List of World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka

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Location of World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka. Green dots are natural sites, red dots are cultural.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designates World Heritage Sites of outstanding universal value to cultural or natural heritage which have been nominated by countries which are signatories to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, established in 1972.[1] Cultural heritage consists of monuments (such as architectural works, monumental sculptures, or inscriptions), groups of buildings, and sites (including archaeological sites). Natural features (consisting of physical and biological formations), geological and physiographical formations (including habitats of threatened species of animals and plants), and natural sites which are important from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty, are defined as natural heritage.[2] Sri Lanka ratified the convention on 6 June 1980.[3]

As of 2022, Sri Lanka has eight sites on the list. The first three sites, the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, the Ancient City of Sigiriya, and the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, were listed in 1982. The most recent site, the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka, was listed in 2010. The Central Highlands and the Sinharaja Forest Reserve are natural sites, the other six are cultural. In addition, Sri Lanka has three sites on its tentative list. The country served as a member of the World Heritage Committee in the years 1983–1989.[3]

World Heritage Sites[edit]

UNESCO lists sites under ten criteria; each entry must meet at least one of the criteria. Criteria i through vi are cultural, and vii through x are natural.[4]

World Heritage Sites
Site Image Location (province) Year listed UNESCO data Description
Sacred City of Anuradhapura A large Buddhist stupa North Central 1982 200; ii, iii, vi (cultural) Anuradhapura was the first capital of Sri Lanka and a Buddhist spiritual centre. It was founded in the 4th century BCE. It was attacked by the Tamils in the 2nd century BCE and sacked by the Pandyas in the 9th century CE. The monuments were subsequently restored but the city was finally destroyed in 993 by the Chola emperor Rajaraja I and the capital was moved to Polonnaruwa. In the following centuries it was overgrown by jungle. Monuments that remain today include the Abhayagiri vihāra (pictured) and the Ruwanwelisaya stupa, as well as the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a tree that grew from a cutting from the Bodhi Tree under which Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.[5][6]
Ancient City of Polonnaruwa Ruins of a Buddhist temple North Central 1982 201; i, iii, vi (cultural) Following the destruction of Anuradhapura by the Chola dynasty, Polonnaruwa became the capital of the eponymous kingdom under Vijayabahu I. Several Hindu temples and bronze sculptures remain from the period. The city saw its golden age in the 12th century under Parakramabahu I, when numerous Buddhist monuments and temples were constructed, including the Vatadage (pictured), a temple that used to house the relic of the tooth of Buddha. It declined in the 13th century.[7][8]
Ancient City of Sigiriya A large granite rock with people walking toward it Central 1982 202; ii, iii, iv (cultural) Sigiriya was the short-lived capital of King Kashyapa, who ruled between 477 and 495, after he had his father King Dhatusena killed. The city is built on and around the "Lion's rock", a 180 m (590 ft) granite volcanic plug. After the defeat of Kashyapa by his brother Moggallana I, the site was returned to Buddhist monks who had lived in the grottoes in the area earlier. Today, the site is in ruins, with parts of fortifications and buildings preserved, as well as frescos representing feminine figures. The style of these frescos was influential in the following centuries.[9][10]
Sacred City of Kandy A Buddhist temple in white stone and a flag in front Central 1988 450; iv, vi (cultural) Kandy was founded in the 14th century and served as the capital of the eponymous kingdom from 1592 to 1815, when the British entered it. It remains the religious Buddhist capital of Sri Lanka and a pilgrimage centre. Following the former tradition of moving the relic when changing the capital, the relic of the tooth of Buddha is stored in the Temple of the Tooth (pictured), with the current structure dating to the mid-18th century. Other monuments include the Royal Palace and several Buddhist temples.[11][12]
Sinharaja Forest Reserve Look at a rain forest from above Sabaragamuwa and Southern 1988 405; ix, x (natural) Sinharaja Forest Reserve comprises some of Sri Lanka's last relatively undisturbed rain forests. The flora is a relic of the ancient Gondwanaland supercontinent, and it is important for the study of biological evolution and continental drift. Valleys and lower areas are covered by Dipterocarpus species while secondary forest and shrubs cover areas where the original forest has been removed. The area is home to numerous endemic species of birds, mammals, butterflies, and amphibians.[13]
Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications Aerial photo of Galle fort Southern 1988 451; iv (cultural) The town of Galle was founded by the Portuguese who built the first fortifications there at the end of the 16th century. The Dutch East India Company took over the fort in 1640 and constructed a bastioned stone wall, giving the town its present layout. Galle saw its peak development in the 18th century, when it housed 500 families and had large administrative buildings and warehouses. It was handed over to the British in 1796. The town is the best preserved example of a European-built fortified city in South and Southeast Asia. The architecture represents a fusion of European and regional traditions between the 16th and 19th centuries. One of the important features is a sewer system that used seawater for flushing.[14][15]
Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple Stupa with sitting Buddhas around it in a cave with painted walls Central 1991 561; i, iv (cultural) The cave monastery is the largest and best preserved Buddhist complex in Sri Lanka and an important pilgrimage site. It has been inhabited by monks since the 3rd century BCE. It comprises five shrines constructed in natural caves. The shrines went through a series of renovations, the present form dates to the 18th century. They contain outstanding examples of religious art, including statues and wall paintings in the style of the Kandy art school.[16]
Central Highlands of Sri Lanka A mountain from far Central and Sabaragamuwa 2010 1203; ix, x (natural) This site comprises three areas with the least disturbed remaining areas of the submontane and montane rain forests of Sri Lanka: the Peak Wilderness Protected Area (Adam's Peak pictured), the Horton Plains National Park, and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. The area is extremely rich in biodiversity and home to several endemic species, including the purple-faced langur, Sri Lankan leopard, and numerous molluscs, reptilians, and amphibians.[17]

