Anuradhapura, the main   city of the North-Central province 128 miles away from Colombo, is the first   capital of ancient Ceylon, initially found by Prince Wijaya and his crew. The   city boasts a history of 1500 years of royalty, starting from 05th Century BC   till 10th Century AD, during the period, where 123 kings are said to have been   in rule. The inception of the city is accredited to three legends, of which the   accepted is that a General of Prince Wijaya named Anuradha inaugurated the   initial establishment of the city in a village scale, which grew and expanded   its boundaries with time. Thus, the city was given the name Anuradhapura, to   commemorate his act. Another legend depicts that ninety kings ruled the city,   baptizing the city as Anu-raja-pura, meaning the city of ninety kings. The final   legend applies beliefs in Astrology and auspicious times, as the foundation of   the city is said to have been laid at the Anura auspicious time, leading the   city to be named Anuradhapura. The first recorded king of Anuradhapura is King   Pandukhabhaya who was also the first Sinhalese King. He is said to have   restructured the former Anuradhagama and re–established it near Kadamba Nadee   (present Malvatu Oya), completing it with amenities such as reservoirs, houses   for citizens, hospitals, stupas, dwellings for priests and cemeteries etc.
The most noteworthy event in the history of Anuradhapura was the   establishment of Budhhism in Ceylon, as Arihath Mahinda Thero and seven monks   who accompanied him to Ceylon were met by King Devenampiyathissa during his   hunting expedition in a full moon lit night in the month of June (Poson).   Buddhism was acknowledged by the king himself and he took initiative to spread   the religion among his people who were believers of non-existing gods, who said   to have lived in the forests and caves. This great step taken in cultivating a   civilization in the country was further endorsed by the arrival of Sanghamittha   Thero, the sister of Arihath Mahinda Thero, who brought a sapling of the Bo tree   that sheltered Lord Buddha during his enlightenment. This sapling was planted in   Anuradhapura and the king was nominated as its rightful caretaker.
Mahavihara                     Mahavihara was the most important Vihara   of Sri Lanka. It was founded in the 4th century BC by King Devanampiyatissa. The   only remains of the magnificent buildings of the ancient monastery are the stone   pillars that are scattered all over the large area.
Sri maha bodhiya                     Sri Maha bodhi, the oldest   historical tree of the world. is found within the precincts of the Mahavihara.   It is also the most sacred place in Sri Lanka and is found on the highest   terrace, surrounded by a number of other Bodhi trees. The visitors can go only   up to the middle terrace, as it is looked after very well observing all the   traditions handed down from generation to generation. The Sri Maha Bodhi   Viharaya is found on the lower terrace and adjacent to the terrace of the Sacred   Bodhi Tree. These are enclosed by a parepet wall.

Ruwanweliseya                     Ruwanweliseya renovated during the last   century, was originally built by King Dutugemunu in the 2nd Century BC. This was   also known as the Mahaseya, and is the most celebrated stupa in Sri Lanka. The   remains of the ancient buildings and architecture include the statues of King   Dutugemunu, his mother Vihara Maha Devi, stone pillars’ moon stones and many   more.LovamahapayaLovamahapaya also known as the Brazen Palace, too was also   constructed by king Dutugemunu. The formation was the assembly hall of the   Mahavihara. The only remains of this massive hall are 1600 stone pillars   standing in 40 rows.
Thuparamaya                     Thuparamaya was the   first stupa built in Sri Lanka after Buddhism was introduced by Arahath Mahinda   Thero. In the 07th Century BC it was in ruins and after it was restored, a   WATADAGE was added. The concentric stone pillars standing right round the stupa   are the remains of the old Watadage.

