Sri Lanka is a well known destination for it’s fascinating cultural attractions, ancient cities and world heritage sites. The magnificent, century’s old historical ruins and monuments of the ancient cities in the island interior reveal the advanced culture of ancient civilizations of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka is one of those places where history seems to fade into the mist of legend. Is not Adam’s Peak said to be the very place where Adam set foot on earth, having been sent out of heaven? Isn’t that his footprint squarely on top of the mountain to prove it? Or is it the Buddha’s footprint on Sri Pada? And isn’t Adam’s Bridge (the chain of islands linking Sri Lanka to India) the very series of stepping stones Rama, aided by his faithful ally, the monkey god Hanuman, stepped across in his mission to rescue Sita from the clutches of the Rawana, King of Lanka, in the Indian epic Ramayana.
The first entries in the Mahavamsa – or “Great History” – date back to 543BC. Some 300 years later a sapling of the sacred Bo Tree, under which the Lord Buddha attained enlightenment, was brought to Sri Lanka. The late Anuradhapura Period, which began in the year 459, saw the construction of Sigiriya.
Built on top of a mountain, Sigiriya was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. It's Asia's best preserved city of the first millennium, showing complex urban planning around the base of the rock, and sheer bravado combined with sophisticated engineering and irrigation skills in the palace perched on the summit.
Anuradhapura, the first capital, where centuries of kings built ever-larger monuments to the Buddha.
The ancient capital shines with treasures like the Ruwanweliseya Stupa, one of the largest structures of the ancient world; the Isurumuniya Rock Temple; the Royal Twin Baths; and two huge irrigation tanks; just to name a few.
Perhaps the most impressive sculptures at Polonnaruwa are the imposing images of the Buddha located at the Gal Vihare. These four pieces of sculpture were commissioned by Parakramabahu. The first is of a seated Buddha in deep meditation, seated on a throne decorated with lions and thunderbolts. The second is inside of a cave and records in detail Parakramabahu's initiatives to unite the Buddhist order. The next sculpture stands twenty three feet high and expresses the serenity of the Buddha. The final, and most imposing, statue is of a reclining Buddha, which measures 46 feet in length. He is in the last moment of his life on earth, on the verge of entering nirvana.
The complex of caves at Dambulla is one of the most impressive Buddhist Temples in the world. There are 153 Buddha images, as well as frescoes of both a religious and secular nature. There are also four main monasteries, and it was within this complex that the monks began the militant nationalist movement against the British in 1848.
A monastic city which grew up around the cave that sheltered the first disciple of Buddhism, Mahinda.
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For more travel and background information on Sri Lanka, read our Sri Lanka Guide and the travel tips, helping you to make the most out of your holiday in Sri Lanka.