Anuradapura Historical background With the recent excavations, the history of Anuradapura goes back to the 8th C. BC. or 2700 years. However legends take the history more than 3000 – 5000 years. (Ramayana is one of them) At that time […]
Anuradapura Historical background
With the recent excavations, the history of Anuradapura goes back to the 8th C. BC. or 2700 years.
However legends take the history more than 3000 – 5000 years. (Ramayana is one of them)
At that time there were 04 tribes living in Sri Lanka.
There are evidences that international traders had visited Lanka by the time of 7-8th C BC.
Excavations in Anuradhapura revealed that when the legendary prince Wijaya arrived Lanka from India, the people were engaged in Paddy cultivation, raring of horses and using written language.Since 6thC.BC.
from time to time Aryan groups from Northern India came to Lanka and settled down along the rivers. Malwathu oya is the closest to Anuradhapura city.
The Kingship came stronger in the 4th Century BC and Seehala Deepa (Lanka) became famous among the Eastern and Western foreign traders.
The Manthei port (Present Thaleimanar) of the North West was a grand emporium on the Silk route by sea, near to Anuradapura.
There were 127 kings in the A’pura, ruled from 543 BC up to 993 AD.
Buddhism, which was introduced to the country in 247 BC.hasinfluenced the people tremendously and their way of life, arts and crafts evolved accordingly.
By the 1stC.AD.the Anuradhapura city dwellers enjoyed water,supplied by the underground pipes. Main road was 57 ft. wide.
The city had a mayor; one sixth of income had to be given to the king as taxes.
Irrigated water was supplied for a fee.
There was a system of tollgates at the city. At the sea ports custom duties were charged.
Ambassadors were sent to the Roman courts and hoards of Roman coins have been found.
The city was divided in to inner city, outer city and religious areas.
It was adorned with three main pleasure gardens – Nanadana, Maha Megha and Jothi Vana.
Maha Vihara, which was the principle monastery, managed the important shrines–
Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweli Seya, Loha Pasada, Tuparama etc. located in Mahamega wana.
Later, Jetavanarama occupied a part of the Jothi vana. The king maintained several alms halls or refectories at the entrance of the city, while each monastery had their own refectories.
At the beginning of the 10th C. AD the kingdom was invaded by South Indian Dynasty and they changed the Capital to Polonnaruwa.
Since then up to date, the Anuradapura city has not been forgotten by the people as well as Kings because of the establishment of Sri Maha Bodhi and Ruwan Veli seya.
Royal patronage was lost during the British period. Buddhist renaissance in 1870s paved the way to declare Anuradhapura a sacred city in 1956. Archeologists say A’pura is one of the largest ruined cities in Asia.
This is the place with 32 caves, where some members of the Royal family lived after they became Buddhist monks.
Later, it has been developed as a monastery complex along with Isurumuniya.
The caves with drip ledges show the ancient hydraulic management and
inscriptions show the language, Characters and literacy among the people at that time.
This is a beautiful site by the side of the Tisa weva (tank). The early history is not known.
The ‘Buddha’s Foot Prints show that the history of the place goes back to the Pre Christian Era as a Buddhist temple.
In the 4th C.AD.when the Tooth Relic was brought to Anuradhapura, it was placed here and exhibited for some days.
Archaeologists believe that this had been a wors hipping place of Parjanya – the Rain god.
However Isurumuiya is famous mainly for its sculpture, majority isnon-religious.
The bathing elephants with facial expression of joy, Man and Horse, Famous lovers, Royal family and many other sculptures, which belonged to the 7th to 9th C.AD.are considered as genius work of art of ancient Sinhalese.
The lovers have been interpreted as a son of a great king and his fiancé from a low cast family, asoldier and his fiancé. ”The famous bas relief at Isurumuniya is a fine specimen which represents the naturalistic tendency of early sculpture.
The hilt of the sword and the outline of an ornamental shield behind the right shoulder, the sensuous lips and the bulky body, and the thick waist in it indicate a figure of a human being.- a Soldier.” Martin Wickramasinha
Royal Pleasure gardens ( Ranmasu Uyana)
By the eastern bund of Tisa weva (Tank), among the outcrops of rock, the gardens are beautifully located, A net work of pipes led water all over the gardens, and the open channels which remain flow around the natural and architectural contours.