                    Jetawanaramaya                     Jetavanaramaya, built by Mahasena (275   – 301), is the highest Stupa in the world and the third highest building of the   ancient world. The monastery of this ancient stupa is no more. The excavations   and conservations of this monastety and its stupa are now being done under the   Sri Lanka – Unesco Cultural Triangle Project by the Central Cultural Fund under   the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
Abhayagiriya                     Abhayagiriya was founded in 89 BC by   King Vatte Gamini Abhaya. Soon it became the seat of the heterodox, Mahayana   doctrines, and a rival to the orthodox Mahavihara. Fa – Hsein (411-413) says   that there were 5000 monks in residence at Abhayagiriya in this time. He   describes the Stupa, the Buddha image and the tooth relic in procession. The   monastery and its ancillary buildings are no more. Only the stupa remains in   ruins. This monastery too is being excavated and conserved under the Sri Lanka   UNESCO cultural Triangle Project.
                    Daladage                     Daladage is the site where the ancient Tooth   Relic Temple was found. The Sacred Tooth Relic was brought to Sri Lanka in the   region of Sirimeghavanna (301 – 308). The king housed it in the DHAVIMAKAKKA   VIHARA that had been built by King Devanampiyatissa (307 BC – 267 BC).   Thereafter this came to be known by the name Daladage which has been identified   by an inscription in situ by Mahinda (956 -972). The tall stone columns are the   only remains of it.

Raja Maliga                     This was the site of the ancient Palace built   by King Vijayabahu (1055 -1110).It was an unpretentious building and the king   resided in it for a few months. After he shifted the capital to Polonnaruwa this   might have been the Royal Palace whenever he visited the ancient capital. This   has been conserved and the guard stones at the entrance to the main building are   excellent.

Kuttampokuna                     Kuttam Pokuna or the Twin Ponds are a fine   example of the landscape architecture in this ancient city. This is a massive   stone structure with flights of steps on all four sides, leading to the   water.

Samadhi Buddha Image   This is one of the finest pieces of   Sinhalese art. In the sculpture the Buddha is depicted in the state of mind   explained in Pali by the term NIRODHA- SAMPATHTHI extinction of feeling and   perception. It is a state in which all consciousness and mental activities are   temporarily suspended. Therefore the explanations like “the Buddha in   meditation” are not correct.

Tapowanaya                     Thapowanaya has a group of fourteen structures   to the west of the city. These are now generally referred to by the name the   Western Monasteries. This was the monastery where the forest monks lived. Some   of these monks observed a rigid rule according to which they wore only those   robes which are made of rags from corpses. These monks led a simple and ascetic   life.

Mirisawetiya Stupa                     This was built by King Dutugamunu in   gratitude for his victory over the Tamil invaders led by Elara. The King’s spear   along with the Buddha’s relic is enshrined in this stupa. The extensive ruins   around the stupa indicate some of the magnificent buildings of the ancient   monastery which had been at this site. The stupa is now being restored.

                    Dakkhina Vihara                     Dakkhina Vihara was found by Uttiya,   a minister of Vattagamini Abhaya (BC 89-77), its stupa has been well conserved.   This was built over the cremation site of King Dutugemunu. The Viharaya was   endowed with a monastery, a refectory and other buildings necessary for a   temple. Today only the remains of some of them are found.

Isurumuniya                     Isurumuniya has been identified as the   ancient Megha Giri Viharaya where rain making ceremonies were carried out, some   of the sculptures of this temple are the most beautiful works of art in   Anuradhapura. The sculptures of a man and a horse and that of the lovers have   been widely discussed by scholars.

Vessagiriya                     It was a monastery founded in the 03rd   Century BC. The remains of the ancient monastery are scattered over an extensive   area. This was considered a suitable dwelling place for the ascetic monks. The   caves in this site were converted to dwellings for the priests. This is another   fine example of landscaped architecture. According to the inscriptions available   at the site, this site has now been identified as the lsurumuni Vihara of the   Chronicles. As a result, Vessagiriya is yet to be identified.

Tholuwila                     Tholuwila is the present name of the city where   the remains of an ancient monastery was found. The seated Buddha statue   discovered here is now in the Colombo National Museum. This is considered as one   of the greatest works of art. The site of this ancient monastery has been   disturbed by works of modern civilization. The remains of the image house and   many other buildings are scattered here and there.