Ancient Ruins of Fallen Kingdoms

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Sri Lanka has had a continuous record of human settlement for more than two millennia, and its civilization has been shaped largely by that of the Indian subcontinent. This rich history makes Sri Lanka a tourist hotspot famous for its ancient ruins, age old buildings, legends and folktales. A trip to Sri Lanka wouldn’t be complete without a taste of its history and a visit to the historical places.

The drift of Sinhalese political power from North Central region to the southwest following the collapse of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa had drastic social and economic consequences.

Population gradually shifted in the direction to which the capital was shifting; this led to neglect of the interconnected systems of water storage. The once-flourishing Rajarata became a devastated ruin of depopulated villages, overgrown jungle, and dried-up tank beds, as the centers of Sinhalese population arose in the monsoon-watered lands of the south, the southwest, and the Central Highlands.

Meanwhile, the Sinhalese noble families withdrew from Rajarata to the courts of Sinhalese leaders who had set themselves up in other parts of the country. Thus, the managerial network that had maintained the agricultural and irrigation systems disappeared, and operations broke down and therefore cities left behind were became ruins of the kingdoms and civilizations once flourished.

The sites of ancient cities such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Kandy form the cultural triangle are home to most of the ancient ruins of Sri Lanka which attract thousands of tourists and pilgrims.




Kashyapa I, son of King Dhatusena moved the capital from Anuradhapura to the rock fortress of Sigiriya and reigned from AD 477–495.

The site has both, a palace and a fortress. Sigiriya has sufficient remains to provide the visitor with a stunning insight into the ingenuity and creativity of its builders.

The rocky outcrop of Sigiriya holds the ancient remains of King Kassapa’s palace from the 5th century AD. Sigiriya, considered by some as the eighth wonder of the world, consists of an ancient castle used by King Kashyapa. The Sigiriya site has the remains of an upper Sky Palace sited on the flat top of the rock, a mid-level terrace that includes the Lion Gate and the Mirror Wall and the Sigiriya Frescoes, the lower palace that clings to the slopes below the rock, and the moats, walls and gardens that extend for some hundreds of meters out from the base of the rock. The top is reachable by stairs built on the side of the mountain and features the Lion Rock and the remains of the palace and fortress. Visitors will see the magnificence of the place when they reach the top, complete with a 360-degree view of the jungle below. The water reservoirs that collect rainwater are still there and in good condition.

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 exquisitely beautiful.  After Kashyapa’s dethronement the capital was returned to Anuradhapura.

Sigiriya is one of the major attractions of Sri Lanka and visited by most travelers during their stay. It also provides a hiking opportunity for travelers who are energetic and adventurous. Sigiriya was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.





Anuradhapura is the first ancient capital of Sri Lanka which lasted for the longest period as the capital in the country. It is important to locals for religion, history, and the culture and world-famous for its well-preserved ruins of the Great Sri Lankan Civilization. The Civilization which was built upon this city was one of the greatest civilizations of Asia and in the world. The city now a UNESCO heritage site, lies 205 km (127 mi) north of the current capital Colombo in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka, on the banks of the historic Malwathu Oya. Founded in the 4th century BC, it was the capital of the Anuradhapura Kingdom until the beginning of the 11th century CE. 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.

Tradition attributes the founding of the kingdom of Anuradhapura to Pandukkabhaya, the third king of the Vijaya dynasty. With its growth as the strongest Sinhalese kingdom, the city of Anuradhapura and the nearby settlements flourished. Kings built up the city and developed it for urban life as they extended royal control over villages and outlying settlements. With the establishment of strong government, the population grew and the kingdom expanded into the north-central region.

Today this ancient city of Sri Lanka, which is sacred to the Buddhist world, which its surrounding monasteries covers an area of over sixteen square miles (40 km²) and is one of the world's major archaeological sites.





After the fall of Anuradhapura Kingdom to the Chola Empire. Vijayabahu liberated the island and re-established Sinhalese power. He shifted the capital eastward to Polonnaruwa, a city that was easier to defend against south Indian attacks and that controlled the route to Ruhuna. Polonnaruwa is being treated as the second most ancient kingdom of Sri Lanka. Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archeological relic sites in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the kingdom's first rulers.




Dambulla Cave Complex

Dambulla Cave temple is another attraction of ancient heritage of Sri Lanka which is situated in the proximity of Sigiriya and Habarana. This is also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla and this is a world heritage site in Sri Lanka, declared by UNESCO in 1991. The complex is situated in the central part of the island, 148 km east of Colombo and 72 km north of Kandy. It is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock towers 160 m (525 ft) over the surrounding plains. There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding. But major attractions of sculptures and paintings are spread over 5 caves.





Kandy is a strategic location used by later kings to establish their kingdom. Though the city was not ruined despite the fall at the hand of British, it has utmost significance due to well preserved Kings palace ‘Sri Dalada Malaigawa’ and the neighborhood which expose the culture and art values of Sri Lanka.

The name ‘Sri Dalada Maligawa’ was given as it houses the tooth relic of the Buddha literally a relic temple built within the royal palace complex. 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 was difficult to approach. The city is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO, in part due to the temple and the royal palace complex.



Some other Places of Ruins and Historical Significance

Belilena Cave of the Prehistoric man

Ritigala Archaeological Site

The Temple of Wood Carvings, the Embekka Devalaya

The Temple atop a rock, Mulkirigala Viharaya

Yapahuwa Ancient City

Buduruwagala Ancient City



Also read

World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka declared by UNESCO

Heritage of Colonial era buildings and structures

Ancient Irrigation system, builds of giant lakes, reservoirs and canals.




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