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Travel Guide To Polonnaruwa

Photo by Eddy Billard on Unsplash

Poḷonnaruwa is the main town of Polonnaruwa District in North Central Province. It is divided in to two parts. Polonnaruwa New Town and about 6km away the Royal ancient city Polonnaruwa. The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best strategically planned archaeological relic cities in the world, standing witness to the discipline and greatness of the country’s first rulers. It is known as one of the cleanest and more beautiful cities in the country. The monkeys have been living in the ruins since human occupation and continue to thrive here long after the humans left. Polonnaruwa was the thriving commercial and religious centre of Sri Lanka some 800 years ago. It consists of a lot of temples and religious buildings. For three centuries it was the royal capital of Sri Lankan kingdoms.

Image by Peographic on Pixabay

  • The first group of ruins you meet after entering the ground of the Ancient City is the Royal Palace Group. This group of buildings dates from the period of King Parakramabahu I (1153 – 1186). The King`s Royal Palace is a massive structure, measuring 31 m by 13 m, once including 50 rooms supported by 30 columns. Even today it is quite an impressive building, but picture it being seven floors tall with 3 m thick walls, as the archaeologists claim it once was!
  • The king`s Audience Hall is one of the best-preserved structures in the Royal Palace Group, with beautiful stone carved elephants on the walls.
  • Statue of King Parakramabahu - a striking rock carved statue of a man of noble disposition holding a stack of manuscripts. The sculpture that rises at a height of 3.5m is believed to be that of King Parakramabahu the great
  • Thuparama, a brick-built Gedige (in Sinhala: vaulted shrine) is in a fine state of preservation. It is the oldest image house at Polonnaruwagoes back to the reign of King Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.).
  • The beautiful dagaba Kiri Vihara (meaning “milk-white”) was built in honour of the King`s Queen. When the archaeologists came to the area and cleared it from the overgrown jungle, they found the original lime plaster still in white perfect condition after 700 years! This is the best-preserved unrestored dagaba in Polonnaruwa.
  • In one corner of the palace grounds is the king´s swimming pool, with crocodile-mouth spouts used to lead fresh water into the pool.
  • Rankot Vihara is a huge dagaba in excellent condition, of impressive 54 meters tall! It is the largest dagaba in Polonnaruwa, the fourth largest in Sri Lanka, and dates back to King Nissanka Malla (1187 – 1196).
  • Pabalu Vehera, is another typical dagaba, dating back to King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186). This is the third largest dagaba in Polonnaruwa, and in excellent condition.
  • This is the oldest building in Polonnaruwa as it dates back to the brief South Indian Chola dynasty period (around 1070) when the Indian invaders established the city.
  • Potgul Vehera – a circular shrine or library where the sacred books were deposited. It is surrounded four small dagobas.
  • Gal Vihara is a group of four beautiful Buddhas cut from one long slab of granite. The standing Buddha is 7 m tall and is said to be the finest of the series, with its unusual position of the arms and sad facial expression. The reclining Buddha is 14 m long, picturing Buddha entering Nirvana.
  • The huge Lankatilaka is impressive with its 17 m high walls! Although the roof is gone, it still has a cathedral-like feeling about it, and the aisle leads to a huge standing headless Buddha
  • Parakrama Samudraya (a huge manmade lake built in 1200. (in Sinhala: Sea of Parakrama) built by King Parakramabahu the great, is the largest ancient man-made rainwater reservoir in Sri Lanka. The great reservoir spreading over an area of 2500 hectares, have the capacity to hold 134 million cubic meters of rain water.
  • Sathmahal Prasada - the seven storeyed edifice is constructed in a stepped pyramidal form that contains seven square levels.
  • Nissanka Lata Mandapaya, built by King Nissankamalla, is an innovative work of art depicting the splendour of classical architecture.
  • Vatadage, a circular relic house possesses an elegance and beauty that is rare even in ancient Sri Lanka. In line with the outer circle of stone pillars is a tastefully ornamented screen wall patterned with four petalled flowers. It is surrounded with Moonstones and Guard Stones.

Image by Rajitha Fernando from Pixabay

Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city of Sri Lanka by King Vijayabahu I. In 1070 though, the Chola dynasty was overtaken by the Sinhalese kingdom (King Vijayabahu I), which kept Polonnaruwa as his capital. And it was during this Sinhalese period that Polonnaruwa reached its high glory. The second king (King Parakramabahu I, 1153-86) built many large buildings, beautiful parks and a huge tank of water (25 square km). The third king was King Nisanka Malla, 1187 – 96.