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Anuradhapura is known as the historic and ancient capital of the country and was founded by Anuradha who was a follower of King Vijaya. It was named as the capital of the island by King Pandukabhaya in 337 BC and the city was a model of immaculate planning. The precincts were set aside for huntsmen, scavengers and for heretics as well as for foreigners. There were hostels, hospitals and cemeteries for high and low castes alike. An advanced system for water supply was assured by the construction of tanks, artificial reservoirs, of which the one named after the king itself exists to this day under the altered name of Baswakkulam.

It was during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa (250 – 210 BC) that the nation and the city adopted Buddhism as its official religion with the visit of Thero Arahat Mahinda the son of the great Buddhist emperor Ashoka from India who disrupted the king on a deer hunt and convinced him to convert to Buddhism. A sapling from the sacred Bo Tree under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment was brought from Bodhgaya in India by Ashoka’s daughter and planted in Anuradhapura. The site was known thereafter as the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. It is considered as the most sacred tree in the world and worshiped by millions. The King himself donated land for a great monastery in the very heart of the city which was also his own Royal Park – the beautiful Mahamegha Gardens or pleasure gardens.

Other key monuments of note to see in the ancient city are the equally immense and majestic Stupa’s Abhayagiri and Jetawanaramaya. Further the rock carvings at the ancient Isurumuniya Temple as well as the Twin Ponds showcase the artistic sophistication of Sri Lankans dating back thousands of years. Anuradhapura is today declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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