Ancient City of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka |
Best Places to Visit | Full Tour Guide Polonnaruwa
- History of Polonnaruwa
- How To Get There ( Directions )
- What To Wear
- How Long Time To Spend
- How Much Does It Cost
- Top Must-See Places in Polonnaruwa
- Archaeological Museum of Polonnaruwa
- Royal Palace – Vijayanta Prasada
- Nissanka Lata Mandapaya
- Satmahal Prasada – The Stepped Pyramid
- Thivanka Image House
- Gal Viharaya
- Lankathilaka Image House
- Kumara Pokuna – Pool of Princes
- Lotus Pond
- Gal Potha – Stone Book
- Parakrama Samudra – Sea of Parakrama
- Rankoth Vehera
- Demala Maha Seya
The town of Polonnaruwa is located approximately 229 kilometers away from the capital city of Sri Lanka, Colombo. Polonnaruwa is part of the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka along with the Anuradhapura, Kandy and Sigiriya.
It is the main town of the Polonnaruwa District in North Central Province and apart from having a new town in the Kaduruwela area, a part of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka is preserved as an ancient city with extreme historical significance.
From all the ancient capitals of the country, it was the second capital of the country, between the 11th and 13th century AD. Due to its historical significance and the ancient monuments of architecture it carries, it was declared as a World Heritage Site in 1982 by UNESCO in the name of Ancient City of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka.
From the times Sri Lanka was ruled by kings who made Polonnaruwa their capital, the ruins of the many palaces, religious buildings, entertainment parks and even swimming pools can still be seen to this day. The glory of the dynasty which stood centuries ago can still be pictured perfectly from the many structures that still stand bearing witness to it.
Within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka, all the significant archaeological structures including temples, statues, buildings, tombs and stupas are in the close vicinity of one another, so visiting them one by one is very easy, interesting and filled with marvel.
History of Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka is the second kingdom in the country, which rose to power immediately after the kingdom of Anuradhapura fell due to the invasion of Chola kings of South Asia in the 10th century. The Kingdom of Anuradhapura, the predecessor of Polonnaruwa was being ruled by king Mahinda V, who was a weak king, which the Chola invaders took advantage of.
Chola king Raja Raja Chola and his son Rajendra were the prompters of the demise of Anuradhapura in 1017 after taking the final king of Anuradhapura king as a captive to India in 1017 and moving the capital city of Sri Lanka to Polonnaruwa and naming if Jananathapuram, where they ruled for nearly 53 years.
The country was divided into three kingdoms by the time. Polonnaruwa, where the ruler of the entire country reigned, Malaya Rata and Ruhuna. Ruhuna was where the Sinhalese monarchy remained hidden. Under the siege of Chola, the Buddhist civilization in Sri Lanka faced its destruction and Hinduism began to influence the culture, even finding its way into the statues and art of the period, which can still be seen today.
However, in the year 1070 AD, Sinhalese king Vijayabahu I freed the country from the Chola dynasty by leading an army to Polonnaruwa from the town of Mahanagakula in Ruhuna. The battle to free the country from Chola invaders is said to be legendary, where the king earned the name of Vijayabahu the Great.
It is written in historical records that king Vijayabahu attacked Polonnaruwa from three fronts with three armies. One army charged to the port of Mahatitta (Mannar) along the western shoreline of the island and prevented any reinforcements that may arrive from South India. While a part of the army remained in the port for this reason, another part marched to Polonnaruwa to attack from the North-west.
A second army was sent to Polonnaruwa along the eastern shoreline to attack from the East, while king Vijayabahu himself led the main army across the country to Polonnaruwa. Surrounded by all these three armies, Polonnaruwa was held under siege for seven months before the Sinhalese king’s forces entered the city and drove away the Chola rule in 1070 AD.
The notable Sinhalese king who provided immensely for the prosperity and success of the Polonnaruwa kingdom is said to be the grandson of king Vijayabahu I, king Parakramabahu I. Also known as Parakramabahu the Great, his knowledge in engineering, naval fare, irrigation, art and languages is mentioned all throughout Sri Lankan history.
Ancient City of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka was in its zenith during the reign of King Parakramabahu I. His dedication to build the capital city of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka to a state of glory is reflected in the many buildings, parks and irrigation systems he built. It is said in Mahavamsa, that he stated no drop of water from the sky is to be sent to the ocean without being used to develop the land and its many industries.
