Anuradhapura situated in the north central province was a great thriving city and remained the capital for about 1500 years until the 10th century AD. At the height of its glory the city covered 250 square miles (650 square km) and had a population of tens of thousands.
Many centuries before Christ, while the Greek empire was flourishing in the Mediterranean and other civilization inhabited the ancient land of Lanka. Cities were orderly, with superb irrigation systems and linked with fine roads.
Anuradhapura is the first royal capital of Sri Lanka when the Indian prince Vijaya, landed in Sri Lanka with 700 of his entourage. They scattered around the Mahaveli river. One of his ministers named ‘Anuradha’ founded a settlement and the village was named in his honor, and eventually became a big city and the capital of Sri Lanka. Subsequently this remained as the capital for 1500 years. King Pandukabhaya, was the first to enhance Anuradhapura the capital city in 380 BC.
The most sacred place in Anuradhapura is the Sri Maha Bodhi the one living relic of past splendor. This huge Bo tree was grown from a sapling from the original Bo tree beneath which the Buddha attained supreme enlightenment in Budhagaya, India. The sapling was brought to the island by princess Sanghamitta (sister of Mahinda, who introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka) on the December full-moon around 240 BC.
Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capital of Sri Lanka. It is famous for its well preserved ruins of ancient Sri Lanka civilization. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities.
The history Polonnaruwa dates back to about 6th century BC. The settlement names ‘Vijitha Grama’ was founded by a minister Vijitha of the entourage of king Vijaya. The area was developed to an influential agricultural town with large irrigation reservoirs and complex waterways built by various kings who ruled from Anuradhapura.
The last king of Anuradhapura was king Mahinda V. South Indian chola invaders destroyed Anuradhapura and took their ruling capital to Polonnaruwa in 1017. King Vijayabhahu creeing the city and country, restored both Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa and held his consecration in Anuradhapura and made his ruling capital Polonnaruwa. The second king was Parakramabhahu the great. A total of about 19 rulers reigned from Polonnaruwa of whom two were queens. However, after the death of king Nissankamalla the capital began to decline its glory, and eventually the abandoned and began to turn into ruins.
In the world and one of the eight world heritage sites of Sri Lanka
Sigiriya is possibly the most spectacular sight in Sri Lanka. This magnificent, massive monolith rises boo feet (183 m) from the lush jungle and was one of the most beautiful royal cities that ever graced the earth. Today the ‘Lion Rock’ in one of the best preserved and most elaborate surviving urban sites in South Asia and frequently referred to as the eight wonder of the world.
Sigiriya is one of the marvelous creations of ancient kings of Sri Lanka and considered the 8th wonder of the world by many. It is an isolated rock mountain in green plains which is about 200 meters in height king Kashyapa transformed it into an excellent masterpiece of urban planning, architecture, engineering, technology, hydro technology, gardening and art. The remains of the ancient regal palace still offer an outlook of the developed technology and heritage and majestic lifestyle of the kings of Sri Lanka whilst presenting a stunning view of the landscape.
According to specialists and archaeologists, one of the most important aspects of the archeology of Sigiriya is that it is one of the best preserved and most elaborate surviving urban sites in South Asia. From the first millennium AD. The archaeological excavations of the Sigiriya complex were started by Mr. H.C.P. Bell and thereafter Dr. Senerath Paranawithana.
Dambulla (The Golden Temple)
One of the most beautiful cave temples in Sri Lanka is the ‘Golden Temple’ in Dambulla, situated 12 miles (20 km) southwest of Sigiriya. In 1991 the Golden Temple was designated a world heritage site by UNESCO. The cave’s history dates back to 103 B.C when king Vattagamani Abhaya took refuse there offer being driven out of Anuradhapura by a Tamil invasion. After regaining the throne in 89 B.C king Vattagamani Abhaya converted the five caves into shrines in thanks to Lord Buddha. Subsequent kings made further, significant improvements to this magnificent rock temple.
Visitors follow a path with short flights of steps, about half an hours walk, to the caves, which are around two-thirds of the way up the massive 500 ft (150 m) granite rock.
Within the caves are impressive collection of Buddha images. The walls and ceilings are covered with frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Lord Buddha.
