UNESCO World Heritage Sites Sri Lanka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
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Recorded history refers to Anuradhapura as the first capital of Sri Lanka. This extensive city still holds relics of architectural ruins of its ancient kingdom and Buddhist temples not seen in most parts of the world. Be prepared to grip history the minute you step into this sacred city; Anuradhapura. It is the base of ancient civilization in Sri Lanka and an ancient city with a rich heritage in history, culture, politics and religion.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a deep insight into the life and times of the majestic kings of Sri Lanka and the engineering and architectural potential of the times. The most famed monument is the ruins of the Brazen Palace and the Ruwanwelisaya built by King Dutugemunu in 164BCE. Anuradhapura is one of the three stunning locations in the Cultural Triangle. Mahamevuna Uyana houses the Sacred Bo Tree or Sri Maha Bodhi, the oldest authenticated sacred tree, which is said to date back to BCE and planted from a sapling from the sanctified tree under which Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment. Another magnificent sight is the Jetavanaramaya, the largest Dagoba in the world. The city is spread with ruins of ancient Dagobas and other sites of religious significance. Their complicated carvings and sculptures are remarkable and the ancient stones speak of the days of yore when the city was ruled by brave kings presided over by Buddhist clergy. Pilgrims around the world flock to Anuradhapura; it is regarded as a place where Buddhism is safeguarded for humanity. It is so unfortunate that the city finally declined in importance due to foreign invasions and went into disorder. Polonnaruwa gained prominence in the 10th century AD. A complete Archaeological Museum located in the city offers a greater understanding of the city’s unique monuments. The city remained the capital for almost 1,000 years and during the height of its rise, commanded great respect and power internationally. There is little to do in the city apart from visiting the ancient temples, monasteries and tanks. A visit to Anuradhapura leaves the visitor with a sense of wonder and history so deep that the experience lingers long after the visit.
Dambulla is part of the Cultural Triangle. It houses the gigantic Dambulla Cave Temple declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Dambulla caves date back to 1st century BCE. Originally it was the refuge of King Walagamba, and the caves were later converted into a rock temple. It houses beautiful frescoes and an imposing 15-metre long reclining Buddha and Hindu deities. The caves are considered to be the finest storehouse of Sinhala art and sculpture.
It has five caves under a vast overhanging rock, carved with a drip ledge to keep the interiors dry. In 1938 the architecture was inflated with arched walkways. Inside the caves, the ceilings are painted with complex patterns of religious images following the contours of the rock. There are images of Lord Buddha, and Bodhisattvas, as well as various gods and goddesses. Five caves are converted to shrine rooms. The caves, built at the base of a 150 meter high rock during the Anuradhapura (1st Century BCE to 993 AD) and Polonnaruwa times (1073 to 1250 AD), are the most inspiring of many cave temples in Sri Lanka.
The largest cave measures about 52 meters from east to west, and 23 meters from the entrance to the back, this amazing cave is 7 meters tall at its highest point. Hindu deities are also represented here, and the kings Walagamba, Nissankamalla, and of Arhant Ananda; the Buddha's most devoted disciple. Within these shrine rooms is housed a collection of one hundred and fifty statues of the Buddhist Order and the country's history. These statues and paintings represent many eras of Sinhala art and sculpture. The Buddha statues are in varying sizes and outlook; the largest is 15 meters long. One cave has over 1,500 paintings of the Buddha covering the ceiling.
The Dambulla cave monastery is still functional and remains the best-preserved ancient structure in Sri Lanka. This complex dates from the 2nd and 3rd Centuries BCE; it was established as one of the largest and most important monasteries. King Walagamba converted the caves into a temple in the 1st century BCE. Exiled from Anuradhapura, he sought refuge here from South Indian invaders for 15 years. After reclaiming his capital, the King built a temple in thankful worship. Many other kings added to it later and by the 11th century, the caves had become a major religious center. King Nissankamalla gilded the caves and added about 70 Buddha statues in 1190 AD. During the 18thcentury, the caves were restored and painted by the Kandyan Kings.
A hike to the highest Rose Quartz Mountain Range in South Asia offers the pleasure of a striking view of the neighboring area for miles around. With a history spanning over 1,000 years, Jathika Namal Uyana, also known as the Ironwood Forest, offers a fascinating trek through a deep jungle comprising of the Sri Lankan national tree, the Na (Iron wood). The forest is of important ecological extent and is the focus of studies by ecologists and students of nature.
Sir Emerson Tennant claims that Galle was the "Tarshish" mentioned in the Bible, as the harbor where ships trading with King Solomon obtained their Elephants, Peacocks and Gemstones. Most certainly the place where the Galle Fort now stands as well as other areas in Galle like Unawatuna, Magalle, Kaluwella and even the China Gardens (which held a colony of Chinese traders several years ago) were all areas with historic connections which go long before the Portuguese Era. International traders, Persians, Moor traders from the Persian Gulf, South Indian traders, Malays and especially the Chinese and a host of other nationalities lived and traded in Galle. The Cripps Road inscription reveals the polyglot and poly-ethnic character of Galle. Even in early British times the earliest embassies were situated in Galle. For example the first Consul from USA was resident in Galle.
