Anuradhapura

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Sacred City of Anuradhapura*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Sri Maha Bodhi, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The oldest living tree in the world with a reported planting date.

State Party  Sri Lanka
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, vi
Reference 200
Region Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 1982  (6th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
Region as classified by UNESCO.

Anuradhapura, (අනුරාධපුර in Sinhala), is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well-preserved ruins of ancient Lankan civilization.

The city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies 205 km north of the current capital Colombo in the of Sri Lanka’s North Central Province, on the banks of the historic Malvathu Oya.

Founded in the 4th century BC, it was the capital of the Anuradhapura Kingdom until the beginning of the 11th century AD. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centers of political power and urban life in South Asia. The ancient city, considered sacred to the Buddhist world, is today surrounded by monasteries covering an area of over sixteen square miles (40 km²). Anuradhapura is also significant in Hindu legend as the fabled capital of the Asura King Ravana in the Ramayana.

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Sri Dalada Maligawa

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Outside view of the Temple

Outside view of the Temple

The Sri Dalada Maligawa or The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a temple in the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka. It was built within the royal palace complex which houses the only surviving relic of Buddha, a tooth, which is venerated by Buddhists. The relic has played an important role in the local politics since ancient times, it’s believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country, which caused the ancient kings to protect it with great effort. Kandy was the capital of the Sinhalese Kings from 1592 to 1815, fortified by the terrain of the mountains and the difficult approach. The city is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO, in part due to the temple.

Monks of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily ritual worship in the inner chamber of the temple, in annual rotation. They conduct these services three times a day: at dawn, at noon and in the evening.

On Wednesdays there is a symbolic bathing of the Sacred Relic with an herbal preparation made from scented water and flagrant flowers, called Nanumura Mangallaya. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present.

The Temple has sustained damage from multiple bombings by terrorists in the past, but has been fully restored each time.

On January 25, 1998, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorists committed a deadly suicide attack, killing 8 civilians and leaving 25 others injured, as well as significant damage to the temple structure.

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[edit] Ceremonies

Inside the Temple

Inside the Temple

The worship of corporeal remains of the Buddha, as recorded in the Mahaparinibbana-sutta (the Record of the Demise of the Buddha), was sanctioned by the Buddha himself on the verge of his passing away. The Buddha declared that four noble persons are worthy of their bodily remains being enshrined and honored, the Buddha, the Personal Buddhas (Pacceka Buddhas,) the Arahanths (Buddha’s disciples) and the Universal Monarchs ( Cakkavatti kings). The bodily remains of the Buddha, after their distribution among various states that claimed for the relics, were enshrined in the funerary mounds known as stupa. However, the four canine Teeth were said to have been separately enshrined and worshipped . The right canine was worshipped in the heavenly domain of the king of gods, Sakra, while another was worshipped by the king of Gandhara in modern Pakistan. The third was taken away by the Nagas and worshipped placing it in a golden shrine room. The fourth, the left canine was removed from the funerary ashes by a monk and was handed over to the king of Kalinga in Eastern India, as recorded in the Digha Nikaya..

Thenceforth, the Tooth relic of the Kalinga became an object of great veneration by generations of Kalinga kings until it earned the wrath of brahmanical followers, and consequently several attempts were made to destroy the Relic by the fanatical rulers. Yet, the Tooth relic was miraculously saved from such atrocities. For this reason, the kings of other states attempted to possess the Tooth relic for personal veneration. Thus, from the beginning itself, the Tooth relic came to be considered as an important symbol of veneration. The last Indian ruler to possess the Tooth relic was Guhasiva of Kalinga (c.4th century AD).

[edit] Arrival of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka

The final attempt made by a neighboring state to make war with Guhasiva for the possession of the Tooth relic caused this venerated relic to leave the Indian shores. By this time, Buddhism was well rooted in Sri Lanka, and the island rulers maintained close relations with the Indian states that fostered Buddhism. Apparently, it was for this reason that the Kalinga ruler, in imminent danger of losing in battle, decided to send the Tooth relic to his friend, the Sri Lankan king.

Danta and Hemamala, dressed as pilgrims, secretly transporting the relic in Hemamala's hair from India to Sri Lanka.

Danta and Hemamala, dressed as pilgrims, secretly transporting the relic in Hemamala’s hair from India to Sri Lanka.