The Sinhalese kings who succeeded Parakramabahu I were not as intelligent or strong rulers as their predecessor. The immediate successor, king Nissankamalla I apparently led the kingdom to bankruptcy, trying to follow in king Parakramabahu I’s footsteps, but failing at it.
The Sinhalese kings who succeeded Parakramabahu I were not as intelligent or strong rulers as their predecessor. The immediate successor, king Nissankamalla I apparently led the kingdom to bankruptcy, trying to follow in king Parakramabahu I’s footsteps, but failing at it.
The final Sinhalese monarchs of the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka began to establish matrimonial connections with South India, which eventually superseded the Sinhalese Royal lineage. These affiliations once again prompted an invasion from an Indian warlord by the name of Kalinga Magha, who saw to the complete destruction of the Polonnaruwa kingdom as well as what was left in the Anuradhapura kingdom.
How To Get There | Polonnaruwa ruins map
The town of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka is located 229 kilometers away from the capital city of Colombo and 140 kilometers away from Kandy. You can always catch a bus or the train from either of these main cities at a very cheap price, but the comfort level in Sri Lankan public transportation is questionable everywhere in the country.
However, you can always hire a private vehicle and a driver to take you to Polonnaruwa from any of the major tourist destinations on the island such as Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya or Ella if it is within your budget. With this private transportation option, you will have all the freedom and comfort you need so that you can travel at your leisure.
What To Wear
First thing you should know before deciding to hang around the many places to visit in Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka is that it is hot out there. The temperature can easily rise up to 37 degrees Celsius and you will be sweating in no time when you are there.
Make sure you pack the lightest clothes you have, but not necessarily very provocative because most of the locations waiting to be explored by you in Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka are religious places such as temples, stupas and shrines. Shoulders and knees should be covered for both men and women and you should also keep in mind that footwear must be removed before entering religious monuments.
Another point to note is that the sun is scorching during the daytime in the Polonnaruwa area, so do not forget your sunscreen, sunglasses and your hat. It is also wise to take a pair of socks with you so that you won’t burn your feet when walking barefoot on the steaming hot ground and rocks.
How Much Time To Spend in Polonnaruwa and How Much Does It Cost
Almost all the historical and religious monuments of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka are located in close vicinity of one another, so all of them can be easily visited within one day, especially if you are travelling in a private vehicle like a car or a bicycle.
The most comfortable method is to travel from monument to monument is by a hired private car, or if you are on a budget, by bicycle. There are many bicycle renting places around the city for this purpose as many tourists choose to roam the city by bicycle enjoying the natural beauty of the area as well.
Note to keep in mind is that there are no restaurants or hotels within the protected ancient city limits, so a big, hearty breakfast before starting your journey will probably be a good idea. You can always take some snacks with you and a bottle of water is a must because you will be very thirsty from all the walking in the scorching sun.
The ticket office to the ancient kingdom opens from 9 AM to 6 PM every day. The entrance fee for an adult is 25 USD (approximately 3850 LKR) and the entrance fee for a child is exactly half of that.
Top Places you Must-See in Polonnaruwa
Because there so many historical monuments to see when you are in Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka, the locations you can visit are countless. Places to visit in Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka are clustered around one area, so covering all the monuments should be very easy.
The Ancient city complex of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka consists of two main parts. They can basically be identified as the inner city and the outer city. The inner city comprises of the royal citadel, including the king’s royal court and many kinds of administration buildings.
The outer city comprises of many religious shrines including temples, stupas and the sacred quadrangle. Besides the many attractions within the ancient city, there are several other tourist attractions in the vicinity as well. One of them are the Polonnaruwa museum which carries a lot of relics and inscriptions dating back centuries all the way to the beginning of the Polonnaruwa dynasty.
Apart from all the attractions and locations related to the history of the country, Minneriya National Park and Kaudulla National Park are also nearby, where you can spend your evening on a safari through the dry zone flora and fauna. Both of these national parks are home to a high number of elephants and you will definitely spot a herd of elephants coming to the large lakes to drink water.
Archaeological Museum of Polonnaruwa
Archaeological Museum of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka is located right at the entrance to the ancient city and it is advisable to visit the museum before you begin your journey through the ancient ruins. The museum holds many exhibit rooms, each dedicated to a different part of the ancient kingdom such as the outer city, religious monastery and the royal palace.
The museum was built in 1962 and it provides the perfect possible introduction to all the monuments and to the glorious history of a once self-sufficient and prosperous kingdom. It is very easy to roam through the museum viewing all its antiquities and other historical relics.
The museum contains a remarkable number of bronze statues which were unearthed during the excavations that were done in Polonnaruwa all the way from when it was rediscovered. Most of these statues are of Lord Buddha, but they also include some enchantingly carved statues of Shiva and Parvati, who were worshipped as gods by the Hindus.
The museum also boasts scale models of the buildings such as the royal palace of King Parakramabahu I and the Buddhist monastery, re-imagined as when they were thought to be during the prime time of the kingdom. After seeing the scale models, the actual ruins you see afterward will be much easier to understand and comprehend.
The entrance fee to the museum is 25 USD per adult and 13 USD for a child. It is open from 7.30 AM to 5 PM daily except on Sri Lankan Poya days and other national holidays. A point to keep in mind is that taking photographs within the museum is prohibited.
Royal Palace – Vijayanta Prasada
The first monumental ruin you see when you enter the grounds of the Ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka is the royal palace of King Parakramabahu I. It is said in historical inscriptions that the royal palace with all its surrounding structures was built in the 11th century, when the country was ruled by the famed king and when the capital city of Polonnaruwa was in its prime.
From what is left of the main building of the palace, imagining a skyscraper which existed centuries ago, surrounded by royal court activities gives an accurate picture. Historical chronicles state that it consisted of 1,000 rooms which were spread over seven floors, and if this is accurate, it can be counted as one of the world’s earliest skyscrapers.
The royal palace is a massive brick structure which measures nearly 31m by 13m, with walls as thick as 3 meters. What is left of this colossal piece of architecture are the foundation and the brick walls which supported three floors out of the speculated seven floors.
There are giant holes in these brick walls which archaeologists speculate that horizontal wooden beams were installed to support the upper floors. Even though only a small part of the ancient grandeur still remains, it is truly fascinating how these structures were built during ancient times to a point that they are still standing centuries later.
Polonnaruwa Vatadage is considered to be one of the epitomes of round-shaped building structures which were said to be the most popular trend in the Polonnaruwa period. It is a circular building made of brick which consists of two platforms to hold a stupa in the middle.
After being abandoned for centuries, it was unearthed during the archaeological excavations conducted in 1903 in the city of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka.
The circular building consists of a stupa, four Buddha statues, stone columns and two platforms. The outer platform, which is built 4 feet 3 inches above the ground level has its entrance from the northern side by a magnificent stone staircase.
The stupa, from which only the lower part remains now, stands on the inner platform which is 5 feet 3 inches from the lower platform. The inner platform has four entrances from the cardinal directions, each featuring beautifully carved stone staircases with guard stones on the sides.
Four Buddha statues entirely carved from stone face these four entrances, although only two of them remain fully intact while the other two have crumbled partly with time. A row of 8 feet high stone columns run alongside the brick wall of the outer platform.
There are two theories as to who and why the Vatadage structure was built. While there is no argument that it was built to hold a relic of Lord Buddha, historians and archaeologists are yet to find the rightful builder of the structure.
While some claim it was built by King Parakramabahu I to hold the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha, some argue that it was built by King Nissankamalla to hold the Sacred Alms Bowl of Buddha.
The magnificent stone carvings that encompass Vatadage are said to be the zenith of such art, especially the famous carved moonstone (Sandakadapahana) which serves as a stepping stone to the building. It is said that three stone columns were standing in the Vatadage during ancient times to support a wooden roof, but now, only one row of stone columns remains.
Polonnaruwa Hatadage is also a shrine which was built to encompass the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha, but different than the Vatadage. The most significant difference is that it is said to have had two floors, from only one remains to this day.
Hatadage directly faces the entrance of Vatadage and is situated within the sacred quadrangle which is a quadrangular area containing several of the most sacred and the oldest religious monuments of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka.
Hatadage is surrounded by a 37 m long 27 m wide stone wall and the entrance to the religious shrine is located on the southern side of the stone wall. The doorway is beautifully decorated with stone carvings and it leads to a terrace paved with stones where the main entrance, also covered with stone carvings and a Sandakadapahana can be seen directly.
The main entrance leads to a stone chamber where the lower parts of the walls are decorated with lotus flower and lion carvings, which were very common in Buddhist shrines during the Polonnaruwa period.
This chamber is 8 x 6 meters in size and it contains six stone pillars as well as a staircase which is believed to be led to the speculated upper floor. The upper floor is said to hold the Sacred Tooth Relic.
The main shrine of the existing structure is located behind the outer chamber. It is a perfectly square-shaped chamber with each wall measuring 11 meters and contains one window on each wall.
Although it is speculated that there were 16 stone columns inside it, only 3 remain now. At the center of the main chamber, three Buddha statues carved of granite stands, with the middle one measuring up to 9 feet and the other two up to 7.5 feet.
Hatadage was built by King Nissankamalla, the grandson of King Parakramabahu I. Historical inscriptions mention that it was built in sixty hours, hence earning it the name ‘Hatadage’ where ‘Hata’ means sixty in Sinhalese. Some also claim that the shrine encompassed 60 sacred relics and that is why it has earned the name.
Nissanka Lata Mandapaya
Nissanka Lata Mandapaya is a unique structure in the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka which is famous for its unique architecture and stone carvings. The name ‘Mandapaya’ was given to buildings which are open from all sides, with pillars supporting a roof to protect its occupants from sun and rain.
Most of these mandapas were built during ancient times for public activities or as entertainment facilities within royal courts. Nissanka Lata Mandapaya is built by king Nissankamalla during his reign according to the historical scriptures.
It is said that the Mandapaya was built by the king to listen to Buddist incantation chanting (pirith) by Buddhist monks. Nissanka Lata Mandapaya in Polonnaruwa is said to be one of the best architectural elements that feature the grandeur of ancient Sri Lanka. It is a structure of stone columns on an elevated platform, surrounded by a low wall.
The columns are the most interesting feature of the structure and they are arranged in two rows with four columns on each row. All of these columns are made of stone and beautifully carved with the head of each column shaped like a blooming lotus bud which resembles the crown of the king.
Unlike all the other stone pillars found from the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa eras, these pillars are not straight. Each of them is curved at three places, with the body of the column carved to resemble the stem of the lotus flower.
At the center of the pavilion stands a small stone stupa. It is mostly destroyed with time but still holds witness to the ancient grandeur. The entrance to the pavilion is through a single stone doorway, which is very plain when comparing with the curved pillars inside the structure. The roof which was supported by the said pillars cannot be seen today.
Satmahal Prasada – The Stepped Pyramid
Satmahal Prasada or the seven-story tower is located on elevated ground on the northeast corner of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka. From among all the other ruins found not just in Polonnaruwa, but all over the country, Satmahal Prasada is unique because there are no other records of a stepped pyramid structure anywhere in the country.
Satmahal Prasada is believed to be a Buddhist stupa, due to all the religious monuments that are found in close proximity. However, it is very different from all other stupas found in Sri Lanka, except for the three other ruined square-based stupas found from the excavations done in the Anuradhapura area.
Satmahal Prasada has no known builder and it is speculated to have been built between the 11th and 13th century AD. Although it has no known builder in any of the historical inscriptions which were found in the near vicinity, the historic chronicle of Mahavamsa records that King Parakramabahu build a seven-story tower at Polonnaruwa, but there is no certainty that it is this particular structure.
The structure is built from brick and covered by a layer of plaster with four entrances from each side. There is also a staircase which leads to the upper levels, although the seventh level barely remains.
There are many stepped pyramids all over the world that bears a close resemblance to Satmahal Prasada with the closest of them being Koh Ker temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Thivanka Image House
Thivanka Image House or Thivanka Pilimage is a historical structure that boasts statues and paintings belonging to the 12th century. All the walls and the roof of Thivanka Pilimage is built from bricks, so it is known as one of the three Gedige (vaulted) type image houses found in Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka, the rest of them being Lankathilaka Pilimage and Thuparama Pilimage.
Thivanka Pilimage was built by the great king of the Polonnaruwa era, king Parakramabahu I and it is said to have belonged to the ancient Jetavanarama monastery complex that existed during his reign.
The image house is around 133 feet long and 68 feet wide. However, the brick walls are so thick to almost 7-12 feet, so the internal chamber is very small when comparing with the outer structure.
The entrance to the image house is via a staircase which is associated with two balustrades and guard stones, which were very common rock carvings in the Polonnaruwa era.
The main feature of Thivanka Image House is the 8 meters tall Buddha statue which stands in a unique, relaxed position, different from any other Buddha positions seen anywhere in the country. The part above the head of the statue has been destroyed over time and the remaining statue only stands at 6.6 meters.
The relaxed standing position of the statue consists of three curves at the shoulders, the waist and the knees. This is why the image house is called ‘Thivanka’ nowadays which literally means ‘three bends’.
As for the paintings in the image house, the inner walls are covered with various kinds of paintings, mostly from Buddha’s life incidents as well as from stories of Buddha’s previous lives before reaching enlightenment.
Thivanka Image House is the only monument in Polonnaruwa where most of the original paintings of the 12th century are well preserved.
Gal Viharaya or ‘rock monastery’ which is perfectly named because of the colossal Buddha statues carved into a rock surface, is known to be the most visited monument of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka.
Earlier referred to as ‘Uttararama’, it is said to be built by none other than the greatest king of the Polonnaruwa era, king Parakramabahu I. ‘Uttararama’ basically translates into ‘the northern monastery’. Gal Viharaya is also recognized as the most prominent monastery from the hundreds of temples built by king Parakramabahu all over the country during his reign.
The prime attractions of Gal Viharaya are the four massive Buddha statues carved into the face of a large granite rock. Considered as some of the best Sinhalese stone sculpting and carvings, the four figures consist of a large seated Buddha figure, a small seated Buddha figure inside a man-made cave, a large standing Buddha figure and a colossal reclining Buddha figure.
The giant rock has been cut almost 15 feet deep to get the favorable conditions to carve out the statues and it is the only location in the country where a rock has been cut to such an extent for the statue carving purpose.
On the far-left side of the rock, the large seated figure is located and, on its right, the smaller seated figure inside the cave is positioned. Further to the right, the standing figure can be seen, while the reclining figure lies on the far-right.
The sizes of each figure seem to have been decided according to the size of the rock so that the maximum size could be received. The large seated figure is more than 15 feet high, while the smaller seated figure is only 4 feet 7 inches in height.
The standing figure has a height of 22 feet 9 inches while the reclining figure reaches a whooping 46 feet 4 inches in length, making it one of the largest sculptures in South Asia.
Historical inscriptions record that king Parakramabahu built three caves in the rock to commemorate the statues although only one of these are actual caves while the other two are image houses.
Gal Viharaya holds a massive significance to the Buddhist culture as well because it is said to be the location where the king held a congregation of Buddhist monks to reconcile the divided three Buddhist priesthood fraternities.
Lankathilaka Image House
Lankathilaka Pilimage or Lankathilaka Image House is built for the purpose of showcasing the Buddhist culture of Sri Lanka during the Polonnaruwa era. It is one of the three Gedige (vaulted) type image houses in Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka, while the remaining two are the Thivanka Image House and the Thuparama Image House.
Lankathilaka Pilimage was built by King Parakramabahu I who is the conceptualist behind almost all the monuments in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka. It is written in historical inscriptions that Lankathilaka Image House was renovated during the reign of King Vijayabahu IV who was a ruler in the Dambadeniya kingdom, which rose to power after the decline of the Polonnaruwa era. The image house is said to have belonged to the Alahana Pirivena Monastery when it was built.
Lankathikala Pilimage is a massive structure built entirely out of bricks which is said to have stood as tall as five stories although the tallest pillar now stands at 58 feet high. The pillars were thought to be almost as two times taller than they are now when the building was in its prime.
The main feature of the Lankathilaka Pilimage is the 41 feet tall Buddha statue that stands alongside the rear wall of the structure, directly in front of the entrance to the image house. Although the hands and above-the-shoulder parts of the statue have been destroyed over time, the massive statue is still a magnificent sight.