The Galle Fort was built by the Dutch during their rule and it is the largest and the most secured fortress in Sri Lanka. It was declared an archeological reserve by the UN since 1969 and in December 1988, UNESCO declared Galle Fort World Heritage 38th Monument. A Parliament bill titled Galle Heritage Foundation Act was passed in 1994 in Sri Lanka. In addition to these entire claim, Galle Fort is unique, very special and charming as there are no other sites, areas, fortress or location when compared with Galle Fort walled city of 38 hectares (90 acres) in Sri Lanka.
The Fort of Galle is the living symbol of all this history unless the Sri Lankan Government turns out to be conscious of its responsibility to protect and preserve the tangible remains of our history; not only in Galle, but also all over Sri Lanka, otherwise all will be lost. Let the world heritage site of Galle remain symbolic of its heritage and not become a center of palatial dwellings of foreigners, night clubs and all that go with them.
Kandy is the last capital of Sri Lanka; its history brings to mind images of riches, marching elephants and much pomp and pageantry. Kandy is amongst a hilly terrain and all eyes are drawn to the center of the city, where the Kandy Lake forms a charming feature. It's one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka. Kandy was last home to the Kandyan Kings of yore in the 19th century and a fountain for all the music, arts, crafts and culture in the country. Taking in a performance of Kandyan Dancers is rather like floating on an unending wave where rhythm and movement become one against the backdrop of the throbbing drums
Kandy keeps hold of great religious significance for Sri Lanka. It is in this delightful city that the Dalada Maligawa or 'Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic' lies well guarded since the attack on its building by terrorists. The best time to visit Kandy would be in July/August when you can witness the annual Kandy Esala Perahera, an memorable parade that mirror the pomp and pageantry of kings and more notably an occasion when a replica of the relic casket is paraded. Almost 100 elephants parade along the main streets of the city, adorned with ceremonial gear and are accompanied by dancers and drummers for over 10 fascinating days
Even if you miss this spectacle, there are many more sights and sounds in Kandy that would hold your attention. The Peradeniya Botanical Gardens invite visitors to a learning experience about flora and fauna and some majestic trees that can be traced back to centuries. A visit to the National Museum once again highlights the city's royal past and is well worth a stop. The Malwatta and Asgiriya Monasteries house ancient manuscripts and other treasures from a bygone era
Kandy is an exciting place for shopping and a well-known center for elaborate brass, bronze and silver ware. Batiks, handlooms, ceramics, jewelry, reed ware and jewelry are other readily available items. This hill capital is at the heart of the island's history and identity and no visit to Sri Lanka is complete without a stop-over in Kandy. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha is the most revered Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka. And it is located in the royal palace complex. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sinhalese kings and is a UNESCO world heritage site partly due to the temple
Monks of the two chapters of Malwatta and Asgiriya conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple. Rituals are performed three times daily: 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 fragrant flowers, called 'Nanumura Mangalaya'. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present
Mahavamsa and Chulavansa speak of Pulasthipura; the early historical name of Polonnaruwa; a UNESCO world heritage site, which has a great history of invasions and struggle. Behind it rightfully forms the third element in the Cultural Triangle. Located about 140 Kms north east of Kandy, Polonnaruwa offers hours of endless pleasure for history and culture lovers, as there are numerous sights of significance.
Polonnaruwa became the capital of Sri Lanka subsequent to the decline of Anuradhapura and witnessed the Sinhala Buddhist civilization reaching much greater heights. The vast irrigation network with reservoirs that look like inland seas sustained such classic balance in rice cultivation, during the rule of King Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186 AD) and Sri Lanka came to be known as the Granary of the Orient. The main attractions are the conserved ruins of glorious royal palaces, massive Buddhist temples, and unbroken monuments in colossal statues carved from solid rock boulders and with its conserved ruins and renovated ancient irrigation reservoirs it is a "must visit" destination in Sri Lanka.
As much as the conserved cultural monuments would enlighten the tourists, the wildlife sanctuaries in the district of Polonnaruwa afford ample opportunities for the joy and fun in the close range of wild elephants, other mammals to the lovers of wildlife. At the city of Polonnaruwa the largest ancient irrigation reservoir called Parakrama Samudra (Sea of Parakrama) is always lovely with the excess of birdlife, it is seldom that there is not something interesting going on upon its shimmering expanses of waters. Polonnaruwa is located in between Wildlife at Minneriya National Park, Wasgamuwa National Park, Kaudulla National Park and Eco Hotels at Kandalama and Habarana.
