The 'Cultural Triangle' is widely regarded as the epicenter of Sri Lanka’s magnificent ancient civilization. Its sophisticated irrigation systems, splendid palaces, temples, statues and murals are a living testimony to the brilliant artistic and engineering talents of the island’s people, millennia ago. The area spans the ancient cities of Kandy, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Dambulla as well as the rock fortress of Sigiriya (Lion Rock). Among the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka, the five listed below can be found in the Cultural Triangle.
Anuradhapura ranks among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and was the capital of the island for several centuries, since its founding in the fourth century BCE. It is home to the Sacred Bo-Tree, which dates back to 245 BCE, as well as one of the most complex irrigation systems of the ancient world, magnificent Buddhist temples and monasteries spread over an area of seventeen square miles (40 km²)
Buddhist Religious Sites.
- Sri Maha Bodhiya
- Abhayagiri Dagaba
- Mirisaveti Stupa
- Other Ancient Structures
- Magul Uyana
- Rathna Prasadaya
- Queen's Palace
- Dakkhina Stupa
- Sela Cetiya
- Naka Vihara
- Kiribath Vehera
- Kuttam Pokuna
- Samadhi Statue
- Toluwila Statue
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy
Sri Dalada Maligawa as it’s called in Sinhalese, is located in the former royal
palace complex in Kandy. It houses the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha,
whish was brought from Kalinga in India to Sri Lanka during the reign of King
Kirthi Sri Meghavarna (301-328). The tooth relic is encased in seven golden
caskets studded with precious stones and preserved in a chamber whose door is covered with gold silver and ivory.
This temple was constructed in 1344, according to an inscription found here and is said to incorporate elements of South Indian design. In addition to seated and standing statues of Lord Buddha, this temple is decorated with images of deities such as Brahma, Suyama, Santhusuta, Natha and Maithree.
Sigiriya (Lion Rock)
Often described as the eighth wonder of the world, Sigiriya was built by King Kasyapa around 477 – 496 CE. Rising 200 metres above the surrounding plains, it is a marvel in urban planning – atop a rock. Currently seen are the partial remains of the palace and city complex, hydraulic systems feeding water gardens used for horticultural, agricultural, ornamental and recreational purposes, as well as paintings of heavenly maidens, originally said to have numbered over 500.
Aukana Buddha, the 12 meter (30 ft) high statue of Lord Buddha, has been carved out of a boulder in the “Posture of Blessing”. It is the tallest and best preserved such statue in Sri Lanka, with skillful carving of the robes which display the delicate, yet, chaste underlying form of his body. The statue is carved in such a manner, that a raindrop falling off its nose would drop exactly into a small depression carved between its feet. Aukana Buddha is said to have been carved in the 5th century CE, while some date it to the 12th or 13th century.
Polonnaruwa emerged as the capital city in 1070 AD after the fall of Anuradhapura and is regarded as the best planned ancient in the country, with an irrigation system that feeds the surrounding agricultural fields to this very day. Parakrama Samudraya, a vast manmade lake was built in 1200 AD and is said to resemble an ocean. The city abounds with the ruins of impressive palaces, monasteries, Buddhist temples and statues of Lord Buddha.
Sites to visit:
- Parakarma Samudra
- Royal Citadel
- Gal Vihara
- Lotus Pond
City of Kandy
Established by the Vikramabahu III (1357–1374 CE), Kandy was ruled by several successive monarchs and finally became the capital city of the last remaining independent Sinhalese kingdom in 1592. Having resisted the Portuguese and Dutch, the city finally fell to the British in 1815. Kandy is home to the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha, which is taken around the city in a colourful annual pageant called the Esala Perahera.
Lankatillake Rajamaha Temple
Dating back to the 14th century CE, this temple is built atop a rock named
Panhalgala and uniquely combines Buddhist and Hindu architectural elements.
Intricate floral designs decorate the inner sanctum, while the walls and ceilings
carry magnificent paintings.
This temple also dates back to the 14th century CE and is built mostly of Ironwood or Na, the national tree of Sri Lanka. The 16 pillars of the temple are covered with intricate carvings of swans, lions, bulls and elephants, while there are also carvings of leaves, flowers, dancing maidens and soldiers. The 26 rafters at the far end are held in place by a single pin.
Dambulla Cave Temple
The Cave Temple of Dambulla, built by King Valagamba, is Sri Lanka’s largest and best-preserved complex of over 80 caves, with statues and murals dating back to the 1st Century BCE. The best attractions are spread over 5 caves consisting of 153 statues of Lord Buddha, including the renowned Golden Buddha statue, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings, 4 statues of gods and goddesses and murals which cover an area of 2,100 square meters.