The city of Kandy lie sat an attitude of 488.2 meters (1629 feet) above sea level in the center of the island and surrounded by the ranges of mountains. It is still very much a focal point of Sri Lankan culture. It was the capital of the last generation of Sri Lanka’s kings until it fell into the hands of British in 1815 A.D
Kandy was originally known as ‘Senkadagalapura’ after a brahmin named Senkada who lived there. Many of Sinhalese people call it ‘Mahanuwara’ meaning the ‘Great city’ but the name Kandy was derived from the word ‘Kanda’ , which means mountain. Due to its geographical location Kandy was not an easy target for the foreign invaders who could gain the control of coastal area of the island.
Thus Kandyan culture was able to foster and maintain its own social structure, mode of living, art and architecture. The kings of Kandy ensured the safety and sovereignty of the hill capital and its great culture until the British finally captured the city in 1815.
The Royal Palace in Senkadagalapura was built by king Vikramabahu III of Gampola on the advice of a Brahmin who selected the site as a lucky ground for capital city. The throne of Senkadagalapura was ‘Sena Sammata Wickramabahu’.
As the capital, Kandy had become home to the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha which symbolizes a 4th century tradition that was linked to royalty since the protectors of palace and the temple of the tooth were associated with the administrative and religious functions of the capital city. Even after its conquest by the British, Kandy has preserved its function as the religious capital of the Sinhalese and a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists.
The Temple of Tooth Relic
After the Parinirvana of Gauthama Buddha, the tooth relic was preserved in Kalinga and brought in to island by princess ‘Hemamala’ and her husband, prince ‘Dantha’ on the instructions of her farther king ‘Guhasiva’. They landed in the island during the reign of king ‘Kirthi Sri Meghavarna’ and handed over the Tooth Relic. The king enshrined it in resent day Isurumuniya in Anuradhapura. Safeguard of the monarch, over the years the custodianship of relic became to symbolize the right to rule. Therefore reigning monarchs built the tooth relic temple quite close to their royal residences, as was the case during the times of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa, Kurunagala and Gamplola kingdoms.
The present day temple of the tooth was built by king ‘Veera Narendrasinha’. The octagonal ‘Patthirippuwa’ and moat was added during the reign of ‘Sri Vikrama Rajasinha’ originally patthirippuwa was used by the kings for recreational activities and later it was offered to the Tooth Relic. Now it is an oriental library.
Peradeniya Botanical Garden
Situated about 4 miles (6 km) from Kandy, Peradeniya Botanical Gardens was originally the royal pleasure garden of king ‘Kirthi Sri Rajasinha’ (1747 – 1782)
During the governorship of Edward Barnes (1824 – 1831) all botanical experiments on the island were transferred to Peradeniya due to its cooler climate.
In 1839 tea seeds of the ‘Assam jat’ and young tea plants had been sent from the botanical garden in Calcutta to Peradeniya, and small experimental plantings were carried out over a period of many years.
Today the 147 acres (60 hectares) of gardens, nestled in the sweeping curve of the Mahaveli river, are dedicated to the flora of Sri Lanka and include representative species from all over the tropical world.
The spice garden on the right of the main entrance has many exotic specimens and the orchid house reflects the amazing variety of species to be found in Sri Lanka. The main attraction is the 50 acres (20 hectares) arboretum of around 10 000 trees.
One of the rarest plants in the garden is the ‘Coco de Mer’, which has the largest and heaviest fruit in the plant kingdom weighing on average between 22 and 44 lbs (10 and 20 kg) and taking around 5 years to mature.
The Royal Palm Avenue, The bamboo-fringed River drive, and Bat drive where flying foxes hang upside down, are popular with visitors.
Lord Mountbatten found the gardens the perfect location to set up South East Asia Command Headquarters during world war II.
Nuwara Eliya is the capital of the ‘Hill Country’, which consists of an area that has Kandy on its northern boundary, Badulla to the east, Haputale on the southern side, and the peak wilderness sanctuary incorporating Adam’s Peak on the western side.
Overlooked by Piduruthalagala, the island’s highest at 8200 ft (2524 m) Nuwara Eliya, or ‘City of Lights’, is located at 6199 ft (1889 m) and is Sri Lanka’s highest town, with temperatures averaging 57 Fahrenheits (14 Celsius) throughout the year.
