Access to the archaeological zone of Anuradhapura is only permitted with a valid ticket. An exception from this rule is a visit of the area to the south of the B234 road, which runs just to the south of Mirisaveti Dagoba and the Sacred Bo Tree. There are several archaeological sites in Anuradhapura South. Except from Isurumuniya, which charges a separate entry free not included in the Anuradhapura ticket, all sites are open to the public free of charge. That’s why we recommend to use the Anuradhapura ticket for a full day in the central and northern part of the archaeological park, comprising Ruwanweliseya, Abhayagiri and citadel in particular, whereas the historical sites in southern Anuradhapura can be visited without additional charges on another half-day excursion. Besides the ancient Tissa Wewa tank, there are four archaeological sites in Anuradhapura South which can count as places of interest for cultural tours.
The Dakkhina Dagaba, which translates to „southern stupa“ is a medium-sized brick monument not restaured in a modern fashion, although it is a sacred site of historic significance for Sinhalese people, as it is believed to be the tomb of Dutugemunu (Dutthagamani), the national hero. It was considered to be the tomb of his Tamil opponent Elara by earlier archaeologists. Actually, the site could have been the place where the two opponents faught the decisive duel ending with the defeat and death of Elara. The stone pillars surrounding the stupa of Dakkhina Dagaba carry some typical carvings from the Anuradhapura period, such as a depiction of Kubera, the deity of wealth.
Not far away from Dakkhina Dagoba is the rock temple of Isurumuniya, which is the most-visited site in Anuradhapura South. It’s a remarkable sanctuary for various reasons. This sacred site seems to have been heavily influenced by local cults and by Hinduism. It is now famous for ist rock carvings many of which are excellent works of art and some of which are quite unique. The depiction of a loving couple, now on display in the museum attached to Isurumuniya Temple, is very famous in Sri Lanka. It is said to represent Prince Saliya and his girlfriend Ashokamala, the Romeo and Juliette of ancient Sri Lanka. A man with a horse behind him is a quite enigmatic relief just beside the main rock shrine. At the foot of the rock is a pond. Here you can see carvings depicting bathing elephants.
Just north to the famous Isurumuniya temple is Ranmasu Uyana, the „Goldfish Park“, which is a less crowded side. Is was a rock boulder garden with some artificial ponds already in ancient times and the atmophere is pleasant till the present day. It’s said to be the place where Saliya and Ashokamala fell in love. Excellent elephant carvings can be seen here, too. A little bit hidden is a very extrordinary relief depicting a kind of spiritual map. It’s the oldest map in South Asia. Modern esoterics believe that it is a star gate allowing you to get access to other planets. So be careful not to disappear from our earth when visiting this place.
To the south of Isurumuniya is another rock temple which once served as a Buddhist monastery. It’s called Vessagiriya now. You will find lots of rock shelters with ancient inscriptions in Brahmi letters and also some ruins of monastic buildings within this picturesque ensemble of boulders. Vessagiriya is one of the very few places besides Sigiriya, where traces of rock paintings from the first millennium can be seen in Sri Lanka. They are not well-preserved and not easy to detect but well worth climbing into the cave system. The best time to visit Vessagiriya is the evening, whereas the morning is definitely the best time to see the nearby Isurumuniya temple.
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka