North Central Province

Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is a major city in Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of North Central Province, Sri Lanka and the capital of Anuradhapura District. Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sri Lankan civilization. It was the third capital of the Kingdom of Rajarata, following the kingdoms of Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara. The city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the centre of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. The city lies 205 km north of the current capital Colombo in the North Central Province, on the banks of the historic Malvathu Oya. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka. It is believed that from the fourth century BC until the beginning of the 11th century AD it was the capital of the Sinhalese. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centres of political power and urban life in South Asia. The ancient city, considered sacred to the Buddhist world, is today surrounded by monasteries covering an area of over sixteen square miles.

♦   Weather: 31°C, Wind NE at 2 km/h, 44% Humidity
♦   Postal code: 50000
♦   Province: North Central Province
♦   Population: 50,595 (2012)

Mihintale

Eight miles (12.875 Km) east of Anuradhapura, close to the Anuradhapura - Trincomalee Road is situated the "Missaka Pabbata" which is 1,000 feet (300 m) in height and is one of the peaks of a mountainous range. According to Dipavansa and Mahavansa, Thera Mahinda came to Sri Lanka from "lankapura" on the full moon day of the month of Poson (June) and met King Devanampiyatissa and the people, and preached the doctrine. The traditional spot where this meeting took place is revered by the Buddhists of Sri Lanka. Therefore, in the month of Poson, Buddhists make their pilgrimage to Anuradhapura and Mihintale.

“Mahinda” was the son of Emperor Ashoka. King Ashoka embraced Buddhism after he was inspired by a very small monk named “Nigrodha.” The King who was in great misery after seeing the loss of life caused by his waging wars to expand his empire, was struck by the peaceful countenance of such a young monk. Meeting this young monk made a turning point in his life and he thereafter, renounced wars. He was determined to spread the message of peace, to neutralize the effects from the damages caused by him through his warfare. As a result, both his son and daughter were ordained as Buddha disciples, and became enlightened as Arahats. In his quest to spread the message of peace instead of war, he sent his son Mahinda, to the island of Lanka, which was also known as “Sinhalé”. This island was being ruled by his pen friend King Devanampiyatissa. Thus, “Mahinda” was the exclusive name which in Sinhalé, became commonly known as “Mihindu” in the local vernacular “Sinhala”.

In Sinhala Mihin-Thalé literally means the “plateau of Mihindu”. This plateau is the flat terrain on top of a hill from where Arahat Mihindu was supposed to have called King Devanampiyatissa, by the King’s first name to stop him shooting a deer in flight. Hence, “Mihin Thalé” is a specifically Sinhala term. This is how the place has been called and still is, in the local vernacular “Sinhala”. A study of the local vernacular will give ample proof for this. This is said have been called "Chetiyagiri" or "Sagiri", even though it was more popularly known as Mihintale - the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. From ancient times a large number of large steps were constructed to climb Mihintale. It is stated that King Devanampiyatissa constructed a vihara and 68 caves for the bhikkhus to reside in. At Mihintale there gradually grew a number of Buddhist viharas with all the dependent buildings characteristic of monasteries of that period.

 

 

 

 

Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa is the main town of Polonnaruwa District in North Central Province, Sri Lanka. Kaduruwela area is the Polonnaruwa New Town and the other part of Polonnaruwa remains as the royal ancient city of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa. The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated Chola invaders in 1070 to reunite the country once more under a local leader.The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa has been declared a World Heritage Site. While Vijayabahu’s victory and shifting of kingdoms to the more strategic Polonnaruwa is considered significant, the real “Hero of Polonnaruwa” of the history books is actually Parakramabahu I. It was his reign that is considered the Golden Age of Polonnaruwa. Trade and agriculture flourished under the patronage of the king, who was so adamant that no drop of water falling from the heavens was to be wasted and each was to be used toward the development of the land. Hence, irrigation systems that are far superior to those of the Anuradhapura Age were constructed during Parakramabahu’s reign – systems which to this day supply the water necessary for paddy cultivation during the scorching dry season in the east of the country. The greatest of these systems is the Parakrama Samudra or the Sea of Parakrama. The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa was completely self-sufficient during King Parakramabahu’s reign.

Aukana

The massive Buddha statue that had been carved out of a single rock stands peacefully amidst the temple precincts in the sacred city of Anuradhapura. Dedication of the skilled artisans is apparent in the creation for it carries 16 features of Lord Buddha out of 32 that reflect his enlightenment and greatness. The statue being one of the tallest Buddha statues in the country reflects the serenity of Lord Buddha. It is noteworthy that this statue is engraved in such a way even a drop of rainwater would flow along a path over the nose of the statue preserving it. Many people visit the sacred grounds and leave awed by the kindness and compassion of Lord Buddha that is visible on the face of the statue. 

Medirigiriya 

Medirigiriya Vatadage is situated in middle of a dry zone forest area adding to its mystic view and has a history going back to the pre-Christian times. The brami characters found on the bricks and the some of the stone carvings is an indication of the long history of this site. The first reference to this site in the chronicles is during the king Kanittha Tissa (192-194) of the Anuradhapura Era. Later many kings have contributed to this complex and finally after the invasion of Maga this site too was abandoned when the Sinhalese migrated to the southern parts unable to withstand the torture.

This site was later discovered in 1897 in the middle of a thick jungle by Mr H.C.P Bell and he immediately realised the importance of the site calling it an architectural jewel. Initially the restoration work was done by mainly Muslim labourers as the Buddhist labourers did not want to work at a Buddhist temple for money. This they felt was a sin. This restoration work was finally completed in 1945 and was open to the public giving a glimpse of what this temple would have looked over 1000 years ago.

