Anuradhapura's 3 giant Stupas
belonged to the ancient city's
3 largest Buddhist monasteries:
3rd century BC
1st century BC
3rd century AD,
largest hemispheric stupa and largest building of burnt bricks in the entire world
(A flat stupa, Demale Mahaseya, in Polonnaruwa was bigger, but is not recognizable any more)
Between the first century BC and the 3rd century AD, dagobas (stupas) of previously unknown sizes were built in Anuradhapura, three of them are the largest brick buildings of the entire world, till the present day. The late Anuradhapura period (same time as early Middle Ages in Europe and India) saw a development of sculptural art and on the other hand a monastic reform movement propagating a return to serenity and simplicity. During this period of strengthened Southindian kingdoms, Anuradhapura was invaded by foreign Tamils on numerous occasions.
The three main areas of touristic interest today are exactly the three main monasteries of ancient Anuradhapura once surrounding the fortified city called “citadell”, of which nut much remains. These monastic complexes are Mahavihara with the Bo Tree and the first colossal dagoba called Ruwanweliseya, secondly the Abhayagiri compound with the most intersting excavation area including the best examples of sculptural relief art, moonstone and dvarapala and Samadhi Buddha, and thirdly the Jetavanarama compund with the largest Dagaba at all, it has been adequately restored in the beginning of the 21st century.
Besides those main attractions, further antiquities can be found in an area stretching 10 km from north to south, rock temples, forest monasteries, gardens, stone bridges, bathes, and last not least ancient tanks that once were the source of wealth of the highly developed ancient Sinhalese civilisation.
A full day is just enough to see the most important sites in Anuradhapura. You could spend a full week to explore Anuradhapura and its surroundings (Mihintale, Tantirimale, Hatthikucchi) with discovering something new every day. Next year this blog will start a monthly series describing famous and unknown places of interest in and around Anuradhapura for travellers interested in the rich history and heritage of Sri Lanka.
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