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Anuradhapura. The Ancient Capital

The great ancient Anuradhapura, as we are sure, must necessarily be included in the historical part route through Sri Lanka. Skip the visit of Anuradhapura, as well as skip the ruins of the ancient Polonnaruwa, which means if not at all not to visit Sri Lanka, then at least, do not get the keys to understanding one of the greatest ancient civilizations on Earth. And after going to Anuradhapura, stop in the city for at least 2 nights to get acquainted with most of the historical monuments of the city.

Anuradhapura is one of the greatest centers of ancient Buddhism. This is the first capital of Sri Lanka. The city existed for fifteen centuries and was destroyed in the X century AD. The capital was famous for its power and splendor. Kings, monks, engineers, sculptors and ordinary people left behind a huge number of Buddhist monuments. Today the ancient part of the city is designated as the Holy City — Puja Nagaraya.

Among the Buddhist monuments include three of the highest brick buildings of the ancient world: the Jetawana stupa (120 meters), the Abhayagiriya stupa (112 meters) and the Ruwanweli stupa (90 meters). Here, the oldest sacred tree of Buddhists, The Bo Tree, grows. Stupas and wood are not only monuments of the past, but also sacred places, revered by believers.

Now Anuradhapura is the capital of the northwestern province of Sri Lanka. It is located at 205 km. from Colombo. You can get to Anuradhapura in four hours (via Kurunegala or Chillaw and Puttalam).
The founder of Anuradhapura was King Pandukabhaya, the fourth king of the island. Like all the great capitals of the ancient world, the city was built on the banks of the Kadamba Nadi River. Today the river bears the name of Malwatu Oya, a river in a flowering garden flowing through the royal park, Maha Meghawana (Big Cloud Park).
Anuradhapura was built on the site of the village of Anuradhagam, named after two people who bore the same name — Anuradha. One was the minister of Wiyaya, the first king of Sri Lanka, and the other was the brother of Princess Bhaddakasana, who was the wife of the second king of Panduvasudeva. In addition, the city was built under the constellation Anuradha. Great geographer Ptolemy, who in the I century. n. e. drew the first map of the island, designated this city as Anurogrammon.

Anuradhapura occupied a territory of 40 km2 and was one of the most successfully planned cities of the ancient world. It was divided into two main parts: the inner citadel, which included the royal palace, and the outer citadel, the sacred city, in which there were monasteries (vihara), stupas, houses of spirits and dining halls.

The oldest Buddhist tree in the world is the Bo tree
In Anuradhapura the oldest tree in the world grows, about which there are historical evidences. It is called Bodhi, or Bo tree, literally «Tree of Wisdom». This is the first of eight sacred places (ata mastana), revered pilgrims of the sacred Anuradhapura.

The sprout was brought to Lanka in the III century BC. e. from Bodh Gaya (India, modern state of Bihar). A young twig was taken from the same tree under which the Indian prince Siddhartha was sitting, when he received enlightenment and became a Buddha (or bodhi, sam-modhi, abhi-sam-bodhi). The Chronicles in Pali and Sinhalese languages, known as the Bodhi Wamsa, describe the history of this tree in detail. The first tree in Bodh Gaya no longer exists, and the tree in Anuradhapura is considered the oldest in the world, about which there are historical evidences related to the time of the Buddha. Although Buddhists consider the tree to be a living being, they are also sure that it represents in a symbolic form of Buddha itself. In India, this tree was considered the Cosmic Tree of Life and was revered as the dwelling of the gods.
Bo refers to the class of trees known under the Sanskrit common name, as vanaspati. Bo is a huge tree that yields fruits without flowering. It belongs to the family «assatha» (in Pali), «essata» (in Sinhalese), and «ficus» in Latin. Therefore, botanists called it «Ficus Religiosa», implying its religious significance in the classification of ficuses.

The nun Theri Sanghamitta, sister of Thera Mahinda, who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka, brought to the island a shoot of buddha trees. Brother and sister were the children of the Indian emperor Ashok, who received the name of the greatest of kings, the only king who refused the war after the victory. A young tree was planted in front of a monastery known as Maha Vihara, or the Great Monastery, in the royal park of Maha Megh Vana. It is believed that all Bo trees in Sri Lanka today have a genetic connection with this tree.

The sacred tree Bo possesses magical power. Buddhists believe that it can cause rain, send children childless. Almost every day you can see in the shadow of a tree of women praying for the gift of children. Coconut sprouts, planted at the foot of the tree, silently say that their prayers were heard. Buddhists also believe that this tree is the home of God named Kalu, Dewata Bandara.

