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Sri Lanka’s sacred city of Anuradhapura is an unlikely place to be enmeshed in a fantastic tale of UFOs and otherworldly happenings.

Locally known as Rajarata (Land of Kings), the Unesco World Heritage Site was the first established kingdom on the island (in 377 BC) and is at the heart of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist culture. Today, it’s one of the nation’s most visited places, attracting devoted pilgrims from around the country to its ancient Buddhist temples and giant dome-shaped stupas.

But this holy city is also home to something far more curious. Here, in Ranmasu Uyana (Golden Fish Park), a 40-acre ancient urban park surrounded by three Buddhist temples, is a chart that’s alleged to be a map to unlock the secrets of the Universe.

Measuring around 1.8m in diameter, Sakwala Chakraya (which translates to “Universe Cycle” in Sinhalese) is shallowly carved onto a low rock face among the protected park ruins. Its front facade can only be seen from ground level. In fact, four seats have been sculpted into a flat rock surface opposite that provide the ideal viewing area. Both the map and seats, which are also of mysterious origin, have puzzled historians, archaeologists and academics for more than a century.

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