Polonnaruwa is one of the ancient cities remained in Sri Lanka and it is a great travel destination in Sri Lanka if you are interested to travel Sri Lanka tours. It has great historical value and provides evidence to most of the historical events that took place in history. Therefore, those who plan to travel Sri Lanka tours, if you are keen on learning about history and archaeological artefact this is a must visit place for you. And this is the main reason why most tourists add this place to their tour when they travel Sri Lanka tours. Polonnaruwa is the second most ancient city in Sri Lanka. Polonnaruwa city was built during the 10th century by the Chola dynasty. It was made in order to serve as their capital under the name of Jananathapuram. During this period Hinduism came back to life in Sri Lanka. It was evident that many of the Hindu temples and statues were built during the era. Later during 1070AD Polonnaruwa was captured by Vijayabahu I.
With the patronage of Vijayabahu I Polonnaruwa gained the enrichment of both trade and agriculture. King Vijayabahu I uplifted the irrigation network throughout Polonnaruwa as he worked according to his own motto as; A single drop of rainwater should not be let pass into the sea without taking any use of it. He was the first Sinhala ruler to rule the Polonnaruwa. After that many Sinhala rulers came into the throne and ruled Polonnaruwa. Among them, King Prakramabahu the great holds an important role in this era has contributed so much toward the development of this city by adding a large number of valuable creations for his valuable subjects. As they built up a strong and intimate matrimonial relationship with the south Indian kingdoms and ultimately it threatened the local royal lineage. This was the main cause for the invasion of Aryachakravarti dynasty and gave birth to the Jaffna kingdom in 1215 to 1624 CE.
Polonnaruwa which is the second largest city in the north-central province and one of the cleanest and gorgeous cities in Sri Lanka. Not only it has a green and calm environment but also it holds the evidential ruins of many of the historical events happened during the Polonnaruwa era. Namely, The royal palace, Thuparama, Sathmahal Prasada, Polonnaruwa Vatadage, Hatadage, Galpota, Rankoth Vehera, Gal Vihara, Kiri Vehera, Lankathilaka Statue and Parakrama Samudraya are the most famous ones. Not only that Polonnaruwa has been named as a world heritage site. Polonnaruwa is one of the best tourist attractions for those who are interested in learning history and culture
If you are interested in visiting Polonnaruwa it is best to travel by taxi or by train. It would take about 2h and the cost would be between 2700 RS to 3900 RS if you are travelling by taxi. And if you prefer travelling by train it would cost nearly 550 RS to 1200 RS. Even though it is the cheapest way to travel, it would take about 6 ½ hours to reach Polonnaruwa. The distance from Colombo to Polonnaruwa is 169 km but the road distance is 216.4 Km.
The royal palace which is also known as Vijayanta Prasada or Vijayotpaya was said to have built by King Parakramabahu the great who ruled from 1153 AD to 1186 AD in Polonnaruwa. It is a sky-high seven-storied palace which was built in order to establish the concept of equal status between the God Sakra and the king. The ground plan and structure show similarities to Vijayabahu palace at Anuradhapura and some other palaces at Panduwasnuwara and Yapahuwa. Ruins of three stories are still evident in this seven-storied palace. According to Mahavamsa, this palace had about a thousand chambers. And it is evident from the ruins that many of the rooms must have used as ritual and entertainment rooms and rooms for palace aids and storge room. Some of the evidence that has been found in this palace leads us to the conclusion that this palace may have been destroyed by fire.
Thuparama is one of the famous monuments remained from the Polonnaruwa era. Even though its traditional name is Thuparama, there is no information regarding its ancient name or the creator of it. It is the only ancient ruin where the roof has been preserved to the date. All the structures walls and roof were made out of bricks without using wood. This was known as Gedi-Ge. The south Indian influence is evident from the exterior wall structure and ornamentation of it. It clearly depicts the vimana-panjara-kudu design of south Indian architecture. It is said to have been installed a giant seated Buddha image inside Thuparama but unfortunately, now only the large seat remains as it is.
According to the indications provided in Mahavamsa, king Parakramabahu the great said to have built an edifice with seven stories. Even though there was no hard evidence found to prove that these ruins are the ruins of that exact building, the people believe so. One thing that archaeologist state is that this building might be a rare kind of stupa because its structure depicts the similarities to Wat Kukut stupa in Lamphun Thailand and some architectural features strongly elicit the South Asian influence.