The Cultural Triangle Project, launched by the Government of Sri Lanka, focused its attention on Sigiriya in 1982. Archaeological work began on the entire city for the first time under this project. There was a sculpted lion's head above the legs and paws fl anking the entrance, but the head had broken down many years ago.
Sigiriya consists of an ancient castle built by King Kassapa during the 5th century. However, the beginnings and the original builder of Sigiriya is challenged by many local and foreign historians and archaeologists. The Sigiriya has the leftovers of an upper palace on the fl at top of the rock, a midlevel terrace including the Lion Gate and the mirror wall with its frescoes, the lower palace that clings to the slopes below the rock; the moats, walls, and gardens extending for some hundreds of meters out from the base of the rock.
It is both a palace and a fortress. Despite its age, the splendor of the palace still furnishes a stunning insight into the ingenuity and creativity of its builders. The upper palace on the top of the rock includes cisterns cut into the rock that still retain water. The moats and walls that surround the lower palace are still gracefully attractive.
Sigiriya is considered one of the most important urban planning sites of the first millennium, and the site plan is considered very elaborate and imaginative. The plan combined concepts of balance and irregularity to intentionally link the man-made geometrical and natural forms of the surroundings. On the west side of the rock lies a park for the royals, laid out on a balanced plan; the park contains water-retaining structures, including sophisticated surface/subsurface hydraulic systems, some of which still work to date. In the south lies a man-made reservoir; these were extensively used from the previous capital of the dry zone of Sri Lanka. Five gates were placed at the entrances. The more sophisticated western gate is regarded to have been reserved for the royals.
Sri Padaya (Adam's Peak)
Peak Wilderness Sanctuary is the third largest nature reserve in Sri Lanka. It spreads over 224 square kilometers and a tropical rain forest around the Sri Pada (Adam's Peak) mountain range. A huge forest area belonging to the Peak Wilderness was cut down and cleared during the British colonial rule in Sri Lanka (1815-1948) to gain land for the massive tea estates which still functions in Nuwara Eliya district. The remaining was declared a reserve on October 25th 1940
The contours of this reserve vary from 1000 to 7360 feet above sea level. It possesses unusual geographical formations compared to the other natural reserves of the island. Bena Samanala (6579 ft), Dotalugala and Detanagala, are some of the taller mountains in the Peak Wilderness. It is also the birthplace of Kelani, Kalu, Walawe rivers and many tributaries of the river Mahaweli which make waterfalls such as Dotalu Falls, Gerandi Falls, Galagama Falls (655 ft), and Mapanana Falls (330 ft) inside the sanctuary
Of the 3 access routes; Hatton, Kuruwita and Palabaddala, the Buddhist devotees and other tourists make use of to reach the Adam's Peak, Kuruwita and Palabaddala routes go right across the Peak Wilderness sanctuary. It is entirely under the control of Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Department but do not maintain any lodge, bungalow inside sanctuary in order to safeguard the purity of this forest. There is no restriction for eco-tourists to enter the sanctuary after obtaining permission from Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Department. Entering the sanctuary during the rainy season is at the tourist's own risk because of the unforeseen downpours and instant floods lead to life-risk situations.
Peak Wilderness sanctuary is within the Sabaragamuwa mountain range in the Central hills and there are no specific boundaries for the Peak Wilderness sanctuary. Most boundaries are marked by plantations owned by the Government and the private sector. The eastern boundary is clear and connected to Piduruthalagala mountain region and Horton Plains National Park.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a national park and a biodiversity hotspot in Sri Lanka. It is of international significance and has been designated a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The hilly virgin rainforest, part of Sri Lanka’s lowland rain forests eco region, 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. 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 about 3 elephants and the 15 or so leopards are rarely seen. The commonest larger mammal is the endemic Purple faced Languor. 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, the 20 rainforest species all occur here, including the elusive Redfaced 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 Bird wing butterfly and the inevitable leeches. Flora: - The vegetation of Sinharaja may be described either as a tropical lowland rain forest or tropical wet evergreen forest. Some striking characteristics of the forest are the loftiness of the dominant trees, the straightness of their bole, the abundance of regeneration and the diversity of species. Average height of the trees varies between 35 -40 meters, some rise even up to 50 meters. The vegetation of Sinharaja is that of humid wet evergreen forest type with a high degree of endemism. In fact some families such as Dipterocarpaceae show an endemism more than 90%. The untapped genetic potential of Sinharaja flora is enormous. Out of the 211 woody trees and lianas so far identified within the reserve 139 (66%) are endemic. Similarly, high levels of endemism are.
perhaps true for the lower plants like ferns, epiphytes as well as out of 25 general endemic to Sri Lanka 13 are represented in Sinharaja. The total vegetation density, including trees, shrubs, herbs and seedlings has been estimated to be around 240,000 individuals per hectare, of which 95% comprise individuals of the ground layer bellow 1 meter in height.