Anuradhapura the first capital of Sri Lanka is uniquely acknowledged as the focal city of Theravada Buddhism. Its history trails back to thousands of years. Excavations conducted in the inner city have revealed evidence of human settlements of the prehistoric era. Potsherds having Brahmi script unearthed in excavations had revealed that the historic period of Anuradhapura could be traced back to the 8-7c. B.C.
The chronicle Mahavamsa affirms that the first human settlement in the form of a village was setup in Anuradhapura by Anuradha, a member of the Aryan legion headed by prince Vijaya who migrated from India in the 6c. B.C. He established the village Anuradha in the west bank of a tributary of the river Malvatuoya. The village was converted to a city during the reign of king Pandukabhaya in the 4c. B.C. While King Mutasiva beautified the city by adding the great park Mahameghavana, the architectural finds uncovered so far in the city belongs to the period of the reign of King Devnampiyatissa and after.
Extensive development of the city of Anuradhapura took place during the reigns of the kings such as Dutugemunu, Valagamba, Vasabha, Mahasen and Dhatusena. The rapid development which Anuradhapura was thus experiencing came to an abrupt setback with the invasion of the Pandyans in the 9th c. A.D. and the Colas from South India in the 10th c A.D.
The old Anuradhapura which was situated on the west bank of a tributary of Malvatuoya was bounded by the Bulankulama reservoir on its west, Basawakkulama ( Abhaya) reservoir on its south west, Tisawewa reservoir on its south and the Nuwara ( Jaya) reservoir on its East. From the spread of the ruins found in the ancient city of Anuradhapura it could be surmised that the city was divided in to two sections viz.
- Inner City
- Outer City
The inner city comprised the buildings belonging to the royalty while the outer city consisted of ecclesiastical buildings. The observation of the spatial arrangement of the monasteries reveals that Mahavihara, Jetavana, Abhayagiri, the three great monasteries and the peripheral monasteries together with the royal gardens are located as one complex in the outer city.