Anuradhapura is a major city in Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of North Central Province and one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of ancient Sri Lankan civilization. The city lies 205 km north of the current capital Colombo, in Sri Lanka’s 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.
King Pandukabhaya, the founder and first ruler of the Anuradhapura Kingdom, fixed village boundaries in the country and established an administration system by appointing village headmen. He constructed hermitages, houses for the poor, cemeteries, and irrigation tanks. He brought a large portion of the country under the control of the Anuradhapura Kingdom. However, it was not until the reign of King Dutta Gamani Abhaya (161–137 BC) that the whole country was unified under the Anuradhapura Kingdom. He defeated 32 rulers in different parts of the country before he killed Elara, the South Indian ruler who was occupying Anuradhapura, and ascended to the throne.
The chronicle Mahawamsa describes his reign with much praise, and devotes 11 chapters out of 37 for his reign. He is described as both a warrior king and a devout Buddhist. After unifying the country, he helped establish Buddhism on a firm and secure base, and built several monasteries and shrines including the Ruwanweliseya and Lovamahapaya.
Another notable king of the Anuradhapura Kingdom is Vatta gamani Abhaya, (103-89-77 BC) who was overthrown by five invaders from South India. He regained his throne after defeating these invaders one by one and unified the country again under his rule.
During the times of Vasabha, Mahasena (274–301) and Dhatusena, the construction of large irrigation tanks and canals was given priority. Vasabha constructed 11 tanks and 12 canals, Mahasen constructed 16 tanks and a large canal, and Dhatusena built 18 tanks. Most of the other kings have also built irrigation tanks throughout Rajarata the area around Anuradhapura. By the end of the Anuradhapura Kingdom, a large and intricate irrigation network was available throughout Rajarata to support the agriculture of the country.
Arrival of Buddhism
One of the most notable events during the Anuradhapura Kingdom was the introduction of Buddhism to the country. A strong alliance existed between Devanam Piya Tissa (250–210 BC) and Asoka of India,who Sent Arahat Mahinda, four monks, and a novice being sent to Sri Lanka.They encountered Devanampiya Tissa at Mihintale. After this meeting, Devanampiya Tissa embraced Buddhism the order of monks was established in the country. Devanampiya Tissa, guided by Arahat Mahinda, took steps to firmly establish Buddhism in the country.
Arrival of the Sacred Bodhi Tree
Soon afterwards, the Sanghamitta theroni, arrived from India in order to establish the Bikshuni Sasana (order of nuns) in the country. She brought along with her a sapling from the Sri Maha Bodhi, the tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, which was then planted in Anuradhapura. Devanampiya Tissa bestowed on his kingdom the newly planted Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.Thus this is the establishment of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.
Arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic
During the reign of Kithsirimevan(301-328 AD) Sudatta, the sub king of Kalinga, and Hemamala brought the Tooth Relic of the Buddha to Sri Lanka because of unrest in their country. Kithsirimevan carried it in procession and placed the relic in a mansion named Datadhatughara. He ordered this procession to be held annually, and this is still done as a tradition in the country. The Tooth Relic of the Buddha soon became one of the most sacred objects in the country, and a symbol of kingship. The person who was in possession of the Tooth Relic would be the rightful ruler of the country. Therefore, it was often enshrined within the royal palace itself.
End of the kingdom
In 10th century (993 AD) the Chola Emperor Rajaraja invaded Sri Lanka, forcing the then Sri Lankan ruler Mahinda V to flee to the southern part of the country.The chronicle Mahavamsa describes the rule of Mahinda V as weak, and the country was suffering from poverty by this time. It further mentions that his army rose against him due to lack of wages. Taking advantage of this situation, Rajendra son of Rajaraja, launched a large invasion in 1017. Mahinda V was captured and taken to India, and the Cholas sacked the city of Anuradhapura. They moved the capital to Polonnaruwa and subsequent Sri Lankan rulers who came into power after the Chola reign continued to use Polonnaruwa as the capital, thus ending the Anuradhapura Kingdom.
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