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Howard Banwell | profile | all galleries >> Sri Lanka >> Anuradhapura and Mihintale tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

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Anuradhapura and Mihintale

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The rocky outcrop of Mihintale is where Sri Lankan Buddhism originated; in 247BC, King Devanampiya Tissa was converted here by Mahinda, a kinsman of the Indian Emperor Ashoka, and the rest, as they say, is history. On the top of the hill is the Ambasthale Dagoba where King Devanampiya and Mahinda met. On poya (day of the full moon), this terrace is awash with cheerful families on a day out and pilgrims busy themselves making offerings, praying, and lighting oil lamps. From here, steep steps climb to a precipitous point 400m above the plain known as Aradhana Gala (Convocation Rock), offering stunning views in every direction.
Close by is the World Heritage Site of Anuradhapura, the first great capital of Sri Lanka, founded in the fourth century BC. It is one of the world's most extensive ruined cities and its status as a royal capital spanned well over a thousand years. It was a great Buddhist centre and magnificent monasteries, dagobas and associated buildings rose up many storeys, roofed with gilt bronze or clad with tiles of burnt clay glazed in brilliant colours. The golden period of civic and religious building was between about 250BC and 300AD, driven first by Devanampiya Tissa, then Dutugemunu (c161-137BC), Vattagamani (89-77BC) and finally, the first of Sri Lanka's great tank builders, King Mahasena (276-303BC).
For sheer scale, the most impressive monument in Anuradhapura is the Jetavana Dagoba finished in the fourth century at which time it was the third tallest structure in the world, surpassed only by the two tallest pyramids at Gaza. At over 120 metres in height when completed, it remains the tallest stupa in the world, and the tallest brick structure ever built.
Anuradhapura's most holy pilgrimage site is Sri Maha Bodhi which is considered to be the oldest documented tree in the world and was planted in 249 BC by King Devanampiya. Reputed to be a cutting from the Indian bodhi under which the Buddha attained enlightenment, it was brought to Sri Lanka by Emperor Ashoka's daughter, Sangamitta, and has been cared for by a succession of guardians for some 2,250 years.
Poya parade near Dambulla
Poya parade near Dambulla
Poya family day out
Poya family day out
Ambasthale Dagoba, Mihintale
Ambasthale Dagoba, Mihintale
Mihintale Buddha
Mihintale Buddha
Oil lamp offerings
Oil lamp offerings
Ambasthale Dagoba
Ambasthale Dagoba
View from Aradhana Gala (Convocation Rock)
View from Aradhana Gala (Convocation Rock)
View from Aradhana Gala
View from Aradhana Gala
The climb up to Aradhana Gala
The climb up to Aradhana Gala
Proud grandmother
Proud grandmother
Monastery ruins near Jetavanarama
Monastery ruins near Jetavanarama
Jetavana Dagoba
Jetavana Dagoba
 Sri Maha Bodi, world's oldest documented tree
Sri Maha Bodi, world's oldest documented tree
Praying at the Sri Maha Bodi
Praying at the Sri Maha Bodi
Praying at the Sri Maha Bodi
Praying at the Sri Maha Bodi
Lighting oil lamps at Sri Maha Bodi
Lighting oil lamps at Sri Maha Bodi
Sri Lanka's finest moonstone
Sri Lanka's finest moonstone
Game drive at Habarana Eco
Game drive at Habarana Eco
Elephant at Habarana Eco
Elephant at Habarana Eco
Elephant at Habarana Eco
Elephant at Habarana Eco
Sundown at Habarana Eco
Sundown at Habarana Eco
Sundown at Habarana Eco
Sundown at Habarana Eco