This is another famous travel destination in Polonnaruwa. This is an elegant circular relic house which was believed to be built by Parakramabahu I to hold the tooth relic of Lord Buddha during his era. And there is another belief that this relic house was specially made to hold the arm bowl of Lord Buddha during the period of King Nissanka Malla. This place amazes people who visit there just by its great architectural value in that era.
Hatadage is another astonishing place situated in Polonnaruwa. Hatadage is believed to be built by King Nissanka Malla to hold the tooth relic of Lord Buddha during the Polonnaruwa period. It is a shrine built by using stones, bricks and wood. By looking at the remains of this shrine it is quite clear that this must have been two-storeyed building but unfortunately, only the parts of the stone and brick wall can be seen now. Some inscriptions reveal that this shrine was built in sixty hours earning the name Hatadage which mean Sixty Shrine or the shrine built within sixty hours.
Gal Pota or the stone book is a giant stone inscription that was found in Polonnaruwa. It takes the shape of a Palm leaf manuscript which is a work of king Nishshanka Malla who ruled from 1187 AD to 1196AD. And it is the largest stone inscription that has been discovered to the date. According to this inscription, this huge stone has been transported to Polonnaruwa from Mihinthalaya which is situated some hundred kilometres away. This stone inscription reveals the most heroic and praiseworthy deeds of kin Nishshanka Malla. The letter has been embed by using molten iron. The ruins of a woman facing this inscription and two elephants sprinkling water have been identified as goddess Gajalakshmi the goddess of prosperity.
This is another stupa situated in Polonnaruwa. This stupa was built by King Nissanka Malla of Polonnaruwa where the traditional influence of the Anuradhapura stupa is greatly visible. It has the resemblance of Ruwanweliseya. Even if it was named as Ruwanweli according to the stone inscription later it came to be known as Rankoth Vehera which means the gold pinnacle stupa in English. And according to the stone inscriptions, king Nissanka Malla has observed and supervised during the period of construction of this stupa and also it is mentioned that the king used to worship the stupa from the pavilion.
Gal Viharaya is one of the famous ancient ruins in Polonnaruwa.it was a creation of King Parakramabahu the great. One of the main reasons for the fame acclaimed for this Viharaya is due to its Marvelously carved Lord Buddha’s statues. Its artistic value has been praised throughout the country. It is clear from the ruins of walls, that each statue was established in a separate chamber. Moreover, the statue of standing buddha’s rare hand sign has been subjected to many interpretations. And also there are ancient painting inside the rocky walls of the cave. And the rock inscription beside these statues declares the deeds of king Parakramabahu the great to Buddhism and the principles imposed to be followed by the Buddhist monks.
Kiri Vehera in Polonnaruwa is situated just ahead of Lankathilaka. The name Kiri Vehera itself evince the meaning milk white shrine which suits the stupa very well. This stupa has stood still to witness the 900 years of history. It is believed that this stupa was made by one of the queens of king Parakramabahu called “Subadra” and the original name of this stupa has been “Rupavathi Stupa”. This stupa holds the second largest stupa in Polonnaruwa. It is evident that Kiri Vehera and many of the smaller stupas around Kiri Vehera has been attacked and their treasures were looted by the treasure hunters.
Lankathilaka is one of the well-known places in Polonnaruwa. It is famous for its monolithic buddha image house which was built by King Parakramabahu. Complete building was made out of bricks. The images and carvings can be seen on these walls.41 ft tall standing Buddha statue was built out of clay bricks as well. Even though the portion above the shoulder of this statue has been destroyed it is clear that the specially made flat bricks were used to build the statue.
The entrance of the Lankathilaka building consists of marvellously carved two huge pillars. It is also made out of bricks and the tallest pillar is 58 feet in height. It is believed that these pillars must have been twice the size of the remaining size before its destruction. the two stairways were made to reach the upper floor with very unique designs carved on it. These stairways were made in sideways so that no one will face back to the lord buddha’s statue which was considered disrespectful. Moreover, when talking about the stupa house it depicts the style of Gedi-Ge building style. Lankathilaka is also the only place that the image of the Nagini image can be seen and it was found in a balustrade.