The British discovered Nuwara Eliya early in the 19th century. They thought its climate was ideal, and so decided to use it as a place to retreat from the heat and dust of Colombo.
Nuwara Eliya was soon to become their ‘Hill Station’ and, by the early 20th century, planters, estate managers and senior public servants all built their homes here.
This exclusive colonial resort would naturally take on a quintessentially British feel, and with its Tudor-style black and white houses and immaculate lawns, you could be excused for thinking you were in a suburb of surrey in the 1930s.
The golf course, founded by Gordon Highlanders golf club on a visit to Nuwara Eliya in 1889, the racecourse, cricket pitches, croquet lawns, tennis courts and gentleman’s clubs all bear testament to British Patronage.
The British systematically built roads all over Sri Lanka including making Nuwara Eliya accessible from Colombo, a journey which took the good part of a day.
Nowadays, Nuwara Eliya is quite a busy place and a hub of commercial activity. Sri Lankans from all over the island now use it as their retreat, so weekends and holidays are a busy time.
The central highlands is the newest world heritage site in Sri Lanka. Inscribed in 2010 the site incorporates three protected areas, The Peak Wilderness Sanctuary, Horton Plains National Park and Knuckles Mountain Range.
Horton Plains National Park is located 19 miles (30 km) south of Nuwara Eliya. The plains from an undulating platean at an altitude of 6890 ft (2100 m) and cover an area of over 7400 acres (3000 hectares) consisting mainly of grassland interspersed with patches of forest.
The second and third highest mountains in Sri Lanka from part of this region Kirigalpotta at 7800 ft (2387 m) and Totapola at 7730 ft (2357 m).
Three rivers originate on the plains, the Mahaweli, the Kelani and Walawe. The most stunning feature of Horton plains is World’s End. A 2.5 miles (4 km) walk, where the southern Horton plain come to an abrupt end with an almost sheer drop of over 2600 ft (800 m).
There are fantastic views over the distant hills and valleys, but this can often be obscured by mist, especially during the rainy season from April to September.
Named after Sir Robert Horton (1831 – 1837) the British governor at the time Horton Plains provides a habitat for most of the endemic plants and animals in Sri Lanka and is therefore of considerable natural importance.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Pinnawala orphanage is situated in Rambukkana, northwest of the town Kegalla, halfway between the present capital Colombo and the ancient royal residence Kandy. It was established 1975 by the Sri Lanka wildlife department. This 24 acres large elephant orphanage is also a breeding pace for elephants and it has the greatest herd of elephants in captivity in the world.
The orphanage was primarily designed to afford care and protection to many baby elephants found in the jungle without their mothers.
The orphanage is very popular among local and foreign tourists. The main attraction is the opportunity to observe the bathing elephants from the river bank as the herd interact socially bathing and playing.
The orphanage is open to the public daily and all admission fees are used to look after the elephants. Visitors to the park can view many different aspects of the care and daily routine of the elephants, such as feeding of elephant calves feeding other elephants, and bathing in the river.
It is widely believed that Galle may have been the city of Tarshish of Biblical times, the great emporium of the East, trading with Chines, Persian, Indian and Arab traders and where king Solomon sent merchant vessels to buy gold, silver, gems, ivory and spices.
A Portuguese fleet first landed in Galle in 1505 after taking shelter in the harbor when their ship was blown off course. Gradually, they developed trading links with the island. In 1589, they built a small fort in Galle to guard the harbor and named it ‘Santa Cruz’.
The Dutch arrived in 1640 and, after a fierce battle, destroyed almost all of the Portuguese presence. In 1663 the Dutch built the magnificent fort, with great ramparts and massive bastions, that still stands today and dominates the town.
In 1796 the fort was handed over to the British.
Galle was a major port in Sri Lanka until around 1875, when maritime trade was diverted to Colombo. This well-preserved fort remains a ‘Living’ monument with a thriving community within and is one of the eight UNESCO world heritage sites found in Sri Lanka.