Rufanmeli Stupa
Of all the monuments known as stupas, the most revered is Ruwaneli Saya. It has a height of more than 90 meters and is the third tallest stupa in Anuradhapura and the third highest brick building of the Ancient World. It was named Ruwan Meli, (Swarna Mali or Sonnamali) or Ruwan Veli (Ratna Welli) as a token of gratitude to the goddess with this name, whose dwelling was in the tree of injuries of the bodybuilding growing in the place where the stupa was built. To clear this place for the stupa, the king promised the Goddess to call the stupa her name.

Stupa is an architectural monument that forms the center of a Buddhist monastery. By the origin of the stupa — a monument to the deceased, in which the sacred remains of the dead (dhatu) were hidden. In the stupas buried the great dead — kings or sages. In the Buddhist world, they were built both in honor of the Buddha, and in honor of the sage who reached spiritual bliss. The relics are hidden in a special tomb, known as dhana garbha, in the center of the hemispherical dome. The domes could be of various shapes, such as a pile of grain (dhanyakara), a water bubble (bubbulakara), a temple bell (ghantakara), a pot (ghatakara) and lotus (padmakara). The stupa is known by many other names: Chaitya in Sanskrit, Thupa and Chetiya in Pali, Dagaba and Seiya in Sinhalese. The Sinhala name of the dagaba comes from the dhatu garbha. Stupa Runaweli was highly honored for three main reasons.

First of all, the number of remains contained in it — is greater than in any other stupa in Sri Lanka. The exact number is unknown, but it is obvious that there were a lot of them. Secondly, it is the stupa of the Great Monastery, Maha Vihara, therefore it was called Maha Thupa, the Great Stupa. Maha Vihara, the first monastery of Sri Lanka, was also one of the largest. It was inhabited by about 3,000 monks, when a Chinese pilgrim Fa Xien visited the island in the 5th century AD. e. Thirdly, the greatest of the Sinhalese kings, Duttagamini or Dutugamunu, built a stupa in the II century BC. e. The king is the hero of the epic poem of Maha Vamsa, the Great Chronicle written in Pali. The statue of this king is located at the eastern entrance to the stupa. At the entrance to the house of spirits there are images of the four previous Buddhas and the fifth following.

Abhayagiri Stupa
The second highest stupa in Anuradhapura and the second tallest brick building of the Ancient World — the Abhayagiri Dagoba. Stupa was built in the I century BC. e. Its height is more than 112 meters. In front of the entrance are two stone statues, Sankha and Padma, guardians of the God of wealth and underground treasures of Kubera. Since this monastery was located in the north of Anuradhapura, it was also called Uttara Vihara or Abhayuttara.

The stupa was built by King Watta Gamini Abhaya or Walagamba. It is believed that the name Abhayagiri is a combination of two names: the name of the king and the name of Jane-ascetic, known as Giri, who had a tomb here. When the king escaped from the Indian invaders, this ascetic made an insulting remark against him. The king was so insulted that he decided: if he returns to power, he will build a monastery in the place of Jain's tomb. He really regained power, set up a new monastery there and named it Abhay Giri. It houses one of the most beautiful libraries of the ancient world, which also attracts foreign scholars studying Buddhism.

One of these scholars was the Chinese pilgrim Fa Xien, who spent two years at Abhayagiri, copying rare manuscripts to take with him to China. He says in his Notes on Buddhist Countries that it was a wonderful monastic settlement. According to Fa Hsien, it was built over the footprints of Buddha's feet. «Above the footprints, north of the royal city, was built a huge stupa four hundred feet high, decorated with gold, silver and all kinds of precious stones. Near this stupa a monastery was built, named Abhayagiri (The Hill of Fearlessness), in which five thousand monks lived. In it was a hill for worshiping to Buddha, adorned with gold, silver and precious stones. On the hill stands a Buddha statue made of green jade, about twenty feet high. The whole statue shines with seven precious stones, and its brilliance and grandeur can not be described. In her right hand she holds the priceless pearl. » Fa Xien says also that the Holy Tooth of Buddha was in this monastery for three months of each year.

In memory of this Chinese monk near Abhayagiri a museum was built, named after him, in which treasures discovered here are displayed. This is one of the best museums in Anuradhapura.

Jetawana Stupa
The tallest and largest of the steps of Anuradhapura and the highest brick structure of the Ancient World is Jetawana Dagoba. Initially, it had a height of more than 121 meters. The stupa was built by King Mahasena, who reigned in the 3rd century AD. e., and restored by the king of Parakramabahu in the XII century. Stupa is called an object of world cultural heritage, like Abhayagiri and Ruwanweli.

Mahasena was the first Sinhalese Buddhist king who patronized the Mahayana Buddhism school. Despite the protests of the monks of Maha Vihara, who was the center of Theravada Buddhism, the king built this monastery and dedicated it to a monk known as Tisa, who lived in Dakhkina Vihara, Southern Monastery. Stupa of Jetawana — the stupa of this monastery.

Why is the monastery called Jetawana?
There are different opinions. Some say that this monastery was originally called Joti Wana, which means «garden of light». The Mahinda Saga explained the law of Buddha here in seven days. Therefore, the place was renamed Jotivan, which means «a garden that spreads light.» Joti Wana then transformed into Jeta Wana.

Others believe that this monastery is named after the famous Indian monastery in Sawatty, Jetawanarama, where the Buddha spent most of his time. The choice of the Buddha meant that he himself preferred this monastery to others. The Indian monastery is located in the modern city of Sahet Mahet in Uttar Pradesh, India. In Sinhalese it is called Dewram Vehera or Dena Vehera.

Some think that there are hidden objects related to the Buddha, known as the «paribhogika chetiya» — objects used by the Buddha. They believe that it was here that the belt that the Buddha wore around the waist (pati dhatu) was buried. Those who deny the story with pati dhatu, believe that the monastery was built on the ashes of the sage Mahinda. During the latest excavations in this place, evidence was found that funeral rites were held here. If it is proved that the ashes belong to Mahinda, then this will cast a new light on the meaning of the stupa.
Thuparama
Thuparama is the first stupa that was built in Sri Lanka and the oldest stupa in Anuradhapura. Its height is about 20 meters, and the diameter at the bottom is 18, so it is also one of the smallest. The stupa is located to the north of Ruwanweli, near the shore of the Basawakkulama reservoir or Abhaya Wewa.

The name Thuparama came from Pali. It is a combination of two words: tupa and arama. Thupa in Pali means «stupa», arama means «garden» or «park». Most of the Buddhist monasteries were located in gardens or parks and therefore were known by such names as Jetawana Arama and Weluwana Arama. Therefore the word Thuparama was originally the name of the monastery, and not the stupa. But over time the stupa of this monastery also became known as Thuparama. In it is hidden the right collarbone of the Buddha. The original form of this stupa is a pile of sand (dhanyakara).

The stupa is built on a towering circular platform. There are four concentric circles of stone columns on it. It is assumed that they once supported the roof. Thus, the stupa was located inside a circular structure. Such buildings are called Pali Chetiyaghara, and in Sinhala — Watadage («a round house for the relics»). What did they look like with the roof over the stupa? Probably they resembled the buildings presented here, as Professor Paranawitana suggested. The largest circle consists of 48 columns. Pillars and capitals are decorated with sculptures of various sizes, which depict animals and people.

The honor of building this stupa is attributed to the first Buddhist king of the island, Dewanampiyatissa or Dewanapetise. He received from Emperor Ashoka in honor of the nickname Dewanampiya, which means «Beloved of the Gods.» The Emperor Ashoka himself used this epithet in relation to himself in his delicts published in India. It is believed that the stupa was built on the site of the tomb of Yaksha Maheja, whom King Pandukabhaya revered, one of the kings who ruled before the spread of Buddhism. Thuparama was a women's monastery, located in Maha Vihara.

Lankarama
Another stupa, very similar to Thuparama, is Lankarama. In size, it is smaller than Thuparama. Stupa is located to the south of Abhayagiri, in the past this place was known as Gal Heba Kada. It is also Chetiyaghara and is built according to the plan of Tuparama, but has only three concentric circles of columns. The outer circle has 40 pillars, the inner circle is 20. Like Thuparama's columns, they also have pillars and capitals decorated with sculptures.

The name Lankarama stands for «Monastery of Lanka». Stupa is also known by several other names. Some think that this was a stupa called Sobba Kandaka Power, built by Vattagamini Abhaya. Tradition says that this king fled from Anuradhapura and took refuge in a place called Sobba Kandak Power until he could regain power. It is believed that the king built this monastery and gave him the name of the place, which became for him a safe haven.

