Anuradhapura, a major city in Sri Lanka, serves as the capital of the North Central Province and Anuradhapura District. Renowned for its well-preserved ruins, it stands as one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka. Initially established as the first capital of the Kingdom of Rajarata after Tambapanni and Upatissa Nuwara, Anuradhapura holds UNESCO World Heritage Site status today. Throughout many centuries, it served as a pivotal center for Theravada Buddhism.

Located approximately 205 kilometers north of Colombo, the current capital of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura sits on the banks of the historic Malvathu Oya. With its origins dating back to as early as the 10th century BC, Anuradhapura is among the oldest continuously inhabited cities globally and is recognized as one of Sri Lanka’s eight World Heritage Sites.

Historical records suggest the city’s founding in the 5th century BC, but archaeological evidence suggests an even older establishment. King Pandukabhaya played a significant role in organizing the city during the Lower Early Historic period, around 500 to 250 BC, planning its layout with gates, trading quarters, and other amenities. Under his reign in the 4th century BC, Anuradhapura flourished as the capital, with a meticulously organized urban structure.

The introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka occurred during the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa, approximately 236 years after the Buddha’s passing. Emperor Ashoka of India, contemporaneous with Devanampiya Tissa, embraced Buddhism under the influence of the monk Nigrodha, leading him to renounce warfare and promote peace. As part of his efforts to spread Buddhism, Ashoka sent his son Mahinda to the island of Lanka (also known as SinhalĂ©). According to historical accounts, Thera Mahinda arrived in Sri Lanka from India around 250 BC, preaching the Buddhist doctrine to King Devanampiyatissa and the populace.

During the late Anuradhapura period, Buddhism received substantial support from the Sri Lankan royal family and nobility. This support manifested in the commissioning of artistic works and donations to Buddhist temples, fostering a reciprocal relationship between the temple, Buddhist community, and the ruling elite, thus contributing to the city’s cultural and religious development.