Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka's second ancient capital, was founded by the South Indian Chola Dynasty in the late 10th century AD after conquering Anuradhapura. The new capital was more strategic to the Cholas as it was ideal to counterattack any invasion from the Ruhunu Singhalese Kingdom to the south.
When compared to Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa covers a smaller area, but that does not mean there is less to see here.
In fact, there is far more to see here, as many of the building are still in existence, in ruin of course. With a little imagination you can picture what the city would have been in its heyday. Giant stupas, large reservoirs, libraries, Buddha statues, lotus ponds, and the world famous Gal Vihara, or stone temple are all found here.
Rankoth Vehera Stupa
Ancient Sri Lankans excelled at making reservoirs or tanks for water supply in these dry areas in and around their ancient cities, for example, in Anuradhapura as early as the 4th century BC. At the time, and now for that matter, these could be considered engineering feats given the precision of the gradients of the canals and controls systems used to control these vast reservoirs of water. Bunds were built to help enclose large areas, where natural barriers did not exist, to help create reservoirs to capture water. Gates or sluices were purposely built along the tank for flood control and irrigation purposes, the number of sluices depended on the size of the tank. One of the largest tanks is found here in Polonnaruwa, at 2500-hectares, its so large its called a sea, Sea of Parakrama, or Parakrama Samundra; named after the Great King Parakramabahu I.
Reccumbent Buddha - Gal Vihara
"Image houses" as they are called sometimes house statues of the Buddha. The most impressive of these structures being Lankatilaka, which houses a statue of the Buddha almost 17m high. The statue once stood in a covered structure, which itself is covered carvings and bas-relief paintings inside that still have some colour to them.
Many of the ruins are centered around what is called the Quadrangle. Here you'll find the impressive Vatadage, a circle structure with four seated Buddha statues within. Near the Vatadage is a giant stone inscription, called Gal Potha, or stone book. It is the biggest inscription found in Sri Lanka, the 25 ton stone was brought somehow to Polonnaruwa from Minhathale, 100 km away. The inscription carved in stone is a eulogy of Nissankamalla and describes the former King’s history in Sri Lanka.
Stone-cut Lotus Pond
Amongst the many the ruins at the Polonnaruwa you’ll also find many bathing ponds where the King and his consorts would bathe. The most impressive of these ponds are the lotus-shaped ones, all carved out of stone and shaped perfectly like a lotus flower. When you see it, you would think someone just made it and not something that was made over 1000 years ago! Crazy.
Gal Vihara is by far the most impressive monument in Polonnaruwa. Four statues all carved out of one large piece of granite. Statues include a seated Buddha in mediation on a lotus flower throne, a 23 foot standing Buddha, another Buddha in mediation carved with in a cave, and a recumbent or reclined 13 foot Buddha statue with his head resting on his palm over on a pillow. Again to think all this was carved over 1000 years ago by hand!!
For those that like trivia and are fans of Duran Duran, a few of their early music videos were filmed in Sri Lanka (i.
e., Rio, Hungry like the wolf). The video for "Save a Pray" featured Gal Vahira, and other ancient sites in Sri Lanka including the rock fortress at Sigirya.
Overall this little mini-trip to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa was great. Although I've visited these sites before, being a littler older always seems to give you a greater appreciation for the history behind the things you see. It also gave me a chance to do some more photography, always a good thing :)
Polonnaruwa Hotels & Accommodations review
This place has been renovated recently. It is comfortable and the staff is really friendly. Note, they have wifi, but if you are a Dialog Mobile Cus… read entire review