There are three rock cut baths and changing rooms.
The outer rock wall was beautifully carved with joyful bathing elephant figures.
Each bath had showers with jet attachments from which water was gushed out.
Pavilions, “Gold fish ponds” and a garden with beautiful scented flowers have been mentioned in theinscription found at the site.
Mysterious circle found at a western side of a rock is not been identified yet.
The aquatic animal figures and geometric drawings can be seen in the bands of several circles.
There are short stone seats suggesting some form of meditation.circles represent infinity?)
Sri Maha Bodhi (Ficus religiosa)
This is the second most important shrine in Sri Lanka after the Temple of the Tooth Relic and not only for the Sri Lankans but also for the whole Buddhist world.
A sapling of Bodhi tree under which, Prince Siddharta became enlightenment in India,
was brought to Seehala Deepa in236 B.C.by nun Sangamitta and planted in the Mahamevna Royal Parkat South of the city.
Ever since to date, it has an unbroken recorded history and it is considered the oldest recorded tree in the world.
247+2018 = 2265/ 64 years old.
Worshiping of Bodhi tree established very well in Sri Lanka than inany other Buddhist country because, Sri Lankans had a tradition of worshipping trees.
The Royal patronage was granted to protect the Bodhi tree and
king Keerthi Sri Rajasinha (1747- 1782 AD) built the protective wall around the garden.
The Chronicle mentions that, there were people of 18 guilds of various crafts and skills came along with the tree and settled down around the city.
The present guardians happened to be descendants from one of those guilds.
There are various ceremonies
It is a lifetime wish of a Sri Lankan Buddhist to come to A’pura and worship the Sri Maha Bodhi. As Buddha is not a god, people don’t ask any worldly benefits from the Buddha.
Instead, Bodhi tree has become a semi god status and people make vows and perform rituals after fulfilling it.
Dried branches are cremated after performing a ritual.
People collect fallen leaves and keep them at the worshiping place in their houses
Thousands of people gather at the site and meditate on the Full Moon Day of June to commemorate the arrival of Buddhism.
(Ask the guests to observe the various religious practices happening at the promises)
It is the government responsibility to protect the tree.
Once a month the Director of the Botanic Gardens checks the health of the tree and reports to the Minister in charge Religious Affairs
Maha Vihara monastery complex
As advised by Arahath (Most rev.) Mahinda, King Devanam Piyatissa established the Maha Vihara Complex in the Mahamegha wana.
A Buddhist monastery complex consists of
Stupa, Bodhi tree Image house of Buddha, living quarters of monks, Education centre (pirivena), Chapter House with the facilities of living for senior monks, Hospital, and Refectory
This had become a force of the revival of political, economic, socio- cultural and religious situation of the country.
The monks of the Mahavihara were the advisers to the king.
It was the only Buddhist monastery complex until Abyagiriya was established in the 89 AD.
The monastery was consisted of important worshiping places such as Sri Maha Bodhi,Ruwanweliseya, Lowamahapaya and Thuparama, the refectory –Chatussala- located in front of the Ruwanweliseya. Lovamaha paya was the Chapter house, which is the administrative center of the Mahavihara.
The monks of the Maha vihara were considered as learnedmonks, whofollowedthe traditional Buddhist disciplinary codes strongly.
Lova maha paya (Brazen palace)
Built by King Dutugamunu (161 – 131 Century BC) with nine stories, was the Chapter House in the Mahavihara complex.
Because of the roof was covered with copper plates, it was called Loha Pasada.
The chronicle, Mahavansa describes vividly on this chapter house that the height was 100 ft. and consisted ofthousand rooms decorated with flags and small bells.
Monks occupied the rooms from the top to bottom according to their seniority.
The building plan was prepared by monks.
A chapter house,living quarters for monks, a preaching hall and a shrine room were housed in the building.
It was the largest at that time was seen from faraway places.
