A tour of Anuradhapura, situated in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka, should begin early in the morning to cover a distance of about 180 km. from Negombo which is about a four-hour journey via Puttalam and Wilpattu National Park. This is a sacred city where the sacred Bo-Tree known by Buddhists as ‘Sri Maha Bodhi” stands at the Mahamewna Gardens. According to history, this was planted from a twig of the southern branch of the Sacred Bo-Tree at Buddagaya in India where Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment. This bo-twig was brought to Sri Lanka by Sangamitta Thera in 249 B.C. during the reign of King Dewanam Piyatissa The Sri Maha Bodhi is held in high esteem and venerated by Buddhists from all over the world. A tour of the old city of Anuradhapura would consume about two hours. Buddhists make pilgrimages to Anuradhapura to venerate ‘Atamasthana’ meaning the eight places of worship. It will be an unforgettable experience of a lifetime to visit these ancient monuments built by the powerful kings of Sri Lanka.
‘Atamasthana’(the eight places of worship) are The Sri Maha Bodhi which is described above, Ruwaveliseya, the 2172 year- old bulb-shaped 338 feet. The stupa on top the highest in Sri Lanka build by King Dutugemunu is believed to contain a massive treasure of invaluable gems and gold and a dome made of gold and with relics of Lord Buddha buried within the stupa which is situated in the close proximity of Sri Maha Bodhi. Thuparama is believed to the first stupa in the island build by King Devnam Piyatissa in the shape of a granary. Situated on the right of the road to Ruwaveliseya, Lowamahapaya was also built by King Dutugemunu to fulfill a vow made by King Devnam Piyatissa to Mahinda Thero. Abhayagiriya is an ancient temple built by King Walagamba dwelled by about 5000 Buddhists and in which a golden casket containing relics of Buddha is buried. Jetavanarama is the larges of stupas in Sacred City, 11000 feet in circumference , the stupa alone covering an area of 3 acres in a land of 8 acres and believed to be second in size only to the pyramids of Egypt .Mirisawetiya, a stupa 200 feet tall was the first stupa built by King Dutugemunu at a place where Lord Buddha is believed to have set his foot. Lankaramaya is a stupa built by King Walgamba for he monks. Other than these monuments the other sights that a visitor should visit are the Koottam Pokuna ( Couple Bathing Ponds) built for the royalty during the reign of ancient kings, the archaeological museum which is a National Museum where you may see ancient Buddha statues, inscriptions, drawings, puppets, coins, jewelleries, beads and other miscellaneous things. The “Samadhi Buddha Statue” is situated in Mahamewna Garden and is a wonderful creation of sculpture depicting Lord Buddha sitting cross-legged with upturned palms on either side of the laps and in deep meditation. Two of the largest lakes are’ Thisawewa’ and Nuwwara Wewa. Near Thisawewa is another large lake ‘ Basawakkulama’. The ‘Isurumuni Temple’ is also in close proximity and the “Lovers of Isurumuniya’ a world renewed marvel of art of ancient sculpture on granite.
Seven kilometers away from Anuradhapura is “Mihintale’ a rocky hill on which the Buddhist Monk, Mahinda Thero met King Devanam Piyatissa, the site and occasion when Buddhism was first introduced to Sri Lanka on the full moon day of the month of ‘Poson’ (June) It is a sacred site and pilgrims from all over the country visit this site, especially on Poson full moon day. On its right-hand side is the ancient ‘Black Water Pond and the rooms where King Kashpyapa used to meditate. In front are the ruins of the ancient hospital built by King Kashpyapa. On this tour you may learn about the calm and simple rural life of villagers whose main occupation is chena cultivation.