The monastery also has another name — Somarama, which means «Monastery of Soma». Soma is the name of the queen, the wife of King Watthagamini Abhaya. Once, when the king and queen fled through Gal Kheba Kada, their wagon could not move due to weight. Then the queen jumped out of the cart so that the king could leave and escape from the Indian conquerors. As a token of gratitude, the king named this monastery in her honor Somarama. The monastery was also called Mani Somarama. Mani in Pali means «precious stone». It is said that the king gave his wife a precious stone as an expression of gratitude, and she laid a stone in the stupa of this monastery, where the name came from.

There is another story. It tells that the Indian king took his queen and brought her to India, because she was very similar to his daughter. The Queen was called Lanka Devi. She returned to Sri Lanka, and the monastery, which was patronized by the queen, became known as Lankarama, the monastery of Lanka Devi. Lankarama was the Abhayagiri Vihara convent. He was also called Mani Thuparama, because he looked like a monastery in Thuparama.

Stupa Mirisawetiya
Among the eight holy places of Anuradhapura there are two stupas built by King Dutugemunu: Ruwaneli and Mirisavetiya, of which Mirisavetiya is the oldest. Located near one of the main reservoirs in the capital, Tisa Wewa, built by King Tissa, Beloved of God, this stupa is also part of the Maha Vihara.

The name Mirisaweti means literally «a pepper body». It appears in the chronicles written in Pali. This name reminds of an interesting custom of Buddhists. It was to bring the monastic community the first fruits of any harvest, whether it be rice, vegetables or anything else. However, Prince Dutugamunu, who once received a good harvest of pepper, did not do this. To remember this error, he named his first stupa Mirisaveti.

The reason why this stupa was built near Tisa Wewa is connected with another interesting story. One day the king went to Tisa Wewa for a water festival. He took with him a scepter, a symbol of power, and left it at the shore. It is said that inside the scepter were the sacred relics of the Buddha. When the king returned from the festival, he found that he could not get the scepter from the ground. It was a miracle. Therefore, the king built a stupa that hides the scepter.

An important feature that characterizes any stupa is its structure, called Wahalkada, which in translation means frontispiece. Each stupa has four similar frontispiece, showing four directions and four main outputs. The frontispiece of this stupa has been preserved to varying degrees, Mirisaweta has best preserved the western valahkada. In this frontispiece are also found different types of sculptures.

Lowa Maha Paya
Between the Bo tree and the Ruwanveli stupa there is an area on which are located stone columns belonging to an ancient structure. It was called Lowa Maha Paya, literally «The Great Palace with a Copper Roof.» In Pali it is called Lowa Pasada, which can be translated as the «Bronze Palace». Chapter 27 of the Chronicles of Mahavajam narrates that it was built on the model of Wyman, the palace that served as the dwelling of the gods. This is the only one among the eight holy places of Anuradhapura, which is not a stupa.

1600 stone columns are located in 40 rows, each of which has 40 columns. The building supported by them had 9 tiers and towered over 45 meters, there were more than 1000 rooms. The roof of the building was covered with copper, mixed with bronze.

In Mahawamsa it is written: «A thousand well-arranged rooms were in Pasada, they were covered with various precious stones and decorated with windows. In the middle was the royal pavilion of precious stones. It was decorated with columns consisting of expensive stones, on which were depicted lions, tigers, as well as figures of the gods. Around the pavilion was the border of the pearl network and the coral Vedic was located. „

At the very beginning it was a house of monks (uposathaghara), which belonged to the monastic brotherhood of Maha Vihara. The house of the monks was the center of religious life. It is a building in which monks gathered to perform rituals on the full moon day, to discuss the teachings of the Buddha and meditation that brings peace to their souls. The house in the center of the square is used today for this purpose. The house of the monks was built by King Dutugemunu. In the reign of his younger brother, Sadha Tissa, he was destroyed by fire. The king restored it, but there are only seven tiers left.

Isurumuni Vihara
The most important monastery in Anuradhapura is Isurumuni Vihara. He is not included in the eight holy places due to some administrative decisions taken in the past. The Isurumuni Vihara stupa is built on a rock. The name of Isurumuni goes back to the words in Pali Issara Samanaram or Issara Samanavihara. It was built by King Devampiyathissa in the place where the nobles took monasticism (Isaradaraka) in the Mahinda Saga.

The monastery is unique in that it is connected both with the Bo tree and with the sacred tooth of the Buddha. In this temple, one of the eight first trees of Bo tree was planted and the tooth of Buddha was temporarily kept until he was sent to the city of Dhata Geha. At that time the place was called Megha Giri (Rock of a rainy cloud). It was ideal for storing the tooth of the Buddha.

