In the heritage sites, other delights abound. Sri Lanka’s classic archaeological sites lie conveniently arranged
in a compact triangle enclosing Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy. The ‘Cultural Triangle’ makes these major historical monuments a convenient excursion distance from all the hotels in the region.
Sri Lanka’s two millennia-old civilization is eloquently documented in ancient chronicles such as the Mahavansa and in the stone and plaster of a profusion
of impressive monuments in ancient capitals and fortresses. And even if the walls of the ashlar are now fallen and giant squirrels have the run of stately audience halls where great kings held court, the glory lingers everywhere.
At Anuradhapura, great pre-Christian metropolis of the Royal Twin Baths, pleasure gardens, vast irrigation lakes and the graceful, rock-cut Isurumuniya Lovers, where the multi-storeyed Brazen Palace was roofed in burnished copper and the “Pragna Paramita Sutra” Buddhist scriptures (unearthed in 1982) were written on sheets of pure gold. Likewise at the pre-Christian woodland monastery of Mihintale with it’s wide and wondrous stairway of nearly two thousand steps, more than two thousand years old.
Polonnaruwa, handsome, well-preserved medieval capital, has a haunting ambience of grandeur and many treasures. Among them the Gal Vihare sculptures, the Lotus Bath, the Stone Book and a 12th century irrigation lake so vast, it is still called the Samudra (Sea) of
Ancient glory dazzle at Sigiriya, stunning fifth century rock-fortress hideaway of a fugitive king. Sigiriya’s marvels include the three-metre tall high-gloss Mirror Wall, the majestic Lion Stairway, the water gardens(a UNESCO World Heritage site) and a gallery of exusite frescoes of lissome courtesans, still glowing with colour even after fifteen centuries. Equally dazzling is the 14-m. fifth century rock-cut Aukana Buddha which towers over it’s jungle shrine. A colossus tremendous impact !
Further back in history, visit today,the 1st century .B.C. cave temple at Dambulla. This is a series of 5 connected caves which contain the largest collection of Buddhist statues in Sri Lanka including a reclining Buddha over 47m. long. Just as compelling are the frescoes which cover the roof and walls.
Kandy, hill capital, last stronghold of Sri Lanka’s kings and centre-stage of its history from the 16th – 19th centuries, is picturesquely surrounded by lake, river and mountain chains. Its attractions include the moated, turreted and golden-roofed Dalada Maligawa, shrine of the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha. The Lankatilleke, Gadaladeniya, Degaldoruwa, Medawela and Embekke temples in Kandy’s suburbs are adorned with typical highland (mainly 18th c.) architecture, sculpture, painting and wood-carving.
At Yapahuwa’s 13th c. rock fortress, an imposing stone stairway of unusual grandeur on and on – to nowhere in particular, an enigma archaeologist cannot adequately explain.