Tentative list[edit]

In addition to sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, member states can maintain a list of tentative sites that they may consider for nomination. Nominations for the World Heritage List are only accepted if the site was previously listed on the tentative list.[18] As of 2022, Sri Lanka has listed three properties on its tentative list.[3]

Tentative sites
Site Image Location (province) Year listed UNESCO criteria Description
Seruwila Mangala Raja Maha Vihara A Buddhist stupa, view obstructed by trees Eastern 2006 ii, v (cultural) The Buddhist stupa was built in the 2nd century BCE under Kavan Tissa of the Kingdom of Ruhuna, to house the sacred relic of the frontal bone of Buddha. Over the centuries, it was abandoned until it was rediscovered in 1922 and renovated in the 1920s. The complex comprises restored entrances, a pond, and residential buildings.[19]
Seruwila to Sri Pada (Sacred Foot Print Shrine), Ancient pilgrim route along the Mahaweli river in Sri Lanka A conical mountain several sites 2010 ii, iii, vi (cultural) Sri Pada is a rock formation near the summit of Adam's Peak (mountain pictured), which is believed to be the Buddha footprint in Buddhist tradition or the footprint of Shiva, Adam, or Thomas the Apostle by Hindu, Islamic, and Christian traditions. The pilgrimage site was visited by kings and commoners for centuries. The route begins at the Seruwila Mangala Raja Maha Vihara and follows the course of the Mahaweli River. It passes sites with important Buddhist and Hindu shrines, including Polonnaruwa, Kandy, and Gampola.[20]
Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve Temple ruins with several pillars standing Eastern 2020 i, iii, iv (cultural) The Buddhist monastery was founded in the 2nd century BCE on the slopes of the Rajagala mountain. It was active until the end of the Anuradhapura era in the early 11th century, and afterwards abandoned. It could house about 500 monks. The remains at the archaeological site include stupas, temples, residential buildings, and cave dwellings. Paintings and inscriptions from the monastery's early period have been preserved.[21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The World Heritage Convention". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 27 August 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2010.
  2. ^ "Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 1 February 2021. Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  3. ^ a b c "Sri Lanka". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 19 May 2021. Retrieved 27 March 2022.
  4. ^ "UNESCO World Heritage Centre – The Criteria for Selection". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 12 June 2016. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  5. ^ "Sacred City of Anuradhapura: Advisory Body Evaluation (ICOMOS) / Évaluation de l'organisation consultative (ICOMOS)". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 5 July 2020. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  6. ^ "Sacred City of Anuradhapura". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 7 July 2017. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  7. ^ "Ancient City of Polonnaruwa: Advisory Body Evaluation (ICOMOS) / Évaluation de l'organisation consultative (ICOMOS)". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 28 August 2022. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  8. ^ "Ancient City of Polonnaruwa". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 28 August 2022. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  9. ^ "Ancient City of Sigiriya: Advisory Body Evaluation (ICOMOS) / Évaluation de l'organisation consultative (ICOMOS)". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 5 July 2020. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  10. ^ "Ancient City of Sigiriya". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 6 August 2022. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  11. ^ "Sacred City of Kandy: Advisory Body Evaluation (ICOMOS) / Évaluation de l'organisation consultative (ICOMOS)". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 5 July 2020. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  12. ^ "Sacred City of Kandy". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 1 August 2022. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  13. ^ "Sinharaja Forest Reserve". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 2 August 2022. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  14. ^ "Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications: Advisory Body Evaluation (ICOMOS) / Évaluation de l'organisation consultative (ICOMOS)". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 5 July 2020. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  15. ^ "Old Town of Galle and its Fortifications". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 2 August 2022. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  16. ^ "Rangiri Dambulla Cave Temple". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 26 December 2018. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  17. ^ "Central Highlands of Sri Lanka". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 26 December 2018. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  18. ^ "Tentative Lists". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 1 April 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2010.
  19. ^ "Seruwila Mangala Raja Maha Vihara". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 11 May 2021. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  20. ^ "Seruwila to Sri Pada (Sacred Foot Print Shrine), Ancient pilgrim route along the Mahaweli river in Sri Lanka". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 11 May 2021. Retrieved 25 August 2022.
  21. ^ "Ancient Ariyakara Viharaya in the Rajagala Archaeological Reserve". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Archived from the original on 11 May 2021. Retrieved 25 August 2022.