The Sinharaja rainforest lies in the south-west lowland wet zone between Ratnapura and south coast. It is the oldest remaining primeval tropical rainforest on the island. Declared a biosphere reserve in April 1978, it was inscribed on UNESCO’s world heritage list in 1988.
Climatically, Sinharaja rainforest has an average annual rainfall of 140 to 200 inches (3600 mm to 5000 mm). The majority of this rainfall accuse during the south-west monsoons between May and July and the north-east monsoons between November and January. Temperatures range from 66 – 93 Fahrenheits (19 – 34 Celsius)
Sinharaja, which means ‘Lion King’ has been left undisturbed to evolve and is thus one of the most important areas in Sri Lanka. As well as being internationally recognized for its bio-diversity. More than 60 percent of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. Also considered rare are a number of insects and amphibians.
The forest is particularly known for its birds of which are endemic species, including the scops owl and the red faced malkoha.
There are also over 20 species of snake, more than half are endemic, including the arboreal green pit viper. In addition, the forest is home to the endemic purple-faced languor, the endemic golden palm civet, a giant squirrel and the fishing cat.
The leopard is the top carnivore in Sinharaja, but is rarely seen due to the dense nature of the forest, however a black leopard was sighted in 2001.
Sinahraja is the only rainforest in Sri Lanka is promoted to nature lovers and trekkers. But it is protected from over visitation.One entrance to the forest is located on the south-eastern side near Deniyaya a good place to stay in Deniyaya is at ‘Sinharaja Rest’. The proprietor, Palitha Rathnayake and his brother Bandula organize treks through the forest (around 3 miles [5 km] each way) to a beautiful waterfall and natural pool for a swim. Palitha adores his forest and enjoys leading groups of visitors at a pace suitable for all. He is extremely knowledgeable about the variety of indigenous flora and fauna and there is nothing about the forest he doesn’t know. Rooms at the Sinharaja Rest are very basic, but the food is great and Palitha makes everyone feel very much at home.
Trincomalee has one of the world’s finest natural harbors. It is the fifth largest in the world covering an area of 55 sq miles (1425 sq km). Operating from ancient times it may have been the place where prince Mahinda first landed in the 3rd century B.C on his way to Mihintale.
In the modern era, this highly strategic port first sighted by the Dutch around 1617 on a brief reconnaissance visit, was taken over by the Portuguese in 1624 from 1639. It then changed hands between Dutch, the king of Kandy. The Dutch, the French, the British, the French,the Dutch and finally in 1795 the British – their first possession in Ceylon.
During world war II, ‘Trinco’ became the headquarters of the combined allied fleets in South Asia. On April 8th 1942, the Japanese carried out an air attack on the harbor however, having been alerted, the allied forces had sent the fleet to sea and only two ships were destroyed by the Japanese.
The road that bisects the fort leads to the Swami Rock and the Koneswaram Kovil dedicated to Shiva, which stands where the temple of a thousands columns existed hundreds of years before Christ. That temple was destroyed by the Portuguese, who used the stonework to build their fort.
Traveling 5 miles (8 km) north-west of Trincomalee, a turning off the Trincomalee – Anuradhapura road leads to the hot springs at Kanniya. There are seven hot water wells of varying temperature said to have mystical therapeutic and healing properties.
Nilaveli is a small village 7 miles (11 km) north of Trincomalee, where the beaches are quiet superb, with soft white sand and calm seas during April to October season when rainfall is much lower than in the south west.
‘Pigeon Island’ a great place for snorkeling around the colourful coral reefs, diving and fishing. We can provide a motorboat for trips to the island and also organize exciting excursions for dolphin and whale watching not far from the shore.
Adam’s Peaks the fifth highest mountain in Sri Lanka at 7360 ft (?2243 m). It is located within the 60000 acres (24300 hectares) peak wilderness sanctuary.
The ancient name for the mountain was ‘Samanalakanda’, guardian deities who watches over the island. The sinhala name for the mountain ‘Sri Pada’ which means ‘Holy footprint’.
The Mahavamsa made reference to Lord Buddha’s footprint left on top of this mountain, and since the 11th century A.D, Sri Pada has attracted countless numbers of visitors to worship it king Vijayabhahu I (1055 – 1110) and king Nissanka Malla (1187 – 1196) both recorded their pilgrimages to the mountain.
