Saturday, 24 January 2015
Anuradhapura is an ancient town in central Sri Lanka, famous for its many places of worship and ruins of buddhist monasteries, many of them around 2000 years old. Mirisivatya Dagoba is on the outskirts of the sacred city, a white dagoba with little tourists and quiet atmosphere.
Abhayagiri is on the northern edge of the city, furthest from the center. It is my favourite part of the area, with the jungle overgrowing the ruins and a quiet, melancholy atmosphere. 1500 years ago, it was a huge monastery housing 5000 monks, though only the sheer size of the area suggests that now.
Further to the south, the mood changes to lively and vibrant place of pilgrimage, with hundreds of buddhists in white dress offering flowers before buddha statues and praying. The huge Ruvanvalisaya dagoba is particularly popular, as it is believed to hold remains of the Buddha. The white dome is wrapped in a 300 m long orange ribbon. Also dressed in white, a group of volunteers were washing the mildew off the stones, remaining surprisingly clean themselves.
According to popular belief, this Bo Tree was grown from a cutting of the original indian Bo Tree, under which Buddha attained enlightenment. It is the oldest living human planted tree in the world, dating from 288 BC. Around the terrace on which it grows, many other saplings have been planted, so it feels more like garden than a temple.