sights / Historic

Lonely Planet review

Follow the loop road a little further from the moonstones and you will find the finest guardstones in Anuradhapura. Dating from the 8th century, they depict a cobra king and demonstrate the final refinement of guardstone design. You can see examples of much earlier guardstone design at the Mirisavatiya Dagoba.

In the 8th century a new order of tapovana (ascetic) monks settled in the fringes of the city, among the lowest castes, the rubbish dumps and the burial places. These monasteries were large but unelaborate structures; ornamentation was saved for toilets, now displayed at the Archaeological Museum. The monks of Ratnaprasada (Gem Palace) monastery gave sanctuary to people in trouble with the authorities, and this led to a major conflict with the king. When court officials at odds with the king took sanctuary in the Ratnaprasada, the king sent his supporters to capture and execute them. The monks, disgusted at this invasion of a sacred place, departed en masse. The general populace, equally disgusted, besieged the Ratnaprasada, captured and executed the king’s supporters and forced the king to apologise to the departed monks in order to bring the monks back to the city and restore peace.

To the south of the Ratnaprasada is the Lankarama , a 1st-century-BC vatadage .