Isurumuni is known for several sculptures of great artistic value. One of them is a sculpture of a man and a woman, known as “Beloved Isurumuni». Another sculpture is an image mistakenly called «the stage of the royal family». Critics say that the figure of a man depicts a Bodhisattva with his wife and retinue. The identification of the male figure with the Bodhisattva is based on the position of his legs.

On the stone boulders surrounding the pond, there are two beautiful sculptures: one representing several elephants playing in the water, the other representing the man and the head of the horse behind. Professor Paranawitana believes that they depict two mythological figures: Parjanya, the god of rain, and his horse, Agni. They symbolize the rain and lightning.

The Anuradhapura Period
A long and full of events, when Anuradhapura was the royal capital, is known in the history of Sri Lanka as the period of Anuradhapura. This was the time when the foundations of the new Sinhalese civilization were laid. The civilization of the Sinhalese represents a harmonious combination of two elements: Dagaba, the symbol of the development of the spirit, and Veva, the symbol of the movement of matter. How did this civilization originate during the Anuradhapura period?

First of all, it was the time of the appearance of Buddhist civilization. Buddhism, which was brought to the island in the III century. BC. E., presented to the people of Sri Lanka a new view of the world, and the inhabitants of the island gave it a special form, which is called «Sinhala Buddhism.» Sri Lanka has become one of the most powerful strongholds of Buddhism in Asia. Thousands of monks came from the Far East to the foundation ceremony of Maha Thupa. Anuradhapura became the receptacle of the Sacred Tree of Wisdom and the Sacred Tooth.

Secondly, at this time the era of irrigation began. The Singalese mastered the art of building giant reservoirs, called Sinhalese Wewa, in the Pali language — Wapi. In Anuradhapura itself there are three large reservoirs: Abhaya Wewa, Nuwara Wewa and Tissa Wewa. These beautiful examples of water intake facilities and Biso Kotuwa, which Sinhalese designers invented in the pre-Christian period to manage water, are regarded as a masterpiece of engineering art. The English writer Tennant says that «never before in any country did people have such a grandiose experience in constructing irrigation facilities» (Ceylon, 1859).

Thirdly, at this time a literary tradition was born and a considerable amount of literature was written both in Sinhala and Pali. Together with Buddhism, brahmin manuscripts were brought to India from the Indian side, which led to the appearance of a large number of inscriptions in caves, on stone plates and columns. At that time, the famous text was the Tripitaka, written in Pali, as well as the chronicle of the Pali Mahawamsa, which historians call «an indispensable source of reconstruction of the island's early history.» Sinhalese literature also includes poems translated from Sanskrit, commentaries of texts written in the Pali language, inscriptions in Sigiriya. In Buddhist monasteries there are libraries that attract not only Sri Lankan, but also foreign scientists.

Fourthly, during the Anuradhapura period, the tradition of Buddhist art and architecture was born, and we are dealing with such specific Sinhalese forms as stupas that are the highest buildings of the ancient world, round tombs, Buddha images, «security» stones, lunar stones, reservoirs etc. Such monuments represent the unique art of the Sinhalese. Thus, Anuradhapura is one of the most significant cities of Sri Lankan Buddhism.

Masterpieces of Sinhalese art
In addition to stupas, in Anuradhapura there are many other works of fine art and architecture that demonstrate the artistic ability and engineering skills of the ancient Sinhalese. The most significant are the following masterpieces:

The Samadhi Image
One of the finest examples of Sinhalese sculpture is the Buddha image above 3.5 meters high, known as the Samadhi statue, in the Abhayagiri monastery complex. Samadhi is a word that denotes a state of consciousness when a person reaches deep concentration.

The Buddha statue is interesting in that it depicts his hands and feet. The position of the hands is called Mudra, and the position of the legs is Asana. The image of Samadhi is performed as Dhyan Mudra (right hand over the left). This is one of the four Buddha images placed around the Bo tree, each image shows one of the four basic states. Until now, there is a custom to put Buddha images under the Bo tree.

It is believed that Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, kept a photo of this statue to maintain the spirit when he was imprisoned during the struggle for independence.

Twin Lakes: Kuttam Pokuna
The monument, which gives a special charm to the landscape of the monastery complex — Kuttam Pokuna, twin lakes. They are considered a place where monks met for daily bathing. As for the plan, and for its implementation, this is undoubtedly the most beautiful ancient lakes on the island. The way in which the circulation of water in the lakes is organized also makes them an exceptional engineering structure.

