Tripin 2017 - 2018 - page 67

At the heart of the Cultural Triangle, is the great city of
Anuradhapura, the capital of the island from the third century BC to
993 AD. It was also one of the Asia’s great metropolises. It includes
ornate palaces, massive monasteries, enormous tanks (reservoirs)
and a trio of monumental dagobas (shrines). In the ancient world,
these huge masterpieces were exceeded in scale only by the great
Egyptian pyramids. The Ruwanwelisaya, the largest dagoba in
Sri Lanka, is situated in Anuradhapura and is massive as well as
beautiful. Anuradhapura is still considered Sri Lanka’s most sacred
town. The Sacred Bo Tree, a branch of the one Siddhartha Gautama,
the Buddha, sat under and was enlightened, still thrives here after so
many centuries. Buddhist pilgrims visit this city in droves and on a
full moon day. It is full of devotees dressed in white paying homage
to the Buddha.
Several centuries BC, when ancient Greece was at its peak and many
other cultural centers were still emerging, Anuradhapura was already
an advanced civilization. Anuradhapura was made the capital in 377
BC by King Pandukabhaya (437-367 BC). Pandukabhaya started the
great irrigation works and named the city after the constellation
Anuradha, the first general of the king Vijaya and the legendary
ancestor of the Sinhalese race. Anuradhapura was ahead of its time. It
was well laid out and linked effectively, and irrigated by complicated
systems of man-made lakes and canals. The city was also known as
a world trade center. The sophisticated and advanced civilization
of Anuradhapura is referenced in the Greek merchant guide book
“Purples of the Erythraen Sea,” Ptolemy’s first ever map, and by
monk travelers Fa Hien and Buddagosha in the 5th century.
The city measured more than 36 square kilometers and was well
maintained by over 500 scavengers. It was divided into a number
of quarters. Artisans occupied separate areas, while foreign traders
lived in another quarter of the city. Their houses were two or three
stories and beautifully designed.
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