The balustrades and the guard stones on the sides of the entrance staircase are also believed to be important due to their unique carvings of a female ‘Nagini’ figure as a guardian which is found nowhere else in the country. Although most of the paintings that covered the inner walls of the structure are now decayed, they still point to the ancient grandeur they once held.
Kumara Pokuna - Swimming Pool of Princes
Kumara Pokuna basically translates into the ‘pond of the prince’ which is accurate because it was said to be the royal bath for the monarchs of the Polonnaruwa era. Kumara Pokuna was built by King Parakramabahu I and is one of the most spectacular monuments in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka.
In the historical chronicle of Mahavamsa, Kumara Pokuna is mentioned by the name ‘Sila Pokkharani’.
The pond is built just outside the royal palace and is located on a lower ground level so that the water flowed effortlessly into the pond through the nearby canal. It is built with elegantly smooth stone slabs and it is 44 feet long and 38 feet wide.
The water flows into the pond through dragon-mouthed sprouts located on both sides of the entrance staircase which is on the western side of the pond. The used water was made to flow out of the pond through another outlet which was said to be controlled with a stone nail.
The beautifully carved ruins located to the south of Kumara Pokuna is believed to have belonged to a changing room or ‘Salu Mandapaya’. There is even an elegantly carved moonstone at the entrance to the pavilion which has prompted the idea that the pond and the pavilion were used only by the royals.
Lotus Pond | Polonnaruwa
Lotus Pond or ‘Nelum Pokuna’ is another one of the many ancient bathing ponds found in the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka. It is believed to be built by King Nissankamalla, the grandson of King Parakramabahu I, as a part of the Alahana Pirivena monastery, as a bathing unit for Buddhist monks who lived there.
Nelum Pokuna is considered to be one of the most beautiful architectural structures which are left from the glorious ages of the Polonnaruwa reign. However, because it is located outside the ancient palace limits, it is less visited by tourists when comparing with the other historical structures.
Lotus Pond is an enchanting piece of architectural work of the ancient world. It is considerably smaller in size than the other bathing ponds found within the ancient city, but definitely more beautiful in shape. It is shaped as five perfectly symmetrical eight petaled lotus flowers in descending form.
The pond is made of perfectly smooth fine cut granite which bring awe to the modern-day tourist. The largest lotus flower is 24 feet 9 inches in diameter and the smallest lotus flower in the middle is 5 feet 4 inches in diameter.
Although the lotus pond is said to be built by King Nissankamalla as a monk’s bath for the Alahana Pirivena, some believe it to be built by his grandfather, King Parakramabahu I, as a part of the Jethavana monastery complex.
Gal Potha – Stone Book
Gal Potha or Stone Book is a historical inscription written on a large slab of stone and it is one of the many literary records which hails from the ages of the kings found in Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka. It was said to be found near the Satmahal Prasada of Polonnaruwa.
Texts written on stone slabs were a very common method of record-keeping in the ancient Sri Lankan culture when it came to important information which was to be preserved to the acknowledgment of future generations.
Gal Potha is said to be an inscription of King Nissankamalla which was made during the last few years of his reign. It contains information about king Nissankamalla’s reign, about the king himself, his eligibility for becoming a king in ancient Sri Lanka and his contribution towards developing the kingdom of Polonnaruwa.
Gal Potha stone inscription is the largest such work found in the country. It is about 26 feet 8 inches in length, 4 feet 7 inches in width and 1 foot 9 inches in depth. The writings are on the upper side of the stone tablet which is smoothed and polished to accommodate the texts.
The texts are written in a total of 72 rows in three sections and there are more than 4,500 characters which belong to the 12th-century Sinhalese language. The two lengthy vertical sides of the massive stone are decorated with two rows of Swans carved into it. The two vertical sides are decorated with a female figure holding two flowers on each hand, while two elephants are pouring water into them.
The female figure is believed to be the Hindu Goddess called Gaja Lakshmi, which depicts the influence of Hinduism in ancient Sri Lankan art.
The Stone Book is said to be carried to Polonnaruwa from and an area called ‘Segiriya’ according to the inscriptions on it. This Segiriya is believed to be the present Mihintale of Anuradhapura, which is located about 70 kilometers away from Polonnaruwa.
