Following the collapse of the great northern Sinhalese civilization, Anuradhapura was reclaimed by the jungle, and largely forgotten by the outside world, except by the communities of reclusive monks and guardians of the sacred bo tree who continued to live here. The British “rediscovered” the city in the nineteenth century, making it a provincial capital in 1833, after which Anuradhapura slowly began to rise from the ashes. Since the 1950s, the considerable Anuradhapura New Town has sprung up to the east of the Sacred Precinct, while in 1980 a huge UNESCO programme began with the goal of effecting a complete restoration of the ancient city. The programme continues to this day, and has assumed enormous national significance for the Buddhist Sinhalese, who see the reclamation of Anuradhapura’s great dagobas and other monuments from the jungle after over a millennium as a powerful symbol of national identity and resurgence.

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