What You Need to Know about Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle


Ah, Sri Lanka, home of ancient Sinhalese royalty and littered with ancient ruins and restored temples, a must visit at some point in life. Definitely add it to your bucket list,

But why a triangle? The Cultural Triangle is named because it connects three major sites that form a triangle. Anuradhapura in the north, Polonaruwa in the east and Kandy in the south. The hub of culture in the country.



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The northern part of the triangle is called Rajarata in Sinhalese, meaning King’s Land. The place where the Sinhalese kings lived. Some structures date back nearly two thousand years. ________________________________________________________


Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa were once capitals of the ancient Sinhalese kingdom. Anuradhapura was built in three hundred and eighty BCE but was abandoned because of invasion by the Indians in the tenth century ACE. Then in the seventeenth century it was rediscovered covered in thick jungle as nature had taken it back. 

Polonnaruwa is the second ancient capital of Sri Lanka. A smaller complex, however the remains of Polonnaruwa are far better preserved than Anuradhapura. Both of these ancient capitals are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.



The southern section of the triangle is Kandy. The Kandyan empire ruled between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries. At the southernmost tip of the triangle is the city of Kandy. It is in Kandy that the sacred tooth relic is kept at the Temple of the Tooth. One of the most joyous and vibrant festivals in all of Sri Lanka is held here called Poya Perahera.


Notable Elements 

Dagobas, or stupas are large stone domes built to keep ancient relics of Buddha. There are three dagobas in Anurhadapura. The most notable is almost 3000 years old. The only human built monument larger than this is the great pyramid of Giza. Standing next to the largest of the dagobas makes one feel small and really puts time into perspective.

A Holy Tree is one of the main attractions in the Cultural Triangle. The sacred Bodhi Tree in Anuradhapura. The legend says this tree was grown from a branch of the tree that the Buddha sat under when he found enlightenment. This is the most sacred tree in all of Sri Lanka and has been for thousands of years because of this story. Many rituals and offerings are given to the tree while the locals starve.

The water tanks are rainwater reservoirs, thought to be used for water collection or as bathing pools. The largest reservoir is near Polonnaruwa but there are many other smaller ones around the country. In Sigiriya, there are a multitude of these hand carved beautiful open pools of all sizes, some covered in lotus flowers.

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