It was a wooden structure.
The present structure was built by the king Parakkarambahu during the Polonnaruwa period and Today can see 1600 pillars- 40 x 40. Traditionally the ground floor kept open and a wooden structure occupied from the upper stories.
The functions of a chapter house;
I Ordination and higher ordination
Ii Discuss the disciplinary matters
iii. Function as a learning centre
iv. Holding of progress review meetings
v. Residence facilitiesfor monks
vi. General administration
Ruwanweliseya ( Great Stupa)
According to the Buddhist tradition, the second important site In Anuradhapura, after Sri Maha Bodhi, is Ruvanveli Seya.
A bowl of Buddha’s relic was enshrined in the Stupa.
Though the Stupa was built by King Dutugemunu (161- 13 Century BC.),
it was completed by his brother Kind Saddha Tissa.
Mahavnsa describes the whole episode of construction of the Stupa, from selecting the site up to the completion.
“The foundation was 17 ½ feet. Stones were crushed and stamped down by elephants with the feet covered in leather.
Then butter clay spread over the stone layer. Then the brick was laid, rough plaster over the quartz and covered by a net work of iron….” The king did not get the work by force and paid everybody. He spent 64 Million silver coins. By the 2nd Century BC. , it was the largest Stupa with 370 ft. circumference and 180 ft. in height..
It was of the Bubble Shape and consisted of Sand Laid Terrace, Stone Laid Terrace, Three rings surrounding the Dome, Upa stone, (Chatra Danda) square enclosure or and parasols.(Chatras). Elephant wall and Fronticepiece, Square enclosure for deities, Spiral, pinnacle, and crest gem.(Chuda manikya) have been added later.
It has been restored many a time by various kings and for the last time, it was done in 1893 and the Crest Gem, which was brought from Myanmar placed in 1940.
However the circumference has not been changed.
The inscription at the stone laid terrace is by King Nissanakamalla (1187-1196 AD).
from Polonnaruwa, describes that, he had visited the place with four fold forces( Sivranga Sena) and was happy that the people of the area were maintaining the temple better.
He ordered to exempt tax for six years from the people,who were in the area.
After restoration in 1893
the height -338 ft. and circumference- 942ft.wall with 337 elephant.
Thupa aramaya”, the first ever stupa built in Sri Lanka in the 3rd C. BC.By the king Devanamapiya Tissa.( 307 – 267 century BC) It is also the first ever Buddhist monastery.
Mahavansa gives detailed information that the right collar bone of the Buddha is enshrined here.
It was of the Paddy eap” shape and
Later changed in to a Bell shape. King Vasaba (65 – 109AD), 1 AD
constructed a Vatahdage(Circular Relic Chamber.)
The old stone vessel at the entrance provides water to devotees. Observe the traditional entrance of a monastery; Moonstone, Guard stone Balustrade, and flight of steps.
The royal palaces of great kings of Anuradhapura are not known, because the palaces were the main targets of invaders.
Wijayabahu palace, which is located at the main entrance of the citadel is the only remaining one in Anuradapura, was constructed by King Wijayabahu the Great (1055- 1110 AD) from Polonnaruwa for his coronation following the tradition of 1300 years. It was a storied building with a courtyard. .
Abhayagiri Monastery complex
According to the Mahawansa and related inscriptions, the Abhayagiri Vihara was built by king Walagamaba (89 – 79 Century BC.)
when he ascended the throne for the second time as a gratification and offering to the monk named Mahatissa of Kupikkla ( KupikkalaTissa), who helped the king to fight back the South Indian invaders,
on the site of Jain monastery of which the head monk by the name of Giri.
The stupa and Pirivena (educational institute for Buddhist monks) were built and Rev. Mahatissa as the chief monk on a personal capacity.
This was not the tradition at that time (refer inscription Agatha anagatha..) ‘Division of order of monks was occurred for the first time.
Abhayagiri monks were known as Dhamma Ruchi sect (nikaya).Some of the teachings of Dhamma Ruchi were quite opposite to the teachings and traditions of Maha vihara, which followed Theravada Buddhism.
