Boasting a magnanimous outlook yet surrounded by a surreal ambience, Abhayagiri is one of the most important religious sites for Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. It is a World Heritage Site recognised by UNESCO as well. Spanning over an expansive region, it houses a collection of ruins and renovated buildings. This monastic site is a sacred place of worship where millions of pilgrims around the country and globe visit seeking blessing and good fortune from Lord Buddha. Historic evidence state that the monastery was built in the 2nd century BC and most of the structures which once stood have disappeared in the sands of time. However, some of it can be seen as ruins today and some have been renovated and have been restored to its former glory. The most notable feature of the site is the dagoba, which still stands tall towering over the quaint landscape.
The site, today, is also home to numerous buildings and attractions and one such is the Abhayagiri Museum. Located on the southern edge of the monastery complex, the museum is the most interesting feature in the site next to the magnificent Dagoba. Visitors can enter the museum and see a collection of artefacts which includes sculptures of deities and religious figures, jewellery, pottery and even foreign coins are put on display. There are also numerous infographic exhibits in the museum which will give you an understanding about the site, about the kings and kingdoms that flourished and thrived during a bygone era. The artefacts on display showcase the significance of the site not only during modern times but also during an era that is lost in time!
The museum building was funded by the Chinese government and it commemorates the visit of Chinese Buddhist monk Fa Xian to Anuradhapura. Arriving at the island over 1600 years ago, Fa Xian lived at the Abhayagiri for two years (412–414 AD). During his time at the monastery, he had learned the local language and had translated Buddhist texts which he later took back to his homeland through the ancient Silk Route.
Note: There is also a small bookshop within the museum premises where you can buy books on the monuments and ancient Kingdoms of Sri Lanka.