However, some archaeologists suggest that Segiriya is not Mihintale but present Sigiriya in Dambulla. It is amazing how a stone tablet that weighs nearly 15 tons was brought to Polonnaruwa from somewhere far away.
Parakrama Samudra – Sea of Parakrama
Fittingly known as Parakrama Samudra, which translates into ‘the Sea of Parakrama’ is an amazing feat of irrigation done by king Parakramabahu I during his reign in Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka. It is a large reservoir that spreads thousands of acres in the Polonnaruwa district, very close to the ancient city.
In the historical chronicle of Mahavamsa, it states king Parakramabahu declared that no drop of water that falls from the sky will be sent to the ocean without first being used for the betterment of mankind. His great creation of a tank is the perfect example of the fact that he said true to his word.
Parakrama Samudra as seen today is only a portion of what it was during the ancient king’s reign. It originally consisted of five large reservoirs, each in close proximity to the other, separated by small dams, so that the pressure on the main dam could be reduced. The five reservoirs that made the Sea of Parakrama are; Thopa tank, Eramudu tank (Katu Weva), Bumbuthu tank, Kalahagala tank and Bhu tank.
In the late 19th century, reconstruction projects took place at Parakrama Samudra when the water which was supposed to occupy the Thopa tank started to flow into the Bhu tank. The engineers of the time proposed and constructed a temporary dam to stop this, but later, the temporary dam became a permanent road, which completely cut off the Kalahagala tank and the Bhu tank from the main Parakrama Samudra.
Even though modern engineering techniques failed to preserve Parakrama Samudra from the same glory as it once was, the massive body of water still covers approximately 5,350 acres of land, with an average depth of 25 feet. The reservoir still supports over 18,000 acres of paddy fields, which is the main agricultural crop of the Northcentral Province of Sri Lanka.
The dam of the Parakrama Samudra is approximately 14 kilometers in length. From the end of the dam and further is an area called Angammedilla and there is a stone weir (Gal Amuna) built by King Parakramabahu across a river called Amban river.
It is also said to be one of the greatest irrigation feats of the great king. It is right on the edge of Angammedilla National Park, where there are several camping and bathing sites, but permission from local authorities is needed to occupy them.
Rankoth Vehera is a gigantic stupa located in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka and it is considered to be the largest Buddhist stupa in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.
It was built by King Nissankamalla and bears a close resemblance to the Buddhist stupas of the Anuradhapura kingdom, especially to the largest stupa in the country, Ruwanwelisaya.
In Sinhalese, ‘Ran’ means gold and the topmost point of a Buddhist stupa is called ‘kotha’. Hence, Rankoth Vehera can be roughly translated as ‘the golden pinnacled stupa’.
The entire stupa is built from brick, including the four structures built for the purpose of offering flowers to the stupa and the wall that surrounds the terrace where the stupa is located in.
The flower offering structures are located on the four cardinal points and they are also built for the purpose of supporting the weight of the stupa.
After the changes and renovations done by the kings who succeeded king Nissankamalla, the stupa now stands at 180 feet with a base diameter of 550 feet, although the original built by king Nissankamalla is said to be at least 200 feet tall. However, Rankoth Vehera still remains the fourth largest stupa in the country.
Demala Maha Seya
Demala Maha Seya is an uncompleted, but massive structure of a stupa located within the town of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka. It is located between the Gal Viharaya and Thivanka Image house, but tourists rarely visit it because it is an uncompleted structure which has been taken over by the forest today.
In Mahavamsa, it records that king Parakramabahu I led an attack to the Pandya Kingdom on the South of India and brought Tamil war prisoners back to Sri Lanka. Stating that the Tamil prisoners should be used to rebuild all the monuments destroyed by past Tamil invasions in the country, he had successfully incorporated them to rebuild the great Ruwanwelisaya of Anuradhapura.
Mahavamsa also states that the king started to build a colossal stupa, which was to be 570 feet tall and able to be seen all the way from India, using Tamil labour and Demala Maha Seya is said to be that particular structure. If it had been completed, it was to be the largest Buddhist monument ever built by man.
There is no record to as why the stupa was not completed, so only the base three outer rings can be seen today, covered by forest. In Sinhalese, ‘Demala’ translates into Tamil, so it is guessed that the structure is called Demala Maha Seya because it was built using Tamil labour.
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