May 23, 2024

Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle

Cultural Triangle is a hypothetical concept that has been passed down for years. In reality it encompasses the ancient kingdoms’ capitals; Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Dambulla and stretching the triangle down to Kandy. These areas were home to Sinhalese Royalty and in present they have ruins and monuments of ancient Buddhist Temples. These are the north central plains of Sri Lanka.


Exploring the ancient city of Anuradhapura will be a cultural trip for the visitors. Anuradhapura was Sri Lanka’s first ancient capital around the 4th century BC. 

As kingdoms changed, invasions happened; the ancient was in ruins and had grown into the wild. However, much later Buddhists monks and British discovered these historical ruins and began restoring most of it. The ancient architecture and irrigation of the time can be seen when observing the palace ruins. Furthermore, it helps to understand how much significance Buddhism has in ancient Sinhala kingdoms.

“Atamasthana”(eight scared locations that Lord Gautama Buddha had visited during his visits to the island) in Anuradhapura are revered by all Buddhists around the world. These eight locations can be found in Anuradhapura. They are Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanwelisaya, Thuparamaya, Lovamahapaya, Jetawanarama, Abhayagiri Dagaba, Mirisaweti Stupa and Lankaramaya. These are places even today that are often frequented by Buddhists to worship and observe from morning to evening. 

Since there is always a huge flow of travelers to these places we suggest tourists to take a local guide who’ll provide enough explanation as well as someone who knows the locations well.


After the Anuradhapura kingdom’s fall, Southern Indian invaders, “Cholas” captured this area during King Rajaraja I and began building its capital. Therefore, we can say it is the second most ancient historical capital where you will experience the mix of cultures. It is a UNESCO declared world heritage site. Cholas spread Hinduism to the island. Though they are mostly ruins in Polonnaruwa you will see compared to Anuradhapura there are ruins of Devala in the ancient city. 

Then king Vijayabahu I captured the whole island and established Polonnaruwa as the main capital. From then onwards Polonnaruwa continued to thrive as a successful kingdom under Vikramabahu I and Parakramabahu I. Many of the reservoirs in Polonnaruwa have been maintained ever since because of its great prowess in irrigational network. The golden age of this kingdom was under Parakramabahu I.

The sites to visit include Vatadage, Gal viharaya, Kiri viharaya and Kumara Pokuna. Also you will enjoy the scenery around Parakrama Samudraya(sea) where you will be amazed by the ancient hydraulic management. We recommend you to go cycling around to visit these places as most of them are open air.


Compared to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, Dambulla is famous for ancient monuments and pilgrimages like Dambulla Cave temple, Pidurangala, Sigiriya and Ibbankatuwa Tombs.

  • Dambulla Cave temple is a UNESCO world heritage site that has been preserved well for many years. It is the largest cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. Currently there are 5 caves that visitors are allowed to visit, where there are amazing buddha statues, ancient art/ paintings on cave walls and murals. 
  • Sigiriya is the ancient rock fortress  situated near Dambulla town in the district of Matale. This fortress was built by King Kashyapa to protect himself and hide from his brother’s attacks. It was also used as a Buddhist monastery in late centuries. The architecture and techniques of engineering on this rock still surprises many who come to study the site. There are famous ancient paintings that are being preserved till this day.

From the city you can also visit Hurulu Forest Reserve and Wasgamuwa National Park to enjoy some nature and see the wildlife, especially wild elephants. If you wish to go on an adventure, try hiking up to the Arangala mountain peak. There are plenty of trails and space for camping on the mountain. 


Kandyan Kingdom was the last kingdom where a Sinhala monarchy had power in the island. It collapsed after the British captured the city in the early 1800s. In Kandy the Buddhists pilgrimages are being used even in the present day.

Famous attractions include The Temple of The Sacred Tooth Relic, Asgiri temple, Gadaladeniya temple, Lankathilaka temple and Ambekka Devalaya. These places boast of Sri Lankan architecture, wood carvings, art and the prestige of Buddhism. Locals visit them ever so frequently. You can watch Esala Perahera if you arrive during the season.

Nature lovers can explore something extra to these religious sites. Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden is a beautiful large garden that has well maintained, manicured fields of flowers and trees. You go on a picnic or to take pretty photographs for your gallery. Then there is also Udawatta kele and Dunumadalawa Forest Reserve to feel and explore the more greenery and wildlife.

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