Anuradhapura is found in the central northern reaches of Sri Lanka. The region’s fertile soil and predictable weather pattern made it an ideal location for agriculture back during the dawn of Sri Lankan civilization. As such, the first Sinhalese kingdom was based in Anuradhapura and the city became the capital of the island.
Following the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, several prominent Buddhist shrines and structure were erected all over the city. Once a shoot of the sacred Bo Tree – the Sri Maha Bodiya as it’s called now – arrived on Sri Lanka, it was planted at the very centre of Anuradhapura. The area surrounding the site was called the “Sacred City”. Over the years, an array of Buddhist structures was constructed in the Sacred City – these include the towering Ruvanvelisaya stupa and the once majestic Brazen Palace. In fact, there are 8 major Buddhist sites to be visited in the Sacred City, these are called the “Atamasthana” in Sinhalese. The Atamasthana include the aforementioned Sri Maha Bodiya, Ruvanvelisaya and Brazen Palace as well as the Thuparamaya – one of the oldest known Buddhist stupas in Sri Lanka – and the Abhayagiri, Jetawanaramaya, Mirisaveti and Lankarama stupas.
The Sacred City served as a beacon for Buddhist pilgrims all around the island for well over 1000 thousand years. However, the site fell into ruin a few centuries ago and forests covered up these once resplendent structures. Fortunately, due to the efforts of a number of prominent Buddhist monks, the Sacred City was rediscovered and renovated in the middle part of the 20th century. Nowadays, you can visit all eight of the sacred sites withing Anuradhapura and get a true sense of the long and storied history associated with each one.