Anuradhapura – the cradle of Sri Lanka’s civilization
Anuradhapura now a World heritage Site, famous for its ruins of Lankan civilization lies in the North Central province, 205 kilometers away from Colombo and is reachable by air taxi, rail and road transport. It was the capital of the Anuradhapura Kingdom from the fourth century B.C.E until the beginning of the eleventh century C.E. Monasteries spanned around an area of over sixteen square miles (40 km²) in the ancient city.
- The Sri Maha Bodhi Tree – History records this as a branch of the Bodhi tree under which the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment and was brought to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C. Scientists authenticate it as the oldest tree in the world.
- The Brazen Palace – Believed to have had a bronze roof over this skyscraper, the site is now marked as a strange stone forest of 1,600 (40 x 40) close – set columns of the foundation of nine graded stories with one thousand rooms.
- The Great Relic Chamber (Ruwanweliseya) – A dagaba or thupa (relic chamber), is a dome where sacred relics or the bodily remains of the Buddha are enshrined. Ruvanveliseya built by King Dutugemunu in the 2nd century BC is a huge white dagaba measuring 103 meters in height with a circumference of 287 meters. The surrounding four walls of the compound are decorated with 1,900 figures of elephants – 475 on each wall. The colossal edifice had cost the king 6.4 million coins in wages and food.
- Samadhi Buddha Statue – The 4th Century AD statue of the Buddha in meditative pose is one of the best pieces of sculpture on the site. The granite statue 2.4.meters (8 feet) in height symbolizes the posture of meditation where the Buddha sits in the cross legged position with upturned soles. Since restoration of the sacred sites in Anuradhapura, the city has again become a much visited pilgrimage and a tourist center of attraction.
Situated 214 kilometers away from Colombo, Polonnaruwa is in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka and can be reached by air, rail and road transport. The second most ancient city, which dates back to 1070 C.E, is now a world heritage site.
- Gal Vihare – a rock temple, constructed by Parākramabāhu I in 1100 C.E is an aesthetic beauty. The Buddha statues, are magnificently perfected on an abrupt boulder of dark granite about 27 meters in length and 10 meters in height at the centre and sloping towards the end.
- Kiri – (milk white) Vehera (relics chamber) of which the white lime plaster was still found perfect when it was freed from the jungle 700 years later, still bears testimony to the skills of the craftsmen and the technology existed.
- Royal Palace – Remnants of Parakramabahu’s Palace (1164 -1196 AD) with its 10 foot thick walls in which the holes to receive the great beams which supported two upper storeys may easily be recognised today. It had been a massive wood and stone structure seven storeys in height, with a floor plan of 31m by13m (100ft by 43ft).The upper floors were of wood, but now only the massive, 3m (10ft) thick lower walls survive.
- Audience Hall – Another classical piece of architecture is the audience hall where the abbot’s seat is still to be seen. The hall was used by the king to summon the Nobles and to meet the emissaries of foreign rulers. Delicately sculptured stone lions seated at the top of the steps leading into the hall were symbols of royal power. The elephants formed a fresco around the lower part of the outer wall.
- Palace of King Nissankamalla – The ruins of the palace of King Nissankamalla (1187-1196 AD) stand close to the shore of the great man-made lake, ‘the Sea of Parakrama’. This palace includes a royal bathing pool just south of the site. The names of the king’s ministers can be seen carved into the pillars which supported the king’s council chamber roof.
The iconic Sigiriya Rock Fortress also known as the Lion Rock is the most visited historic site in Sri Lanka. Built on top of a boulder in the 5th century, the rock fortress is said to have been the impregnable palace of King Kasyapa.Situated in the north central province of Sri Lanka some 18 km from Dambulla, the solitary Sigiriya monolith dominates the jungles around it. The rock bastion stands tall as a unique representation of the Island’s great civilization during the reign of King Kasyapa who is said to have built it both as a palace and fortress.Today, the Sigiriya citadel is ranked as a world heritage site by UNESCO for its significant urban planning, sophisticated architecture, engineering, hydraulic technology, art and landscaping.
Sigiriya is considered an engineering marvel and one of the best preserved examples of urban planning. The site contains the ruins of an upper palace on the top of the rock, a mid-level terrace with a huge Lion Gate and a picture gallery of beautiful damsels along the western face of the rock. Boulder, water and terrace gardens at lower levels are still intact. A mirror wall containing poems inscribed by travelers dating back to 8th century speak of love, irony and numerous experiences. Sigiri Graffiti, confirmed to be among the most ancient Sinhala text refer to frescos of 500 ladies in the image gallery. Most of the frescos have been destroyed with time.
The identities of the ladies in the paintings are yet to be confirmed. However, there are various theories that suggest that they could be consorts of the King or women taking part in religious observances. The paintings display a close resemblance to the ones seen in the Ajantha caves in India.
The key significance is the Dambulla Cave Temple which is also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla. This has been declared as a World Heritage site. Dambulla Cave Temple is precisely located at an elevation of 1118 feet above the sea level in a colossal granite rock which towers up to 600 feet over the surrounding plains. Amidst 80 recorded caves, main attraction is centred to five caves. This cave complex is regarded as one of the most impressive Buddhist Temples in the world. Caves house paintings and statues which are related to Lord Buddha and his life. There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of gods and goddesses which are masterpieces indeed, demonstrating the outstanding craftsmanship existed during the ancient days.
Undoubtedly it is the worlds most acclaimed cave complex of magnificent Buddha statues and rock paintings of vibrant colours constructed and painted in an ancient era. These unique cave temples effectively signify the evolution of Sri Lankan arts.