Polonnaruwa is the second most ancient kingdom of Sri Lanka after destruction of Anuradhapura in year 993. It was first declared capital by King Vijayabahu 1 who defeated Chola (Indian) invasion and reunite the country. Afterwards Polonnaruwa remains as a nation’s capital for 3 centuries to both Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms. Present day people can discover hundreds of ancient structures, lakes, temples, statues and stupas. Ancient city of Polonnaruwa was declared world heritage site by Unesco.
According to the legends, the real hero of Polonnaruwa was King Parakramabahu I. It was the golden age of the City and country as well. Trade and agriculture flourished under the patronage of the king who was famous for his saying “no drop of water falling from the sky to be wasted”. Parakrama samudraya (Parakrama Sea) was constructed during King Parakramabahu’s reign to produce enough water to paddy cultivation during dry season.
Gal Vihara (Rock Temple) was originally named as the Uttararama. Situated in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. It was built in the 12th century by King Parakramabahu I during his reign. The main feature of the temple is four rock carved statues of the Buddha in the face of a large granite rock. Statues are consist of a large seated figure, another smaller seated figure inside a manmade cave, a standing figure and a reclining figure. These are considered to be some of the best examples of ancient Sinhalese sculpting and carving arts, hence the Gal Vihara is the most visited monument of Polonnaruwa.
Another great work of the King Parakramabahu I is the Royal Palace of Polonnaruwa, which was a magnificent structure measuring 31m by 13m, and it is believed to have had seven storeys. Holes appear on 9 feet thick walls to receive the floor beams of two higher floors. Other four levels may have been made of wood. The roof of this main hall was supported by 30 columns.
One of the most magnificent structures in Polonnaruwa is a Lankatilaka Image House. Which was also built by King Parakramabahu I and later renovated by Vijayabahu IV. This massive gedige structure (stone temple with corbel roof and thick walls) has 17m-high walls but the roof was collapsed by time. The cathedral like aisle leads to a huge standing statue of Lord Buddha.
Vatadage (circular shaped relic house) is typical of its kind. Its outer terrace is 18m in diameter, and the second terrace has four entrances flanked by particularly fine guard stones. The moonstone at the northern entrance is reckoned to be the finest in Polonnaruwa. Four separate entrances of four sides lead to the central dagoba with its four statues of Buddha. The stone screen with flower patterns may be added later time, probably by King Nissanka Malla.
Somawathi Dagoba is an ancient Buddhist structure built in the middle of the jungle. This Buddhist monastery was founded in the 3rd century BC by Prince Giriyabhaya and his princes Somawathi the sister of King Kavanthissa. Prince built the stupa to enshrine the right tooth relic of Buddha which was obtained from Arahath Mahinda. It was rediscovered in 1947.
Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains as one of the best archaeological relic cities in Sri Lanka. With a proof of evidence to the discipline and greatness of the Kingdom’s rulers.
Attractions Places & Activities for Tourists Polonnaruwa
- Minneriya National Park
- Gal Vihara
- Parakrama Samudra
- Rankoth Vehera
- Nissanka Latha Mandapaya
- Kumara Pokuna
- Angammedilla National Park
- Lankatilaka Viharaya
- Satmahal Prasadaya