (273-301 AD) initiated the construction of the stupa following the destruction of Mahavihara, his son Maghavanna Ithe construction of the stupa. A part of a sash or belt tied by the Buddha is believed to be the relic that is enshrined here.

The structure is significant in the island's history for it represents the tensions within the Theravada and Mahayana sects of Buddhist monks, it is also significant in world history as one of the tallest structures in the ancient world. The height of the stupa is 122 m and was the tallest ancient stupa in the world, the structure is no longer the tallest however it is the largest with a volume of 233,000 m3. At the time of its completion the structure was the third tallest structure in the world behind the Great Pyramids of Giza. Approximately 93.3 million baked bricks were used in its construction, the engineering ingenuity behind the construction of the structure is a significant development in the history of the island. The sectarian differences between the Buddhist monks also are represented by the stupa as it was built on the premises of the destroyed Mahavihara, which led to a rebellion by a minister of king Mahasena.

This stupa belongs to the Sagalika sect. The compound covers approximately 5.6 hectares and is estimated to have housed 10,000 Buddhist monks. One side of the stupa is 576 feet (176 m) long, and the flights of stairs at each of the four sides of it are 28 feet (8.5 m) wide. The doorpost to the shrine, which is situated in the courtyard, is 27 feet (8.2 m) high. The stupa has a 8.5 m deep foundation, and sits on bedrock. Stone inscriptions in the courtyard give the names of people who donated to the building effort.


The Mirisaveti Stupa is situated in the ancient city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. King Dutugamunu built the Mirisaveti Stupa after defeating King Elara. After placing the Buddha relics in the sceptre, he had gone to Tisawewa for a bath leaving the sceptre. After the bath he returned to the place where the sceptre was placed, and it is said that it could not be moved. The stupa was built in the place where the sceptre stood. It is also said that he remembered that he partook a chilly curry without offering it to the sangha. In order to punish himself he built the Mirisavetiya Dagaba. The extent of this land is about 50 acres (20 ha). Although the king Kasyapa I and Kasyapa V renovated this, from time to time it was dilapidated. What stands today is the renovation done by the cultural Triangle Fund.

Lankarama is a stupa built by King Valagamba, in an ancient place at Galhebakada in the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Nothing is known about the ancient form of the stupa, and later this was renovated. The ruins show that there are rows of stone pillars and it is no doubt that there has been a house built encircling the stupa (vatadage) to cover it. The round courtyard of the stupa seems to be 10 feet (3 m) above the ground. The diameter of the stupa is 45 feet (14 m). The courtyard is circular in shape and the diameter is 1332 feet (406 m).