Polonnaruwa – 18/2/2015

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”

James Michener

History of Polonnaruwa

During the 11th century AD, King Vijayabahu I made Polonnaruwa the capital city, replacing Anuradhapura who had been plundered and left abandoned after being invaded by armies from Southern India.  Polonnaruwa would remain the capital for three centuries and a thriving comercial and religious centre for about 800 years. 

It was during the reign of the second king, King Parakramabahu I, 1153 – 86, that many of the parks, the palace, dagobas and various temples were built.  The king also built the large artificial lake, Toa Wewa Lake or Parakrama Samudray. The third king, King Nisanka Malla, 1197 – 96 tried to expand the empire with further building works, but ending up bankrupting the kingdom instead. During the early 13th century the capital was again moved, this time to where Colombo is now situated. 

Our Visit

We had organised a 9 day trip through Sri Lanka using a guy recommended to us.  We were supposed to be picked up from Trincomolee at 9 am, which ended up being 11 am.  After a long drive we finally reached Polonnaruwa mid afternoon.  There wasn’t enough time to see everything at the site, but we did get a look at most of the main parts.

  1. The Remains of Parakramabahu’s Palace

The Royal Palace is the first group of ruins, which look rather unimpressive today, but it once housed 50 rooms that were supported by 30 columns.  Some archaeologists believe it was 7 stories high, hard to believe with what remains.

The Audience Hall is another structure within the Royal Palace group of buildings.  At the bottom of the building is a freeze of elephants.  Each elephant is slightly different.

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2. The Quadrangle

The Vatadage is a circular relic house.  The terrace is 18 metres in diameter and has four entrances. 

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Atadage Dalada Maligaya is the ruins of the house which contained the tooth relic of Buddha, now in Kandy.  It was built during the reign of the first king of Polonnaruwa, King Vijayabahu.  The building contains 54 stone pillars and it is believed the tooth relic would have been kept on the 2nd floor of the building.  The building is called Atadage because Ata means eight and it is believed that it would have housed eight relics, including the tooth.

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3. Dagabas – There are a few Dagabas at the site.  Here are the two most impressive:

Rankot Vihara is a 54 meter tall dagaba, it is the largest in Polonnaruwa and the fourth largest in Sri Lanka.  It was built during King Nissanka Malla’s reign, the king who bankrupted the kingdom.  Perhaps he shouldn’t have built such a large dagaba.

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Kiri Vihara Dagaba was unearthed from the jungle and required no restoration work, as it was still milky white after 700 years. It was built in honour of the King’s queen.

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4. Buddha Statue at Lankatilaka is surrounded by 17 metre high walls and the Buddha’s head is missing.  This area was undergoing some restoration works while we were there. 

5. Gal Vihara is a rock temple and is part of the Polonnaruwa site. It was created during King Parakramabahu I reign. The highlight of this temple is the four statues of Buddha, which are carved from a single piece of granite. The images are of a large seated Buddha, a smaller seated one inside a fake cavern, a 7 metre high standing Buddha and a 13 metre resting Buddha.

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Tourist Information:

Adults tickets are 25 USD, children from 5 to 12 are 50% discount and children under 5 are free. For more. The opening hours are from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm. For more information visit this website.



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