With a recorded history of over 2,500 years, Sri Lanka holds a treasure trove of ancient sites waiting to be discovered. From the spread of Buddhism to its colonial past, each period has left an indelible mark seen in both its architecture and culture.

Being one of the first country’s that the Lord Buddha visited to spread the Dhamma, its influence is seen far and wide across the country in the stupas and statues built in his honour. Nowhere is this more evident than the Cultural Triangle, which lies between the cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Dambulla.

The Sacred City of Anuradhapura is home to the Sri Maha Bodhi, or Sacred Bo tree, which grew from a sapling of the very tree the Buddha attained enlightenment. Held in deep veneration are its many stupas containing relics of the Buddha; the Ruwanweli Seya standing at a height of 338-feet and Jethawanaramya at 400-feet are the most notable and in best condition. Other than from a religious perspective they are a must see due to the sheer feat of engineering undertaken in building them well over 2,000 years ago. A short drive from Anuradhapura, lies Mihintale, which is considered the cradle of Buddhism in the country.

In the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa lies the Royal Citadel of King Parakramabahu. Dating back to the 12th century it bears further testament to how advanced the ancient civilisation was. Nearby, the Gal vihara features four magnificent statues of the Buddha carved into a single granite rock. The Golden Temple of Dambulla, a World Heritage site, is a complex of five caves, which hold 153 statues of the Buddha, three of ancient Kings and two Hindu deities. At the centre of the Cultural Triangle, the Rock Fortress of Sigiriya also known as the Lion Rock is one of the most visited sites in Sri Lanka. Dating back to the 5th Century, this granite monolith towering 660-feet above the surrounding plains was the site of King Kasyapa’s palace. Set amidst elaborate water gardens around it, midway up the rock a giant lion cut into the stone protects the entrance to the palace.

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, is one of the most sacred sites to Buddhists not only in Sri Lanka but the world over. So named as it holds the tooth relic of the Buddha, every year in July or August the relic is taken on public display around the Kandy lake. Known as the Esala Perahera, it is a spectacular procession of light and sound with elephants in regalia bearing the tooth casket, heralded by traditional dance and performing troops. A similar pageant, known as the Navam Perahera, held in February every year in Colombo, is of equal grandeur.

With Hindu culture having played an important part in forming the social fabric of Sri Lanka, the Shiva temples of Thirukeetheswaram in Mannar, Muneswaram in Chilaw and Koneswaram in Trincomalee are its three most important places of worship. Also, more than fifty sites of the Ramayana epic are to be found in Sri Lanka with the Seetha Aman Kovil, Ravana Cave, Rumassala and Ussangoda being the most accessible and popular.

Nowhere is the influence of Sri Lanka’s colonial past more evident than Galle. First occupied by the Portuguese and then by the Dutch, the Galle Fort is well preserved and almost a page out of a history book. Designated a World Heritage site, its original architecture has been mostly preserved and travelling down its narrow streets presents a quaint journey through time.

Written by Jonathan Roelofsz for TLC.lk

Anuradhapura Sacred CityPollonnaruwa Ancient CityDambulla Cave Temple on TLC Trip PlannerMihintale on TLC Trip PlannerTemple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka in TLC Trip PlannerSigiriya rock fortress on TLC Trip PlannerSeethat Amman Kovil on TLC Trip PlannerGalle Fort on listed on TLC Trip PlannerKoneswaram Temple in Trioncomalee listed on TLC Trip Planner


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