Another UNESCO world heritage site, according to the chronicles of the 12th century, a prince of great metal and physical vigour hailing from the Rohana (Southern part of Sri Lanka) forced his way to the throne of Sri Lanka as King Prakrama Bahu the great. Establishing himself in Polonnaruwa, a capital worthy of authority and ambition of the ruler, he proceeded to show himself as a successful warrior and a great administrator, during which time he, through a medium of a dam nine miles long created the “The Sea of Parakrama” harvesting rain water to be used in the dry period of the year for cultivation purposes, carving the irrigation brilliance of Sri Lankan’s in stone when most of Europe where still in darkness. Today vast ruins stand sentinel bearing witness in Polonnaruwa to his power and glory, in a period of prosperity with the objective of storing food many such projects were under taken some of which function even today.
The Sinhalese historical chronicle “kualamwanse” says that his palace was furnished with thousand chambers and seven stories in all, today only the ruins of ground floor remains with ten feet thick walls to support the six stories built on top of it. Between the Palace and the garden lay the pool and towards north a pavilion called the council chamber, at the entrance the famous “moonstone” with its elaborate carvings of elephants, horses showing an internal possession around the central lotus flower, all this done by a great stone sculptor long forgotten except his work, walk up nine steps and you can picture yourself in the presence of the great king surrounded by his counsellors and chiefs, perhaps this is where he planned to send his navy to far-off Burma, organised expeditions against the Cholas of South India where the Sinhalese army won and set the Pandyan prince upon his father’s throne.
This is a beautiful Statue 11 feet 6 inches in height, popularly known as the Parakramabahu Statue.
Some Archaeologists try to identify this as that of Sage Pulasti, as Polonnaruwa was known as Pulastinagara. Others try to identify this as “Agasti” or “ Kapila” two other Indian Sages.
Some others tend to believe this as that of King Vijayabahu I, as he rule for 55 years and died as a very old King.
However, the general belief is that this Statue represent King Parakramabahu I (1153- 1186 A.D.) the greatest King of Polonnaruwa.
A Rotunda style of a building, with a brick built vaulted Roof, with four attending dagobas at the four corners of the 3rd terrace. The building is 157 feet in circumference.
This building may have been used as a shrine room, as traces of paintings are found in the plaster on the walls. The outside walls contain facades of buildings and contain traces of paintings as well.
The building had been constructed by Queen Chandrawathie the 2nd Queen of King Parakramabahu I (1153 to 1186 A.D).
Council Chamber of King Nissanka Malla
Behind the Polonnaruwa Rest House are the ruins of King Nissankamalla’s Palace, Water Garden & Bathing Pavilion, Summer House and the Council Chamber.
A 3-ton Lion used as the Throne with an inscription, the seats for Uvaraja and other Ministers are marked with inscriptions on the stone pillars near which each of them sat.
The Audience Hal is decorated with elephant figures, lion figures and beautifully carved dwarfs of which only a few examples remain now.
Royal Palace of King Parakramabahu I.
According to Mahavamsa the Royal Palace had seven floors with 1000 rooms and the present remains consists of 3 floors with a large flight of steps going from the ground floor to upper floors. The floors from the 3rd floor would have been made of timber. The Palace is 150 feet square and the large hall is 102 feet by 42 feet.
The Palace was known as Vyjayanthi Prasada, the abode of Indra or Sakra, the Chief of all Gods.
The remains of iron melted by a fire are found inside the Palace and is an indication that the Palace had been set on fire by the invaders.
Audience Hall of King Parakramabahu.
Known as “Rajya-veshya-bujanga-mandapaya”, the Audience Hall of Parakramabahu is in front of the royal Palace.
The beautiful friezes of Elephants are in various attitudes and the Lion and the Dwarfs
(Ghana’s) are above the elephants and are running round the building.
The entrance has a moonstone, guard stones, balustrades and two beautifully carved lions in sculpture at a higher level.
Thuparama Shrine Room.
Constructed by Parakramabahu I, this is one of the most beautiful buildings with a brick-built vaulted roof.In the center is a brick pedestal for a seated Buddha Statue and few standing Buddha Statues and seated statues, made of crystalline limestone. This is probably the building with a moonlight terrace (sandalu talaya) and decorated with paintings, built in honour of the tooth Relic.The walls are very thick and large windows are there for ventilation. The walls outside are decorated with facades of buildings.
Vata-da-ge (Circular Relic House).
This is the most beautiful and architecturally the best Vata-da-ge in the Island out of the three in the Medirigiriya and Thiriyaya.
In the center is a small dagoba, with four Buddha statues at the four entrances with a tall wall around it.There is only entrance to the lower platform and four entrances from there to the upper terrace. Both entrances are decorated with moonstones, Guardstones and balustrades.There are three rows of granite pillars to hold the roofs for each section and the last row may have been of wood. According to an inscription at the entrance of King Nissankamalla, he claims that he constructed it, but may have been done by Parakramabahu and only the entrance porch with Nissankamalla may have done the inscription.
Ata-da-ge (Temple for 8 Relics).
This is one of the few monuments datable to King Vijayabahu I (1055-1110 A.D.) used to house the Sacred Tooth and Bowl Relics of the Buddha.