After about eight centuries of its Existence in India, the Tooth relic was secretly taken away by Danta and Hemamala, said to be the son-in-law and daughter of Guhasiva. The literary works like Dathavamsa, Daladasirita and the chronicle Mahavamsa, record many and varied vicissitudes that the couple went through en route to Sri Lanka in order to safeguard the relic. It is recorded that the prince and the princess donned the garb of ascetics and carried the Relic hidden within the coiffure of Hemamala not to be noticed by passersby. A twentieth century wall painting of the well known monastery of Kelaniya (about 5 miles east of Colombo), depicts this episode in a classic style executed by a local artist (Solius Mendis).

Danta and Hemamala were said to have embarked on a ship at the ancient port of Tamralipti, a busy port at the time, located at the mouth of the river Ganges, and reached the shores of Sri Lanka at the port of Lankapattana (modern Ilankeiturei) in the Trincomalee District. The Relic was reported to have performed several miracles en route on the ship itself, thus being venerated by human and superhuman beings. The Tooth Relic finally reached the Sri Lankan capital, Anuradhapura, and according to the Sinhala text, Dalada Sirita, the Relic was kept at the Megagiri vihara in the park Mahameghavana.

At the time of its arrival, the Indian ruler Guhasiva’s friend, king Mahasena had died and his son, king Kirti Sri Meghavanna (4th century AC), who himself was a pious Buddhist, had succeeded him. The Tooth Relic was well received by the king and placed on the throne itself with much veneration. The chronicle Mahavamsa reports that the king with great faith had the Tooth Relic enshrined in the edifice called Dhammacakkageha originally built by king Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BC, within the royal enclosure (Rajavatthu). The king built a special shrine and enshrined the Tooth Relic therein. This shrine has now been identified as the ruined edifice lying almost next to the great refectory known as Mahapali.

There are special religious programs conducted in the Maligawa on every Full Moon Poya day where large numbers participate. Apart from these daily, weekly and monthly ceremonies, there are four major ceremonies held every year. They are Aluth Sahal Mangallaya, Avurudu Mangallaya, Esala Mangallaya, Karthika Mangallaya. Of these, the most important is the Esala Mangallaya.

The relic is also one of the 80 treasures featured on Around the World in 80 Treasures series presented by Dan Cruickshank.

Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a national park in Sri Lanka. It is of international significance and can been designated a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The hilly virgin rainforest, part of the Sri Lanka lowland rain forests ecoregion, was saved from the worst of commercial logging by its inaccessibility, and was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage Site in 1988. The reserve’s name translates as Kingdom of the Lion.

The reserve is only 21 km from east to west, and a maximum of 7 km from north to south, but it is a treasure trove of endemic species, including trees, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

Because of the dense vegetation, wildlife is not as easily seen as at dry-zone national parks such as Yala. There are no elephants, and the 15 or so leopards are rarely seen. The commonest larger mammal is the endemic Purple-faced Langur.

An interesting phenomenon is that birds tend to move in mixed feeding flocks, invariably led by the fearless Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and the noisy Orange-billed Babbler. Of Sri Lanka’s 26 endemic birds (suranganet), the 20 rainforest species all occur here, including the elusive Red-faced Malkoha, Green-billed Coucal and Sri Lanka Blue Magpie.

Reptiles include the endemic Green pit viper and Hump-nosed Vipers, and there are a large variety of amphibians, especially tree frogs. Invertebrates include the endemic Common Birdwing butterfly and the inevitable leeches.

Access ways

  1. Kudawa entrance – Colombo –> Kalawana –> Kudawa
Rainforest vegetation

Rainforest vegetation

Common Birdwing

Common Birdwing

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Yala National Park

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The beach and a rock outcrop at Yala

The beach and a rock outcrop at Yala

Yala National Park is a national park in Sri Lanka. The reserve covers 979 km², although only the original 141 km² are open to the public.

Much of the reserve is parkland, but it also contains jungle, beaches, freshwater lakes and rivers and scrubland. The latter zone is punctuated with enormous rocky outcrops. The range of habitats give rise to a good range of wildlife.

Yala has the world’s highest concentration of Leopards, although seeing this largely nocturnal carnivore still requires some luck. There are good numbers of Asian Elephants, Crocodile, Wild Boar, Water Buffalo and Grey langurs amongst other large animals.

The open parkland attracts birds of prey such as White-bellied Sea Eagle and the wetlands have Waders, Painted Storks, and the rare Black-necked Stork.

Landbirds of course are in abundance, and include Sirkeer Malkoha, Indian Peafowl and Sri Lanka Junglefowl.