In 1937, 600 acres were reserved for this archaeological site due to the large number of ruins found in this area. But when this area started to populate with people migrating from various parts of the country, they gradually started destroying and removing these invaluable ruins for sale and as well as to remove any signs of ruins and capture the land. Today only 250 acres remains of the original 600 acres and none of the ruins which filled the landscape around the Vatadage.

Ritigala

Ritigala mountain is 2,513 feet above sea level, three miles long and lies in a north-south direction. It is the highest mountain in northern Sri Lanka and in the rainy season its summit is often shrouded in mist and cloud. The modern name Ritigala is derived from the ancient name mentioned in the Mahavamsa, Arittha Pabbata, pabbata meaning a mountain and arittha meaning dreadful, or alternatively safety. It was from here, says the great Hindu epic, that Hanuman leapt back to India to tell Rama that his kidnapped wife Sita, had been found.

These are at least 70 caves at Ritigala which were prepared for monks between the 1st century BCE and the early centuries CE. An inscription in one of these caves mentions that King Lanjatissa the brother of Duttagamini gifted it and he probably founded the first monastery at Ritigala. The Culavamsa tells us that King Sena I built a monastery here for the Pansakulika monks and provided it with numerous slaves and servants. It is the ruins of this monastery that the modern pilgrim sees today. Sometime during the 8th century a group of monks broke away from the Abhayagiri and called themselves the Pansakulikas, that is ‘The Rag-robe Warers’. Wearing robes made out of rags, usually shrouds picked up from cemeteries, is one of the thirteen ascetic practices (dhutanga) allowed by the Buddha.

The fact that the Pansakulikas chose to name themselves after this particular practice suggests that they were reformers, probably protesting against what they a saw as the comfort and indolence of the city monks. However, the remains of their monasteries suggest that they were something more than just a ‘back to the forest movement’. All of their monasteries have certain mysterious features unique in Sri Lankan monastic architecture; long paved paths often with roundabouts in them, large stone-lined and stepped reservoirs and strangest of all so-called double platforms. These platforms are made out of huge slabs of beautifully cut stone and always occur in twos, joined by a bridge. They are usually built on natural rock foundations and are always aligned in the same direction. Near the platforms is often found a so-called urinal stone some of which are elaborately decorated. In fact, these ‘urinal stones’ are the only things in Pansakulika monasteries with any decorations on them at all. Further, no stupas, image houses, temples or images have ever been found at Pansakulika sites.

 

Somawathiya Stupa

Somawathi Stupa is located in the middle of the jungle, in Polonnaruwa district. From Polonnaruwa, you have to travel to Sungavila and then take a lengthy road which leads to the temple through the Jungle. Early days this was a dusty gravel road, but recent road construction enabled devotees to reach this grate stupa without much hassle. Its recommended to go Somawathiya in dry season, because there is a probability that the area get flooded during the raining time. Somawathi stupa has written historical evidence that it was constructed in 2nd century BC. This dageba was named for the princes Somawathi, the sister of king Kawanthissa.. She got married to prince Abhaya, a nephew of of king Shiva of Kelaniya. He was the ruler of the Somapura Kingdom, which was located by the Mahaveli river.

They constructed a new temple in their kingdom and searching for a "dathu" to deposit in the stupa. They received the right side tooth relic of load Buddha from reverent arahath Mahinda thero. According to the historical facts, this dageba was constructed with depositing them.With the end of Polonnaruwa kingdom, the Somawathiya Viharaya became a uninhabited area and forgotten for more than 800 years. In 1947, the first premier of Sri lanka, Mr D.S. Senanayake make this area habitat for the civilian. This was under his new agricultural program. Some of the newly settle people found some radiance emitted from this place and informed the authorities. Thats the rediscovery of the Somawathi Stupa.

Reconstruction of this place started in year 1966 and completed in 1981 with "Koth Peladavima". During the reconstruction, authorities decided to keep a small strip of the dageba, in the original look, with out plastering. So still you can see the small part of the first structure done by princes Somawathi and Princes Giri Aba and the second reconstruction done around it by king Kanitta Thissa in 164 AD. Somawathi Stupaya is considered as a place which eminates Buddha rays. There were several such incidence happenings in the recent past and many eye witnesses also. Some times wild elephants used to come to this place and worship the stupa.

Isinbassagala Temple (Isipathana-Aramaya)

Traveling 1.4 kilometres (0.9 miles) passing the small town of Medawachchiya on the A9 (Kandy-Jaffna) highway, u will come across this beautiful stupa situated on top of a large rock and a name board claiming the name of “Isinbassagala”. The name loosely translate to “the rock that the sage came from”. This temple complex was built by the King Devanampiyathissa (250-210 BC) right after the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Today what you see at the top of this rock is recent constructions done in the 1st half of the 20th centaury. This new stupa has been built on the same location where the original stupa has been. Excavations on this stupa area has recovered an ancient Naga Gala (Cobra carved stone) and some Sri Pathul Gala (Foot Print of Buddha).

According the chief monk residing on the temple, this represents a two generations of worship culture. According to him the Snake Stone is a object of worship of the Naga (Cobra) tribes which was used before the arrival of Buddhism in the country. Later the temple has been built on the same grounds. The Sri Pathul Gala shows this era as this was the first representation of Buddha before the Buddha statues were built. The Snake Stone is now located in the “Bo Maluwa” or the area where the Bodhi tree lies and the Sri Pathul Gala is hidden away cleverly under a Buddha Statue for protection from treasure hunters.