The Abhayagiri monastery grown into an international institution by the 1st C. AD,
Attracting scholars from all over the world and taught all shades of Buddhist philosophy.
Its influence can be traced to other parts of the world through branches established elsewhere.
According to Fa-xien’s report– 412 -413 (5th C.AD) a Chinese monk, there were 5000 monks lived in the monastery and surpassed the member ship of Mahavihara.
He has witnessed a beautiful Sacred Tooth Relic Perahera.( procession) Consequently, the fame of Abhayagiri as a center of Buddhist philosophy and teachings spread far beyondChina,Java –Indonesia and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, Abhayagiri monks too traveled abroad. An inscription in Java – Indonesia, praised Abhayagiri monks.
According to then Chinese literature, a higher ordination ceremony of Bhikkuni (nuns) was held by more than ten Sinhala nuns in 434AD.
The recent studies and excavations show the following;
· It is situated in an area of 500 acres ( 200 hectares)
· Abhayagiri became a symbol not only of religious, but also national resurgence, as it signaled the end of Brahmin and Jain influence in the country.
· It consisted of Stupa, Image houses, Bodhi tree, Chapter house, residence of monks refectories road ways, assembly halls, and ceremonial anointing hall (Abhisheka Mandapa)
· Multi storied buildings with bronze guilt tiles and tiles of burnt clay glazed in brilliant colours
· There were four main faculties called ‘ Mula” in the monastery. (Uttararama, Kapparama, Vahadmula, Mahanethpamula etc.
– Each faculty premises consisted of colleges, ponds, wells, refectories, monk quarters with attached washrooms.
· Janttha ghara wellness treatments for sick months, including sauna bath, hot water baths and open area for applying herbal body lotions. (Pattu),
· A Large chapter house the size of which is about 1849 sqm. (Rathanapasada)
· A large pond or storage of water (Athpokuna)The size of which equivalent to six times of Olympic Pool.
Water was brought under ground terra cotta conduit pipes and filtered before it released to the pond
· Samadhi statues
· Foundries and workshops for the processing of lime plaster and pottery glazes, row material for iron manufacturing. And molds for casting images,coins and crucibles ( vessels for melting gold and silver)
· Urinals with filters
Abhayagiri Dageba (Stupa)
This is the second largest Stupa in the country. It is two centuries older than Jetavanaramaya.
Fa-Xien says that the stupa was built over a foot- print of Buddha, which was confirmed by Prof. Pararanawithana. Fa-hsien mentions the height was 400 ft. The present height is 246 ft.
The diameter of the base is 355 ft. Stone paved terrace is 587sq. feet. On the four cardinal points are the frontispieces. (Vahal Kada) Restoration was done by Parakramabahu the Great in the 12th C.AD.
Several inscriptions show that early kings have restored and added some parts to decorate it.
Abhayayagiri Stupa stands today as an important monument as it shows the old elements of a Stupa. The Bahirava (dwarf) images at the southern entrance to the Stupaare the images of Sankanidhi and Padmanidhi, the symbols of prosperity and abundance. The Stupa was the centro -piece of the monastery.
A moonstone is a man made simple semi circular slab or a stone slab at a foot of a flight of steps of the entrance of a building.
Though there are similar shapes of moonstones found in Nagarjunakonda and Amarawathie in India, the moonstones found in the country, one can say that it has been a Sinhalese art.
According to Prof. Paranawsithana, borrowing from Ceylon by Indian sculptor is not out of the question.
There are several moonstones found as rectangular, round, plain ornamental with the half of a lotus in the center,
from Anuradhapura period to the last kingdom. (Kandy)
Out of the best preserved moonstone in Anuradapura is one at the Tooth relic Temple ( close to the Thuparamaya) with six bands,
Sri Maha Bodhi premises and one in the Panchawasa (Monastery) building in Abhayagiri monastery.
It has the following decorative features arranged in concentric semicircular round the central lotus.
The outermost band of decoration consists of conventional flames ( palapethi) separated by a simple band.
Next is the most prominent feature of the moonstone in general,four animals, namely the elephant, horse, lion and bull racing each other in a procession from left to right.