The park was badly damaged by the tsunami of 26th December 2004, with the destruction of the wildlife center and tourist lodge. Many tourists, including a party of 22 Japanese, died in the disaster, as did several of the national park and lodge employees. It is claimed that no evidence of large-scale animal deaths from the tsunami was found indicating that animals may have sensed the wave coming and fled to higher ground.

Now it is again open to the public visitors.

The following image gallery illustrates some of the animals and bird species found in the Yala national park.

Facilities available for visitors

Sigiriya

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Ancient City of Sigiriya*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Sigiriya Rock from the main public entrance

State Party  Sri Lanka
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iii, iv
Reference 202
Region Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 1982  (6th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
Region as classified by UNESCO.

Sigiriya is an archeological site in Central Sri Lanka. It contains the ruins of an ancient palace complex, built during the reign of King Kasyapa (477 – 495 AD). It is one of the seven World Heritage Sites (Ref:202) in Sri Lanka and is one of its most popular tourist destinations.[1]

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Yala National Park
Yala National Park is 309 km south of Colombo on the southeast of the island. It is among the oldest and best known national park in Sri Lanka and is well known for its vast size and for its biggest, extensive area of 1,259 sq km, and for its best wildlife preservation in the country. With it considerable size, the terrain of the national park is varied from flat plains to rocky outcrops. The vegetation ranges from open parkland to dense jungle. There are also abundance of water supply for animals and birds ranging from waterholes, streams, small lakes to lagoons. The national park is divided into Yala West (also called Ruhuna) and Yala East.

Yala National Park is now well recognized for the best park in the world to observe and photograph leopards. There are about 35 leopards in the park which probably is the highest density than anywhere in the world. It is possible to take one day jeep-safari trip through the park although it takes you three days to see the entire park. The park is usually closed relatively late (almost 7.00 pm) therefore the chance to come across one of the leopards is quite high.

As well as leopards there are a large number of elephants living inside the park and these can be seen bathing in anyone of the numerous lakes within the park. Other animal living in the park include sloth bear, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, toque monkey, stripe-necked mongoose, ruddy mongoose, wild pig, jackal, water monitor, marsh crocodile and estuarine crocodile.

Also, 130 species of birds have been recorded here, they includes Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl, Brown-capped Babbler, Stone Curlew, Greater Thick-knee, Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Painted Stork, Sirkeer Malkoha, Blue-faced Malkoha, Green Bee-eater, Pompadour Green Pigeon, Blue-faced Malkoha, Green Bee-eater Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Brahminya Myna and Rose-colored Starling.

A large variety of water birds also can be seen in the Kumana Mangrove Swamp inside the Yala East, which is 180 sq km in extent. Yala East National Park can be entered at Okanda, 25 km down the coast track south of Arugam Bay via the small town of Panama. Going to Yala East is not always possible as it is officially closed however a three-hour round trip can be arranged from Arugam Bay.

Gal Oya National Park

Situated in Inginiyagala district west of Ampara, the Gal Oya National Park is 314 km from Colombo with its area of 260 sq km. It is surrounded by the largest tank in Sri Lanka, the Senanayake Samudra. The best time to see wildlife here is between March and July when you can possibly see almost 150 elephants at one time. This park is most renowned for its extraordinary elephant population. The usual way to enjoy the park’s scenery is to take a boat trip around the lake, watching animals and birds on the shore before drifting close to the herds of elephants.
Bundala National Park

Bundala National Park is the latest addition to national parks and is situated 260 km away from Colombo with 62 sq km in extent. Comprising of scrub jungle and bordering the sea, the park stretches along the coast east of Hambantota. The beach is an important nesting site for turtles. Between October and January, four of Sri Lanka’s five species of marine turtles come to lay their eggs. Wildlife living in the park includes elephants, spotted deer, grey langur, jackal, water monitor, crocodiles, the olive ridley and leatherback turtles, the hawksbill and green turtles.
 

Bird Sanctuary

Sri Lanka has recorded more than 468 species of birds. There are a total of 339 varieties of birds found in Sri Lanka and a further 129 species of migrant birds. A total of 27 species of the birds found are native birds. The seasonal migrant birds those shuttle between the North and South Pole often use the island as the point of relaxation due to its strategic location. A bird watcher could expect to observe as much as 230 species at any given time.

Kumana Bird Sanctuary
Kumana, situated to the northeast of the Yala National Park, is a habitat for local birds and migratory aquatic birds including flamingoes, ibis, herons, pheasants particularly impressive in the man grove swamps. Herds of elephants can also be spotted although leopards and bears are more elusive.  Bird lovers have a look at Simon Plat & Maaike Poppinga Trip Report Sri Lanka.

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