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Tourist Places To Visit In Polonnaruwa
Second in line to the ancient city of Anuradhapura is Polonnaruwa, a feather in the history of Sri Lanka. It served as the island’s capital in the period between 11th-13th centuries with the evolution of Buddhist art and structural designing. During its heydays, Polonnaruwa was spread out along the east side of the glorious Parakrama Samudra Lake with a line of opulent palaces, temples and monasteries, guarded by over 4 miles of robust & encompassing fortifications. Serving as an armed station, it was titled the Camp City or Kandavuru Nuvara. There are quite a few tourist places to visit in Polonnaruwa, of which some are listed here.
Most of the city’s remnants are guarded within a fenced site north of the modern city. The Polonnaruwa Museum is known for its perceptive displays of life in the ancient capital, in addition to some noteworthy exhibits that include the magnificent Chola figurines that were recovered from the ruins. The museum is open for visitors all days of the week, with the exception of full moon Poya days from 9am-6pm.
At the core of Polonnaruwa lies the porch of the Tooth Relic, known as the Dalada Maluwa or famously titled the Quadrangle, which was the most sacred arcade in the ancient city amidst the significant gathering of the city’s religious shrines. The Quadrangle is influenced by the ostentatious Vatadage, a lovely decorated arched temple and one of the most baroque structures in Sri Lanka, with its external walls etched with murals of lotus, lions and dwarfs, and each of its four entrances marked with ornate guard stones and moonstones, which depict the figures of King Cobra with its 7 hoods.
Soaring almost 55 feet, the remarkable walls of Lankatilaka have a large & headless Buddha Statue enclosed within the high but narrow space. A portion of the external walls is decorated with intricately engraved and extravagant multi-storied houses capped with domes. This reflects quite a whimsical representation of the holy residences of the Gods, and not really the likeness of an ancient city, as is claimed!
Gal Vihara is the apex of the rock carved art of ancient Sri Lanka, housing four glorious Buddha figurines sculpted out of a granite precipice by unnamed artists. The significance of this site lies in its royal reclining Buddha, which is 46 feet high, symbolizing the wondrous Sinhalese Art and the exhibiting its serene beauty. The rock’s dark layers appear as a blanket of waves over the finely etched facial features and the Buddha figurine as a whole, implying his ascension to enlightenment, giving off a smooth texture to the stone.
A gorgeous and magnificent site connected with the ancient Sinhalese architecture, Thuparama has a well-maintained roof which is the highlight of this site, with its outer walls designed according to the South Indian style and patterns. You can see the remnants of the statue of a huge Buddha on a large seat in its ruins. Estimated to have survived over 900 years, Thuparama’s semi-cylindrical roof is beautiful and its walls are almost 7” thick.
Sath Mahal Prasada
Built by King Parakramabahu the great, the Sath Mahal Prasada is a 12th-century stupa known to be a Thai Buddhist Temple, shaped like a Pyramid. Built in honor of Cambodia and used as a place of reverence by Cambodian soldiers, this site was historically a 7-story mansion, which required one to take the stairs to reach the upper levels. At a height of 9 m, there are four entry points to the Sath Mahal Prasada and it is known to be a rare remnant of Sinhalese architecture. Given the scorching sun and the dry climate, the structure has since long faded, but the site is still looked up to for a rare opportunity to be explored by the locals, as and when permitted by the Government authorities.
Created in honor of Lord Shiva, the Shiva Devalaya is amongst the 14 Hindu shrines built by Chola invaders in the 13th century. Located between the Sacred Quadrangle and the Royal Complex of the King’s Palace, the temple is created of stones based on Pandyan architectural design. The Shrine’s missing its roof which was finished with bricks and stones.
Rankoth Vehera, or the Golden Pinnacle as its popularly known, is the 4th largest Stupa in Sri Lanka and a Dagoba built by King Nissankamalla in the period of 1187-1196. Standing tall at 55 m with a circumference of 185 m, the rock’s engraving was elaborately created by the King on the Dagoba’s east side. The Stupa’s original circumference was known to be 200 m and there are four entry points to the porch with 4 cardinal points.
King Parakramabhu’s Palace
A 7-storied structure with over a 1000 chambers, King Parakramabhu’s Palace was erected in the 11th century with the remains of a giant wall over 1 m thick and 30 feet high, and the base of the main stairwell which led to the top floors. The walls of the palace on the inside seem to have faded and melted because of the sun’s heat. The top floors were made of wood with gorgeous stone engravings. The remnants of 55 rooms and 3 stories of the palace can be seen on the premises, making it Sri Lanka’s most glorious structures.
Considered a part of the Jetavana Monastery complex in the north-central province of Polonnaruwa, the Nelum Pokuna is essentially a bathing pond, shaped like a lotus flower, that houses 7 ponds together with the main pond, constructed by King Nissankamalla, close to King Parakramabhu’s Palace. The pond’s most significant features include its granite construction of the lotus flower which was about 24 ft as a full bloom, with 5 arched layers of 8 flower petals. The Kings and Monks in the ancient times used to bathe in and use the ponds for sanitation purposes. Most of these ponds were built on granite, with beautiful Sinhalese patterns and designs, that included glorious constructions of lion statues, Punkalas and Balustrades.
Gal Pota or the Stone Book constructed north of the Quadrangle is actually a monument from the Polonnaruwa era, with inscriptions of tributes to King Nissankamalla, highlighting his reign and qualities to be a ruler of Sri Lanka; in short basically a book of praises by the King himself. The book has over 4300 characters defined by 3 columns and 72 lines. The slab of granite used for Gal Pota was brought from Mihintale, almost 90 km away!
Tiwanka Image House
Also known as the Tivanka Pilima Geya, the Tiwanka image house attracts tourists from far and wide. Built with bricks, this structure includes a glorious Thivanka image of Lord Buddha portraying his curved pose thrice, with additional murals and frescos on the plastered walls in hues of light yellow, dark red and pastel green, making for a vibrant view. Situated 400 m north of the Lotus pong, the monastery got its name because of the Thivanka image, along with the embellished walls of gorgeous paintings and statues of lions and dwarfs. In addition to the bent statue of the Buddha, which is clearly detailed at the shoulders, waist and the knees, you will see other illustrations of Vidhura jataka, Ummagga Jataka, Sasa and Temiya on the walls on the inside of the Image House.
The coral shrine or Pabalu Viharaya was built by Queen Rupawathi, one of King Parakramabahu’s wives in 1153 AD. Rich with clusters of Buddha figurines and pictures of the Polonnaruwa era around the Dagoba, the temple houses illustrations of different historical eras.