Ancient Captials - Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura Travel Blog› entry 28 of 68 › view all entries
Anuradhapura, first capital of Sri Lanka and once one of the great centres of Buddhism in the ancient world. It first became capital in about 380 BC, but it was not until Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka about 100 years later did the city begin to flourish. It remained capital for almost 1500 years, before the capital was moved southeast to Polonnaruwa around 1000 AD.
This was my third visit to this sacred city, but first without war in the country. Anuradhapura is found in the north of the country, closer to the old war zone then any of the other places I’ve visited. So in the past everyone was a little on edge when visiting. This time around everything seemed peaceful and calm, there was a different energy to the place, very fitting.
Peaceful and calmness is fitting because Anuradhapura is home to the Sri Maha Bodhi or sacred Bodhi (or Bo) tree. The tree is a cutting from the actual Bodhi tree the Buddha gained enlightenment under in Bodhgaya, India. In fact, it is considered the oldest historically authenticated tree in the world as it has been tended to for over 2000 years by a procession of monks and guardians since it was brought to Sri Lanka by the daughter of the Great Indian Buddhist Emperor, Ashoka. The original Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya is believed to have been burnt by Ashoka’s wife, consequently a cutting was taken from Anuradhapura to Bodhgaya, where it still lives today.
At the site of the Bodhi Tree a temple has been built where people come to pay homage to the tree and to the Buddha.
Apart from the Bodhi Tree, Anuradhapura is home to numerous stupas, the most sacred of which is Ruvanvaeli Saeya. Imagine a large pure white dome with a pinancle at the top popping out of the jungle around it. Within these stupas, relics of sages or memorials to the Buddha are found.
We arrived at Ruvanvaeli Saeya late in the afternoon, almost at dusk. All other times I had visited during the day, went the heat was at its highest and thus my feet would burn as I walked the grounds. At all these temple and religious sites, everyone must remove their shoes, so this time around my feet were fine!
Once dusk hit, we where in for a special sigth. The stupa is lite up at night. All you see against the dark blue sky is this pure white dome, everything else around it dark in comparison. It definitely was beautiful to see.
Tomorrow we head to the second ancient capital of Polonnaruwa.