The sequence of the animals found is not the same in all moonstones.
The creeper with wavy stem and intricate foliage (entangled) comprises the next band. Separated from this by a narrow plain band towards the center is a band consisting of geese having half bloomed lotus with a plant all proceeding in the same direction. There is another simple creeper design with large but less intricate foliage around half lotus.
Several scholars describe, the symbols in the moonstone in various ways.
lotus petals symbolize the flames or the people are burning with desire and craving in the unending Life circle .
The four animals – lion horse, bull and elephant depict four fears of life. ( Satara biya) Jathi, jara, vyadhi, marana- birth, decay, illnesses, and death.( No single animal display jathi, jara, etc. mentioned above.
Then the more intricate and entangled creeper depicts that the people are entangled with this reality of life forced by desire and craving.
The band of geese with lotus bud represent that the people who can identify good from bad like geese. (According to a legend that Geese ( Swan)can separate milk from water when it is given mixed.
The next less intricate creeper symbolizes the person, who has lesser desire and reaches the pure state of mind when he steps on the lotus and ready to worship Buddha in front of him. The lotus flower is a symbol of purity and Buddha.
As a whole, he suggests that the moonstone symbolizes the state of mind of a devotee who comes to a shrine room to worshipBuddha with worldly problems like craving and desire .He should develop his mind to leave all the problems at home and worship the Buddha statue in the shrine room with pure mind to reach nirvana the ultimate salvation
Samadhi Buddha Statue
This is located at the Abayagiri monastery in Mahamevna Uyana. It depicts the Buddha in a deep meditationin Weerasana posture carved out in dolomite marble.
The qualities of Budhha, compassion, loving kindness and serenityare presented beautifully.
The robe is shown with a simple line. According to the features, archeologists believe that, it should be created during the period of 4th C. AD.
It has been excavated in 1866 and restored the nose, which is not successful.
The hollow of the carved eyes were formally inset with precious stones. It is 7.3 feet high. The statue had been placed with another three in the four cardinal points in a Bodhigra.
Indian Prime Minister Javaharlal Nehru has kept a picture of this statue, when he was in the prison and found peace in mind, when he looked at this statue.
During the full moon day of June thousands of devotees gather in front of this statue and meditate throughout the day.
The twin pond is so called because two ponds are constructed in different period
but it shows as a single unit. It had been constructed during the middle of 6th C. AD for the use of the monks of Abayagiri monastery.
The water was taken underground then the water is sent through a silt trapand connected each other with underground pipe lines.
Monks can walk down and have a bath with a clay pot.The used water flows down to the nearby paddy fields.
The bigger pond is 40x15m and the
smaller is 28x17m.
When the ponds were excavated, auspicious symbols made out of gold, silver and copper were found.
Now,they are exhibited at the national museum.
Cobra hooded sculpture is to be believed as a guardian of the properties associated with water.
The full pots, which are very simple in decoration show the early period of Anuradhapura sculpture.
As a whole, it is a unique piece of art and architecture.
This was established by King Mahasen in the 3rd century .AD. Like Abayagiri, this was also a monastery university complex, where foreign students too came to study Buddhism and related disciplines.
EstablishingJetavanaramaya paved way to emerge a new sect in the history of the order of Buddhist monks.
It was the third largest building in the world after two pyramids in Luxor in Egypt by 3rd C. AD.
A marvel of Sri Lankan ancient architecture and civil engineering are still remain as the largest brick building in the world.
The size of the Stupa; The stone laid terrace is576 Sq.ft., Original height – 400 ft., diameter 367ft., foundation28ft. dept, which rests on the bedrock.
There are four entrances at the cardinal points,which are 28ft width each.
The monastery complex covers over 8 acres. Among the objects discovered recently were gold plates containing some parts of Mahayana Sutra.
They worshiped “Dhamma dhatu instead of “Shareerika dhatu” (Relic of doctrine than Bodily relic).
The Jethavana Stupa shows the architectural and engineering skills of the ancient Sinhalese, which was not surpassed by any other civilizationsShare this tour
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