Sri Lanka’s royal medieval capital for nearly a century from 1073, Polonnaruwa had been a military base for invading Chola tribes, from southern India, until they were overthrown by the Sinhalese king, Vijayabahu I in 1070. The next king, Parakramabahu I, was the main driving force behind the development of Polonnuruwa. It remained Sri Lanka’s capital until the late 13C, but became increasingly susceptible to Chola invasions and it became lost to the jungle once more as the capital drifted south-west.
Today, the ancient city’s ruins remain in remarkably good nick, and are a fascinating site to visit.
The caves at first came into use as a refuge for King Valagambahu in 1st century BC. Concealed by the local monks, upon returning from exile to his throne at Anuradhapura,
he had the magnificent cave temple built for them. The cave temple consists of a complex of Buddhist image houses. Its rock ceiling is one large sweep of colorful frescoes, some of which dates back to over 2,000 years, which depicts Buddhist mythology,
and the tales of the Buddha's previous births. This cave temple has the largest number of Buddha statues all housed in one place, including a 14 meter long, colossal figure of the recumbent Buddha carved out of the rock.
Sigiriya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most dramatic historical locations in the world. A mythical past of feuding dynasties suits Sigiriya’s inspiring setting.
It was built in 5th century AD by king, Kasyapa, as a fortress-palace. It is believed that some of the paintings may have been wiped out during subsequent years when Sigirya was used as a Buddhist monastery.
Worthy of being called the “eighth wonder of the world”, Sigiriya is Sri Lanka’s answer to the Taj Mahal and will astonish anyone with its outstandingly beautiful views, staggering engineering and peerless design.
Sri Lanka’s first capital, Anuradhapura, was the greatest monastic city of the ancient world.
It was royal capital for more than 100 Sri Lankan kings and at its heights was home to thousands of monks from dozens of monasteries. Originally founded by a minister called Anuradha, in the 4th century BC, it became the capital of Sri Lanka two centuries later.
The ruins of Mahavihara, the first monastery, built by King Devanam Piyatissa in 250 B.C.E, and several other monasteries and temples can be seen.
One of Sri Lanka’s most significant religious sites, Mihintale lies 13kms east of Anuradhapura and is where Buddhism originated on the island.
In 247 BC King Devanampiya Tissa of Anuradhapura, was deer hunting on the plains beneath Mihintale, and met Mahinda, son of the Indian Buddhist emperor,
and chose the path of Buddhism for the Sinhalese nation following Mahinda’s persuasion.