Thuparama (or “The Stupa”) dagoba was the first one to be built in Sri Lanka. Which unfortunatel in the 7th century was destructed and on its ground a circular relic house was built of what we now see are the unsteady pillars. The dagoba in the middle is a 19th century reconstruction and looks like a bell
This huge white dagoba, west of Jetava monastery is also mentioned as Maha Thupa (Great Stupa) though it’s not the biggest in Anuradhapura (55m high). In its original form it represented a perfect hemisphere. It stands on a terrace decorated by elephant heads (new due restoration) which according to Buddhist cosmology they also hold up the earth.
Painted white and being fully restored, it’s a popular pilgrimage site as it is believed to enshrine various remains of Buddha (take off shoes please!!) and a favorite spot for family photos!!
Jetavana monastery was founded on the 3rd century AD on the grounds where Mahinda once preached and later cremated. It is a more recent building in the history of Anuradhapura, that was raised due to controversies between the king and monks from existing Mahavihara monastery.
The enormous red-brick dagoba standing on a raised platform, is the centerpiece of Jetavana monastery. At its time of construction was the 3rd highest building in the world, reaching 120m height. But while nowadays modern skyscrapers surpass it, the dagoba is still the biggest stupa and the biggest brick-made structure.
Today restoration is still being made to the top portion.
The major pilgrimage site in Mahavihara monastery is undoubtly the Sri Maha Bodhi (Sacred Bo Tree). According to the legend, this holy tree grew from a cutting from the original tree in India under which shadow Buddha attained enlightenment (this original tree doesn’t exist). Lots of pilgrimage makes the major crowd around and we observed monks preaching and playing along with the crowds.
Anuradhapura is spread over a wide area, but the most significant sights lie within between the Abhayagiri Monastery (north) ruins (Dagoba, Mahasen’s Palace, Twin Baths, Samadi Buddha), Jetavana (centre, along with the citadel) and Mahanihara Monasteries (south - the later housing the Sacred Bo tree)
This rock temple dated back to the 3rd century. All history can be found from your travel guide book. There is a reclining Buddha cut from the rock. The view from the top which you can see the “tank” is superb for sunset. Be sure you go to see the best known sculptures, the “lovers” which dated back to the 5th century. See more pics for the buddha and "the lovers".
Admission to the temple. Rs100
Mihintale is revered as the place where the Indian emperor Asoka's son Mahinda converted King Devanampiya Tissa to Buddhism in 243 BC, thus making Sri Lanka a Buddhist island. If you're not up to climbing over 1800 steps to get to the top, you can save some energy by asking a three-wheeler to drive you to the upper car park (Rs 90). From there you can visit the Kantaka Chetiya - the oldest dagoba at the site - and the Lion Bath, before making your way up the final 400 steps to the sacred centre, which is the real highlight of Mihintale. Great views can be had from the imposing Mayaseya Dagoba, as well as from the Aradhana Gala, the mediation rock from which a novice called upon the gods and deities to listen to Mahinda's first sermon.
This peaceful ancient city is just 11km away from Anuradhapura and is easily accessible by regular buses from the New Bus Stand for about Rs 15. Entrance to the sacred centre costs Rs 250 and is not included in the Cultural Triangle Ticket.
This is one of the most interesting sites in Anuradhapura, and even though it is not included in the Cultural Triangle Round Ticket you really should not miss it. The monastery is carved out of a jungle of huge black boulders and contains a large reclining Buddha. There is a small attractive man-made pool in the front, with images of elephants carved into the boulders at the back of the pool. A staircase is carved out of the boulders, allowing you to climb up to the top for a view of the grounds and the Tissa Wewa lake beyond. At the exit from the reclining Buddha room, there is a cleft in the rock that is home to a colony of bats. The museum to the left of the entrance houses several pieces of sculpture, the most famous of which is the one called 'The Lovers.'
This museum is small but has a few items of interest, the most unusual of which is the collection of ancient stone urinals outside in the garden (they are not much different from the squat toilets found in many Asian countries today). There is also a model of the Thuparama Dagoba which explains what the vatadage would have looked like.
This dagoba is an active site of pilgrimage as it is said to house the right collar-bone of the Buddha. It is surrounded by concentric circles of monolithic stone pillars, some of which are now leaning over at crazy angles. These were built in the seventh century to support a vatadage, a protective roofed covering to shelter the dagoba.
Until recently this ancient dagoba was covered in thick vegetation, but it is now getting a facelift like so many other Buddhist sites around the world. Since Buddhists believe they will earn merit by restoring or repainting monuments (or covering them in gold leaf), many historic sites are renovated to look brand-new, often losing much of their appeal in the eyes of tourists. Personally I would have liked to have seen this monument in its overgrown state; right now it is covered in unsightly scaffolding and corrugated tin, and once finished it will probably look exactly the other dagobas at Anuradhapura.
Since the Mahasena Palace was built mostly of wood, all that remains are the stone pillars and foundations of the buildings, so it is hard to imagine what they originally looked like. There are a couple of fine decorative elements that are still intact, however, and are definitely worth a look. The first is a guardstone, a beautifully-carved image commonly found on either side of a staircase in Buddhist architecture. The second is a wonderful example of a moonstone. These are typically found at the foot of a staircase or at the entrance to an important building. They are carved in concentric semi-circular rings in the shape of half-moons, and each ring has its own symbolic significance. The outer ring shows the flames of fire through which one must pass to be purified. The next ring shows four animals respresenting the four stages of birth and death: elephant (birth), horse (old age), lion (illness), and bull (death and decay). The third row shows the twisting serpent of lust and desire, and the fourth shows geese carrying lotus buds, representing purity. The lotus flower in the centre symbolises nirvana.
This serene sitting Buddha statue was sculpted in the fourth century AD and is quite well-preserved considering its age. People used to say that the expression on his face changed as the sunlight moved across it, but it is now sheltered under a roof to protect it from the weather. There are plenty of scattered ruins in the verdant countryside nearby.
These so-called twin ponds were built in the 8th and 9th centuries as ritual baths and were probably used by the monastery or university nearby. They are not really twins as one is about ten metres longer than the other. The attractive stone enclosures with steps leading down to the water are in a peaceful, lush setting.
This is what Jetavanarama Dagoba would look like if it were fully reconstructed. It is almost identical architecturally; even the elephant sculptures on the side panels are there. The ones you will notice first, however, are the hundreds of elephants lining the outer wall. These have also been heavily restored, but a few have been left in their original condition of crumbling brick. The huge dagoba is covered in whitewash, with a few splashes of silver paint.