В северной части меньшего озера находится прекрасная скульптура Нага. Люди верят, что Нага является покровителем воды. Возможно также, что это озеро было сооружено Нагой, одним из племен-аборигенов острова. У входов расположены сосуды, которые называются Пурна Гхата, сосуды изобилия и процветания, они наполнены и имеют круглую форму.

Balustrade: Korawak Gala
All stupas and houses of spirits are built mainly on elevated platforms, and four flights of stairs show four directions that can lead a pilgrim to a sacred place. Stair flights are real works of art, connecting architecture and sculpture. Two balustrades, Korawak Gal, depict the mythical animal Makara (Dragon).

Protecting Stones: Mura Gala
In the lower edge of the balustrade is a stone plate, known as Muragala, guarding the stone. On it are various sculptures, including the most common — the figure of the king (raja) with the head of the cobra (naga), called Nagaraja, the King of the Nagas. Among Sinhalese Buddhists there is a belief that Nagaraja is the king of those beings who protect things and guard the places where values are located.

Near one of the entrances to Abhayagiri there are two guarding stones of extraordinary value, representing the Sankha and Padma, the guards of Kubera, the master of the holy mountain Kailash. Sankha, as the name shows, has a shell on its head, or a shell (sankha). On Padma's head is the lotus.

Beloved Isurumuni
The sculpture, which is now in the museum of Isurumuni Vihara, is one of the most famous works of Sinhalese art. Archaeologists say that this sculpture was originally located in the royal park, next to the monastery of Ran Masu Uyana (Golden Fish Park). They note that the sculpture has no religious significance. Scientists argue about who is depicted on this sculpture. Some think that it could be Prince Saliya and his wife Ashokamala, a couple whose romantic story is well known. The legend tells that Prince Saliya refused the crown for the sake of the beautiful girl Ashokamala, the daughter of the chanadala, a caste of outcasts.

Martin Wickramasinhe in his book «Buddhism and Art» calls this statue «an exquisite specimen of erotic sculpture» and believes that the sculpted man and woman are definitely two lovers. He interprets their poses in terms of a Sanskrit-written book by Nandekeswara called «Abhiyana Darpana» («Mirror of a Pose»). For example, the pose of a man (raised shoulders touching the head) is called Nihanchita Mudra and denotes the pleasure of contemplation of the beloved. A scientist believes that a man is definitely a warrior. This is evidenced by his clothes, as well as the fact that he holds a sword in his hands, and behind him is a shield. Sculpture can represent a meeting of a warrior and his wife either before his departure or after his return.

Others think that this may be the god Shiva and his consort Parvati. Still others argue that the man represents Sthira Chakra, one of the hypostases of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, which symbolizes wisdom (wisdom represents the sword between the shoulders of the warrior). Critics point out that this is a common feature that can be found in the art of Indonesian Buddhism. Be that as it may, the sculpture is beautiful, it represents an aesthetic value and is a masterpiece.

Moonstone: Sandakada Pahana
At the foot of the stairwell there is a stone plate of semicircular shape, known as Sandakada Pahana (Moon Stone). There are a number of sculptures depicting flowers and animals. In one row there are animals: boar (hasti), horse (ashva), lion (sinha) and cow (gava), one after another. In the other row there are swans (hamsa). The importance of lunar stones, especially four animals in the ranks, is another discussion issue. Some say that four animals symbolize four directions: eastern — elephant, western — horse, northern — lion and southern — bull. This implies that a sacred place is open to those who come from any of the four sides. Others believe that animals symbolize good luck.

Professor Paranawitana explains the symbolic meaning of lunar stones in a philosophical context. He believes that they symbolize the Buddhist idea of Bhava Chakra, the cycle of rebirths, according to which all human beings pass through four basic stages in life: birth (jati), extinction (jara), illness (vyadhi) and death (marana). Pilgrims who, bypassing lunar stones, climb the stairs to the sanctuary, symbolically go through all the stages of earthly life from birth to death in order to reach a state beyond consciousness. One of the finest lunar rocks in Anuradhapura is found near the Royal Pavilion.

An excursion around the historical monuments of Anuradhapura is a wonderful occasion to get acquainted with the history of Sri Lanka. The trip is highly recommended to you when you are vacationing in Anuradhapura, Mihintale or in the northern part of Sri Lanka.

About your desire to visit the historical sites of Anuradhapura, please inform your Lankarus manager at hotels of the following cities: Anuradhapura, Mihintale, Mannar, Jaffna.

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