All four major religions of Sri Lanka venerate Sri Pada as their holy mountain. The Buddhists strongly believe that the footprint on this mountain was left by the Lord Buddha on one of his visits to the island. The Hindus accredit the footprint to Lord Shiva. The Christians say it is that of St. Thomas (Doubting Thomas) who became a missionary to the East. The Muslims claim that it was Adam’s footprint, imprinted when he left heaven and first set foot in the garden of Eden, Sri Lanka. Whatever one’s beliefs, no other location is so venerated by all religions.
The ideal time to climb Adam’s Peak is from December to May, when the weather is calmer. The climbing season peaks in March, and tens of thousands of people make the ascent each year.
Covering an area of 500 sq miles (1300 sq km) Yala National Park is the biggest and most visited wildlife sanctuary in Sri Lanka, ideal for viewing the island’s natural treasures.
With a diversity of habitats, including dense jungle, plains, streams, lagoons and rocky outcrops,the terrain is extremely suitable for Sri Lanka’s leopard, Yala’s star attraction.
Other animals found in Yala include elephant, sloth bear, crocodile, monkey, buffalo, wild bear, beer, land and water monitor, mongoose and jackal. Nocturnal animals include Indian Civets, Pangolin, Porcupine and Slender loris. There are 150 different species of birds including Painted Stork, the rare Black-Necked Stork, Green Bee-Eater, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Imperial Green Pigeon and the Orange-Breasted Green Pigeon. Two endemic birds are the Sri Lankan Jungle Fowl and the Brown-Capped Babbler. Migrants include the common Blue-Tailed Bee-Eater, the Brahminy Myrna and the Rosy Starling.
Bentota is a popular tourist resort, with great beaches spread along quiet seas, excellent hotels, restaurants, market places and souvenir shops.
Located 35 miles (56 km) south of Colombo. Bentota was used as a stop off point on the way to Galle, because of the long lagoon and calm seas from November to April. It is ideal for water sports including sailing, wind surfing, water skiing and jet skiing.
For the less energetic, deep-sea fishing, or perhaps a relaxing river safari up the Bentota river to see the bird life and crocodiles may be more appropriate.
Gems of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s gem industry has a very long and colourful history. Sri Lanka was affectionately known as ‘Ratna-Dweepa’ which means ‘Island of Gems’ the name is a reflection of its natural wealth.
Ratnapura contains the most gem deposits and derived its name from the gem industry. Ratnapura means ‘City of Gems’.
The blue sapphires from Sri Lanka are known as ‘Ceylon Sapphire’. Ceylon Sapphires are reportedly unique in colour clarity and luster compared to the Blue Sapphires from other countries.
Sri Lanka is home to 40 varieties of gems out of 85 varieties available in the whole world. Gems of Sri Lanka have found its way to many royal courts as well as Empire courts all over the world since immemorial time.
Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine developed in our part of the world. Long before the father of medicine, Hippocratas, was born; the name comes from two conjoined Sanskrit words ‘Ayuh’ meaning life and ‘Veda’ meaning science or knowledge. That means the science of life (Science or knowledge). Basically Ayurveda is a science of Healthy living, Ayurveda has two aims to preserve health and to cure a body offlicted by disease.
One of the fundamental beliefs of Ayurveda is the doctrine of ‘Tri Dosha’ or the three vital forces ‘Vayu, Pita and Kapha’. Generally translated into wind, bile and phlegm, a more accurate interpretation of Vayu is the transmission of energy within the body, in normal activity . ‘Pita’ may not be confined to bile but signifies the whole scope of metabolism and internal heat production while ‘Kapha’ means mucus often described as ‘The Protective Fluid’. The modern concept of mucus as an antibody containing liquid which coats and protects internal livings of the body, seems to fit in with Ayurvedic thinking.
Ayurveda embrace all living things animate and inanimate. It is divided into three main branches viz. Nara Ayurveda dealing with human life, Satva Ayurveda the science dealing with animal life and its diseases. Vriksha Ayurveda the science dealing with plant life, its growth and diseases. When one goes deep into the science of Ayurveda. It is clear that this is not only a system of medicine but a way of living for complete positive health and spiritual attainments.