Monday, September 13, 2010


The city of Anuradhapura is situated tow hundred and five kilometers north of Colombo in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka on the bank of the Malwathu Oya. Founded in the 4th Century BC it was the capital of the Anuradhapura Kingdom till the beginning of the 11th century AC. During this period it remained one of the most stable and durable centers of political power and urban life in South Asia. It was also a wealthy city which created a unique culture and a great civilization. Today this ancient city of Sri Lanka, which is sacred to the Buddhist world, with its surrounding monasteries covers an area of over forty square Kilo Meters (16 Sq Mils) and is one of the worlds major archeological sites.
According to the “Mahawansa” the great Chronicle of the Sihalese , the city of Anuradhapura was named after a minister called Anuradha who founded this area as village settlement by the Malwathu Oya (Maluwathu River) where water was readily available in the second half of the 6th century BC. He was one of the ministers who had accompanied King Vijaya from India who, according to tradition, landed in Sri Lanka and founded the Sinhala race. Some years later, a prince of the same name become overlord in that village and built a reservoir and a residence. The Chronicle says that a place was called Anuradhagama (Anuradha’s Village) because it had served as dwelling two Anuradhas and also because it was founded under the constellation Anuradha.
It is said that King Pandukabhaya made it his capital in the 4th century BC, and that he also laid out the town and its suburbs according to the well organized plan.He constructed a reservoir named “Abhayavapi”.  The tradition that king pandukabhaya made Anuradhapura the capital city of Sri lanka as early as the 4th century BC had been very important. The administrative and sanitary arrangement he made for the city and the shrines he provided indicate that over the years the city developed according to an original master plan. His son Mutasiva, succeeded to the throne. During his reign of sixty years, He maintained Anuradhapura as his capital and further laid out the Mahamegawana Garden which was to play an important role in the early history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.It was a period of his successor, his son Devanampiya Tissa, that Buddhism was first introduced to this island 236 years after the passing away of the Buddha. A contemporary of Devenampiya Tissa was Emperor  Asoka in India. Historically this period considered to extend from 250 to 2010 BC. This is the point at which a Kingship began and a civilitation developed based on one of the greatest religions of South Asia, Buddhism.
Recent excavation carried out at the citadel Of Anuradhapura reveals much valuable information about the very early inhabitants of this city, one of the most ancient and most prosperous cities of South Asia. The said excavation revealed details of the existence of a proto-historic habitance. The protohistoric Iron age is considered to be from ca. 900-600 BC. This period is marked by the appearance of iron technology, pottery which is Black & Red ware (BRW), the horse, domestic cattle and paddy cultivation. It is now evident that by ca. 700-600BC, the protohistoric settlement at Anuradhapura had extended over an area of at least 50 he, designated a town. Its location, equidistant from a major ports of the northwest & northeast, surrounded by irrigable and fertile earth and defensible against invaders with its deep burrier of forests suggest a deliberate selection of the locus by a centerlised authority.   

From Thambapanni to Sri lanka

Although officially named as Sri Lanka it has lot of identities and nicknames.  Over the centuries Sri lanka has been known by different names. The change of the country’s name from time to time is a fascinating story.
The earliest known name is 'Tambapanni' and it goes back to the arrival of Prince Vijaya who was a founding father of Sinhala Race. When   the ship in which Vijaya and his men arrived having had a hostile reception at an earlier place they landed, they grasped the earth earth with their hands which become red by contact with the soil. They then named  the place Thambapanni meaning Copper-coloured hand. The name was extended to cover the district and later to the whole island.
There is reference in Greek literature around the fourth century B.C.  , to 'Taprobane' which obviously had derived from Tambapanni. The earliest mention, according to historian and archaeologist Professor Senerath Paranavithana, is found in the work of Onesicritus , the chief navigator on Alexander the Great’s voyage down the Indus ( in India) He had got the information from the sea-faring men of the Indus delta who had a long acquaintance with the Island since their ancestor had found the first Aryan settlements there. At least three Greek writers had referred to the Island giving accurate information about the duration of the sea journey from India, the shallow north-western seas, the stormy monsoon weather, and the wealth of the Island in pearls, gems and elephants.
Indian emperor Asoka mentions Tambapanni in his inscriptions dating back to 3rd century B.C. ,as outside the limits of his dominion.
'Taprobana'  was How the Alexandrian geographer, Claudius Ptolemy identified the Island When he drafted his map of Sri Lanka. One of the earliest maps of Sri Lanka, it carried an elaborately ornamented sketch of a wild elephant and a legend in Latin set inside a decorative frame. The map only had a vague resemblance to the Island’s broad base and tapering tip.
There is mention of the island in different names by different European powers which had trading ties with Sri Lanka. The Portuguese called it 'Ceilao' , the Spanish referred to it as 'Ceilan' and French version was 'Selon' .  To the Arabs it was ‘Serendib’.The Dutch , who occupied the country after the Portuguese , had used at least three versions – Zeilna , Ceilan and Seylon.
The first Dutch map drawn in the 17th century , carries a note referring to “ Once known to the inhabitants as Taprobane,Tenarisin and Lankawn , most accurately mapped by Nikolaus  Visscher”. This is considered as one of the most accurate maps with topographical Details.
The British introduced the English Version “Ceylon” to identify the country and showed keen interest in mapping and measuring their newly acquired territory. In fact, the Survey Department was the first government department to be established – in 1800. Its task was to survey Crown land for diverse military , administrative and civilian purposes ranging from road and railway development  to sales pioneering British coffee and tea planters.
As for names in Sinhala, the country has been called ‘Lankadeepa’ and  ‘Lakdiva’ both meaning the island of Lanka and Lakbima
Considering the shape of the island , it if often referred to as ‘Indias Tear Drop’ and ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’.
Even after indipendance in 1948 , the country continued to be called Ceylon for over six decades. In fact, tea continues to be branded as ‘Ceylon Tea’ since the name is still popular.