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Situated in the North central Province, Anuradhapura is 210 Km from Colombo. It is the oldest capital city of the country, built by a Sinhala king in the 4th century BC. In the 5th century a prince called Vijaya in North India was banished by his father, along with some of his followers, in a boat drifted into Sri Lanka. With Vijaya’s arrival in the island, began the dynasty of kings. In time, one of Vijaya’s kinsmen picked on Anuradhapura for reasons of security and fortified it and built it as tha capital. Also in the same century, a north Indian emperor despatched his son, a Buddhist monk, to preach the doctrine of the Buddha in Sri Lanka. Buddhism was accepted by the Sri Lankan king and it flourished as the main religion here. A few years later, the sister of the monk, a Buddhist nun, came to Anuradhapura with a sapling of the  Bodhi tree under which the Buddha had  attained enlightment, and presented it to the king. This was planted at Anuradhapura and is venerated to this day by all as the oldest historical tree in the world. Many kings held way in Anuradhapura and left their mark on the capital in the shape of shrines, imposing dagabas, preaching halls, monasteries and great religious images.

As this city was laid in the dry zone, it became necessary for the rulers to construct reservoirs (tanks) to collect the water to irrigate the paddy fields and for domestic use. The wonder of students of history, these are still being used for their original purpose.

This city also became the target for invading forces from South India during these.