The pillars here contain beautiful carvings with male and female figures in a creeper and the lover’s carvings are also found among them. The mercenary soldiers from south India known as Velakkaras guarded the Tooth Relic enclosure.
Heta-da-ge (Temple with 60 Relics or built on 60 days).
This is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic constructed by King Nissankamalla (1187-1196) of Kalinga Clan.There were many enemies for him and he made extra security arrangements to safeguard the Tooth Relic and the Bowl Relic from his enemies. He constructed a wall round the Temple for more security.
This is similar in design to Ata-da-ge.
This is a truncated style (Kota Vehera) of a dagoba, constructed by Rupawathie, a Queen of King Parakramabahu.In 1909 when H. C. P. Bell excavated this, he found many corals and as the dagoba is also like a coral, this was named Pabalu Vehera. The old name is not known.A flight of steps leading from the stone platform to the first and second basal terraces and from there for a Devotee to offer flowers at the altar at the 3rd basal terrace, is a feature not found in any other dagoba.
Siva Devala No: 02.
This the oldest datable building at Polonnaruwa constructed in the 10th Century A.D., when Polonnaruwa was under the Chola occupation.
Constructed by King Raja Raja Chola for his Queen Vanavam Madevi, as given in a Tamil inscription in situ. The name of the Kovil is “Vanavan Madevi Mudaiyar Kovil”.
This stone built Gedige style building is well preserved and is used by Tamils in the area for worshipping.The main object of worship is the “Siva Lingam”.
The largest Dagoba at Polonnaruwa constructed by King Nissankamalla, similar to Ruvanweliseya at Anuradhapura constructed in the 2nd Century B.C. Archaeologists believe that though Nissankamalla claims that he built it, another King may have constructed this.This Dagoba is in the Bubble shape, 180 feet in height and 186 feet in diameter at the base.An inscription on a stone seat in front of the dagoba, King Nissankamalla mentions in the inscription on the seat that the King observed the construction work of the dagoba, seated on the stone.
Alahana Pirivena Group of Monasteries – “Baddha Sima Prasada”.
This was constructed by King Parakramabahu for the use of Buddhist Bhikkhus for their religious meetings, higher ordination ceremonies (Upasampada) and disciplinary (Vinaya)
Matters.There were 1000 rooms for the residence of Bhikkhus in the 12 floors of the building. A flights of steps leading to upper floors could be seen today.
The High Priest or Maha Nayaka lived here and all facilities were provided including bathing as seen today in the many large ponds found around the Alahana Pirivena.
The rainwater that fell on the entire building was collected in three large tanks for the use of the monastery.Alahana Pirivena was so named because it was close to the Crematorium and consisted of the 3 monuments Baddhasima prasada, Lankatilaka Shrine and Kiri Vehera dagoba.
Lankatilake Shrine (Pilimage).
A Gedige style of a shrine room (Patimaghara) with headless Buddha Statue 55 feet in
height. According to the Chronicles the building had 5 floors and today there is evidence for2 floors in the building.The building is 124 feet long and 66 feet in breadth. The entire structure had been painted inside and out and two small patches of paintings are found under the porch of the small side entrance and a sunshade like area on the right side of the building.King Parakramabahu I constructed this.Lankatilake is one of the well-preserved buildings at Polonnaruwa.
Kiri Vehera Dagoba.
A well-preserved dagoba f a smaller size constructed by Subaddra (Baddawathie) another queen of King Parakramabahu.
The style is Bubble shape, 80 feet in height and the diameter at the base is 88 feet.
Gal Viharaya (Uttararamaya)-Sculpture of Buddha.
The Northern Temple or Gal Viharaya is the greatest work of King Parakramabahu I, where you will see one of the most beautiful sculptures of the Buddha in the world.
The two seated (meditating) Buddha statues (one in the cave called Vijjadhara Guha), standing Buddha Statue and the reclining Buddha statue are the 4 statues carved from the living rock here.
The height / length of the statues is given below: –
Seated Buddha statue on the Vajrasana – 15 feet 02 inches.
Seated Buddha Statue in the cave under the stone chart (Umbrella) – 4 feet 7 inches.
Standing Buddha statue – 23 feet in height.
Reclining Buddha Statue – 46 feet in length.
A Bo Tree had been planted and the site could be seen today.
Tivanka Image House.
The Tivanka Image House may be the old Jetavanaramaya at Polonnaruwa, constructed by King Parakramabahu I. It was identified by H. C. P. Bell as “Demala Maha Seya”, when it was excavated and conserved by him.
The Headless Buddha Statue is in the Tri-bangha posture (bent at three places- knee, waist and the shoulder); Prof. Paranavithana named the building as Tivanka Image House.
The shrine room, originally with a vaulted roof, is 123 feet long and 67 feet in breadth.
King Parakramabahu II (1236 – 1270) of Dambadeniya is said to have done repairs to the building during his period.
The ‘entresol’ of the shrine room walls consists of Kataka Stories of the previous lives of the Buddha, the ‘vestibule’ consists of figures of Gods and deities paying homage to the Buddha and the ‘sanctum’ the stories relating to the present life of the Buddha after Enlightenment including the Sankissa ladder scene, Boating scene and few others.
The building is now covered with a temporary roof.