One of the most important pilgrimage destinations for Sri Lankan Buddhists, the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura contains within it a large number of ancient Buddhist sites. Many ‘firsts’ pertaining to Buddhism in Sri Lanka took place during the period of the Kingdom of Anuradhapura, including the introduction of the religion to the country.
Pilgrimage to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
Possibly the most revered of the Atamasthana (the collective name for the eight sacred places in Anuradhapura), the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi grew from a sapling taken from the sacred fig tree in India under which Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment. Sri Lanka is a majority Buddhist country and most of its history is steeped in Buddhist origins, making the tree a significant part of Sri Lankan culture and spirituality. Due to its heavy religious links, the sacred tree is an essential pilgrimage destination for Buddhists.
The tree sits at the center of the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, alongside its dedicated temple.
According to records, the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi was planted in 288 BC, making it the oldest living human-planted tree.
Visiting Thuparamaya and Ruwanweliseya
Another site that belongs to the ‘Atamasthana’ is the Thuparamaya. It is located within the Mahamewna Uyana and is a sacred Buddhist site. The original structure of the Thuparamaya was the oldest stupa in Sri Lanka, but it has now been reconstructed.
Constructed in the 2nd century BC, the Ruwanweliseya is located next to the Sri Maha Bodhiya, within the Mahamewna Uyana. Its history is very intricately linked with King Dutugemunu, whose statue still stands in the courtyard.
❂ Useful Tips:
- Those who wish to visit religious sites must dress respectfully, with legs and shoulders covered.