Cultural Places in Sri Lanka

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The Cultural Triangle has brought Sri Lanka’s history alive in the most enthralling manner for millions of travellers. It covers the north central towns of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Dambulla where extensive archeological ruins provide a glimpse into the island’s history, dating back to the 4th century BC. It is here that Sri Lanka’s kings developed remarkably advanced civilisations. The extensive archeological ruins of the Cultural Triangle are now protected by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. The central plains have low rainfall and several hotels are sumptuous enough to provide a holiday in their own right.


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.


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.


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.

Dambulla Cave Temple

Dambulla Cave Temple 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.


This sacred Buddhist site, popularly known as the city of Senkadagalapura, was the last capital of the Sinhala kings whose patronage enabled the Dinahala culture to flourish for more than 2,500 years until the occupation of Sri Lanka by the British in 1815. It is also the site of the Temple of the Tooth Relic (the sacred tooth of the Buddha), which is a famous pilgrimage site.

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