The 5th-century-AD Pali epic, the Mahavamsa, is the country's primary historical source. But although it is a somewhat faithful record of kingdoms and Sinhalese political power from around the 3rd century BC, its historical accuracy is much shakier – and indeed full of beautiful myths – before this time. Nonetheless, many Sinhalese claim that they are descended from Vijaya, an immoral 6th-century-BC North Indian prince who, according to the epic, had a lion for a grandfather and a father with lion paws who married his own sister. Vijaya was banished for bad behaviour, with a contingent of 700 men, on dilapidated ships from the subcontinent. Rather than drowning, they landed near present-day Mannar, supposedly on the day that the Buddha attained enlightenment. Vijaya and his crew settled around Anuradhapura, and soon encountered Kuveni, a Yaksha (probably Veddah) who is alternately described as a vicious queen and a seductress who assumed the form of a 16-year-old maiden to snag Vijaya. She handed Vijaya the crown, joined him in slaying her own people and had two children with him before he kicked her out and ordered a princess – along with wives for his men – from South India's Tamil Pandya kingdom. (That, by this account, the forefathers of the Sinhalese race all married Tamils is overlooked by most Sri Lankans.) His rule formed the basis of the Anuradhapura kingdom, which developed there in the 4th century BC. Buddhism arrived from India in the 3rd century BC, transforming Anuradhapura and possibly creating what is now known as Sinhalese culture. Today the mountain at Mihintale marks the spot where King Devanampiya Tissa is said to have first received the Buddha's teaching. The earliest Buddhist emissaries also brought to Sri Lanka a cutting of the bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. It survives in Anuradhapura, now garlanded with prayer flags and lights. Strong ties gradually evolved between Sri Lankan royalty and Buddhist religious orders. Kings, grateful for monastic support, provided living quarters, tanks (reservoirs) and produce to the monasteries, and a symbiotic political economy between religion and state was established, a powerful contract that is still vital in modern times. Buddhism underwent a further major development on the island when the original oral teachings were documented in writing in the 1st century BC. The early Sri Lankan monks went on to write a vast body of commentaries on the teachings, textbooks, Pali grammars and other instructive articles, developing a classical literature for the Theravada (doctrine of the elders) school of Buddhism (p285) that continues to be referenced by Theravada Buddhists around the world. The arrival of the tooth relic of the Buddha at Anuradhapura in AD 371 further reinforced the position of Buddhism in Sinhalese society. Buddhism gave the Sinhalese a sense of national purpose and identity, and inspired the development of their culture and literature.

Kuttam Pokuna

One of the best specimen of bathing tanks or pools in ancient Sri Lanka is the pair of pools known as Kuttam Pokuna (Twin Ponds/Pools). The said pair of pools were built by the Sinhalese in the ancient kingdom of Anuradhapura. These are considered one of the significant achievements in the field of hydrological engineering and outstanding architectural and artistic creations of the ancient Sinhalese. Dimensions A garden was landscaped which separates the two ponds which long is 18½ ft. The larger pool of the two is 132 ft by 51 ft, while the smaller pool is 91 ft by 51 ft. The depths of the two pools is 14 ft and 18 ft for the smaller pool and the larger pool respectively. Construction The faces of the pools were cut granite slabs which includes the bottom and the sides of the pool. A wall was also built around the pool which encloses the compound. Flights of steps are seen on both ends of the pool decorated with punkalas, or pots of abundance and scroll design. Embankments were constructed to enable monks to bathe using pots or other utensils. Water to the pools were transferred through underground ducts and filtered before flowing to the pool and in a similar fashion the water was emptied. Dr. Senerath Paranavithana was actively involved in the restoration of the ponds, in which small figures of fish, a conch, a crab and a dancing woman were found in the bottom.

Workmanship, masterpiece

Anuradhapura - Polonnaruwa Anuradhapura, was Sri Lanka's first capital, and the royal capital for more than 100 Sri Lankan kings. It has a hot climate with a dry season. Mostly flatland with some lonely hills and rock-outcrops. Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. Today there are two Anuradhapuras. Moderen one with banks, pst offices. hospitals and ancient town with palaces, gardens and bathing ponds. There in ancient city are three separate monastic complexes.There in ancient city are three separate monastic complexes. Each of complex is focused to giant stupa in Anuradhapura namely,the Jetavana, Abhayagiri and the Ruvaneli -stupa. The Mahathupa - Great Thupa is today known as the Ruvanveliseya Dagaba. Because of it's long history of guarding the traditions of Theravada Buddhism, and because its monks kept the most sacred shrines at Anuradhapura, Maha Vihara is the most important monastery of the city. Although not it's true height and original form, the fine white Ruvanveliseya Dagaba, guarded by a 'wall of elephants', still looks magnificent.

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