Anuradhapura is a major city in Sri Lanka. It is the capital city of North Central Province, Sri Lanka and the capital of Anuradhapura District. Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of an ancient Sinhala civilization. It was the third capital of the kingdom of Rajarata, following the kingdoms of Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara.
The city, now a World Heritage site, was the centre of Theravada Buddhism for many centuries. The city lies 205 km (127 mi) north of the current capital of Colombo in the North Central Province, on the banks of the historic Malvathu River. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka.
It is believed that from the fourth century BCE until the beginning of the 11th century CE it was the capital of the Sinhalese. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centres of political power and urban life in South Asia. The ancient city, considered sacred to the Buddhist world, is today surrounded by monasteries covering an area of over 16 square miles (41 km2).
Although according to historical records the city was founded in the 5th century BC, the archaeological data put the date as far back as the 10th century BC Very little evidence was available about the period before the 5th century BC (i.e. the protohistoric period), though excavations have revealed information about the earlier inhabitants of the city.
Further excavations in Anuradhapura have uncovered information about the existence of a protohistoric habitation of humans in the citadel. The protohistoric Iron Age, which spans from 900 to 600 BC, marked the appearance of iron technology, pottery, the horse, domestic cattle and paddy cultivation. In the time period 700 to 600 BC, the settlement in Anuradhapura had grown over an area of at least 50 hectares (120 acres). The city was strategically situated of major ports northwest and northeast. It was surrounded by irrigable and fertile land. The city was also buried deep in the jungle providing natural defence from invaders.
With the introduction of Buddhism, the city gained more prominence and the great building era began. The Mahavansa states that King Kutakannatissa built the first city wall to a height of seven cubits with a moat in front of the wall. This fortification was further enlarged by raising the wall a further 11 cubits to 18 cubits by King Vasabha. The king also added fortified gatehouses at the entrances of which the ruins can be seen to date. The Mahavamsa also states that soothsayers and architects were consulted in the construction.
Anuradhapura was a major intellectual centre for early Theravāda Buddhism, home to revered Buddhist philosophers including Buddhaghosa.
During the late Anuradhapura period, the royal family and nobility of Sri Lanka strongly supported Buddhism. As such, they frequently commissioned works of art and donated these items to Buddhist temples. In return, the temple and local Buddhist community supported the king's rule. Art works featuring depictions of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of Mercy and Compassion, became increasing popular
The architectural remains can still be seen and gives a glimpse of what had been the country at that time.Abayagiri Stupa or the Abayagiri Dageba was constructed in 1 Century BC by King Vattagamini Abaya. The Abayagiri complex covers an area of 200 hectares. The height of the stupa is 235 feet and has a diameter of 310 feet at the base of the dome. It is built on a stone paved platform.The techniques used in Anuradhapura era is outstanding.