After introducing Sri Lanka’s ancient capital Anuradhapura in a series of blog articles in May and June, we will continue to describe Sri Lanka’s most famous heritage attractions in the month to come. A Polonnaruwa series will be started already next week.
We already introduced Polonnaruwa’s historic role in the development of the nation and of Theravada Buddhism in our World Heritage Series article about Polonnaruwa. Today we are going to invite travellers by telling you, why you should not miss to see Polonnaruwa, if you are interested in ancient cultures.
Polonnaruwa can be compared in size and significance to the only slightly younger first capital of the Thai kingdom, Sukothai in central Thailand. But it is not as large and magnificent as the contemporary burmese capital Pagan (Bagan in Myanmar).
Polonnaruwa has two main attractions for travellers, namely one of Asia’s most impressive groups of rock-cut Buddha statues. The sculptures of the Gal Vihara in Polonaruwa are not only huge, they are of excellent craftsmanship and extraordinarily serene beauty, the reclining Buddha in particular. The lying sculpture and the neighbouring standing statue are one of the landmarks of Sri Lanka. Seeing them means visiting Polonnaruwa.
The other landmark of the medieval Sinhalese civilisation to be seen in Polonnaruwa is the best example of a circular temple, which is a characteristic feature of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist art.
There are many more attractions in Polonnaruwa worth seeing them, for example Hindu temples in the Chola style, ruins of a multi-storey royal palace, royal audience halls with inscriptions, a bath in the form of a lotos blossom, Sri Lanka’s best-preserved paintings from the Middle Ages in the Tivanka image house, lots of elaborate stone carvings, last not least one more rock sculpture of a very uncommon design, most probably depicting the name-giving saint of Polonnaruwa, Pulatthi, but most tour guides will tell you, the statue is a potrait of Parakramabahu the Great, who was the mightiest king in Sri Lanka’s history and the founder of most of those splendid architecture you can come to see in Polonnaruwa now.
Polonnaruwa was the island’s capital from the 10th to the 13th century. Most buildings were erected in the second half of the 12th century. This means, Polonnaruwa is younger than Anuradhapura. This is why the edifices are in a much better condition of preservation than those in Anuradhapura. There is one exception: Polonnaruwa’s dagobas (stupas) are not as impressive as those of Anuradhapura. The tallest one, Rankot Vehera, is smaller than the three giant stupas of Anuradhapura. Nevertheless, though most people don’t know this: By far the largest stupa of ancient Sri Lanka is situated in Polonnaruwa, Demala Vihara. It's not recognizable as a dagoba any more, since it was not a hemispherical dome but of a flat design, though very wide. The Demala Vihara is completely covered by scrubs and grass, you do not see the bricks any more. So it looks like a normal hill. But indeed it is artificial. Though ist cannot be called an atraction of Polonnaruwa, it's worth mentioning: this was once the largest brick stone building of the world.
all Sri Lanka blog articles
by region, by topic
and A-Z here...