Polonnaruwa was a great city in Sri Lanka which came in to prominence during its' brief period of 2 Centuries of Sri Lankan history, being second only to the ancient city of Anuradhapura in ancient cultural heritage. Polonnaruwa is 216 kMs from Colombo and 122 kMs from Kurunegala. Most common way to reach Polonnaruwa is to come to Habarana and then turning off along A11 Road [Maradankadawala-Tikkandimadu] and to proceed about 45 kMs to come to Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa today is a showcase of the great ancient Sri Lankan architecture dating back to 12th Century AD ,which was interwoven with many Buddhist monasteries and monuments which were built by the King Parakramabahu I. Later King Nissankamalla (1187-1196 AD ) from Kalinga dynasty also had contributed to the development of many buildings and monuments at Polonnaruwa. During the Anuradhapura period around 1st to 6th Century AD, , there has been agricultural developments with irrigation work and constructions such as Elahera canal,Minneriya tank, Kaudulla tank, Giritale tank etc. at Polonnaruwa area. The Anuradhapura kingdom's ruling King's army units were also stationed at Polonnaruwa . It had not been a major city at that time. King Aggabodhi IV ( 667-685 AD) was the First King who lived in Polonnaruwa and ruled the Anuradhapura Kingdom. In the earlier times this city was called as Pulatthinagara, after a famous sage, Pulasti which gives an indication of the Hindu influence existed. King Parakramabahu I , was the greatest King who ruled Polonnaruwa during the Polonnaruwa era for 33 years from 1153-86 AD and it had been a prosperous time for the entire island nation. It was a time with numerous architectural activities which one can still see even in the present time. He developed the city with architects and technicians brought down from India and the influence of the Indian architecture can be seen from many well preserved sites existing today. Polonnaruwa Architecture, Art and Sculpture is well displayed at - - Gal Viharaya,Thuparamaya Image House and Lankatilaka Image House and many other sites scattered through out Polonnaruwa ancient city. Due to invasions from the Cholas of South India, the Polonnaruwa kingdom was under the rule of Cholas for about 73 years. Polonnaruwa kingdom was abandoned by Sinhala kings in the latter part of the 12th century. Famous places like Sigiriya,Medirigiriya, Somawathie, Dimbulagala and Buduruwayaya are not far away from Polonnaruwa so can be reached without much difficulty.
After the parinirvana of Gautama Buddha, the tooth relic was preserved in Kalinga and smuggled to the island by Princess Hemamali and her husband, Prince Dantha on the instructions of her father King Guhasiva. They landed in the island in Lankapattana during the reign of King Kirthi Sri Meghavarna (301-328) and handed over the tooth relic. The king enshrined it Meghagiri Vihara (present day Isurumuniya) in Anuradhapura. Safeguard of the relic was a responsibility of the monarch, therefore over the years the custodianship of relic became to symbolize the right to rule. Therefore reigning monarchs built the tooth relic temples quite close to their royal residences, as was the case during the times of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa and Kurunegala kingdoms. During the era of Kingdom of Gampola the relic was housed in Niyamgampaya Vihara. It is reported in the messenger poems such as Hamsa, Gira, and Selalihini that the temple of tooth relic was situated within the city of Kotte when the kingdom was established there. During the reign of King Dharmapala, the relic was kept hidden in Delgamuwa Vihara, Ratnapura in a grinding stone. It was brought to Kandy by Hiripitiye Diyawadana Rala and Devanagala Rathnalankara Thera. King Vimaladharmasuriya I built a two storey building to deposit the tooth relic and the building is now gone. In 1603 when the Portuguese invaded Kandy, it was carried to Meda Mahanuwara in Dumbara. It was recovered in the time of Râjasimha II and it has been reported that he reinstate the original building or has built a new temple. The present day temple of the tooth was built by Vira Narendra Sinha. The octagonal Patthirippuwa and moat was added during the reign of Sri Vikrama Rajasinha. Famous Kandyan architect Devandra Mulacharin is credited with building the Patthirippuwa. Originally it was used by the kings for recreational activities and later it was offered to the tooth relic. Now it is an oriental library. It was attacked on two occasion, first in 1989 by the JVP and in 1998 by the LTTE.
The old part of Polonnaruwa is from twelfth century. At first moment the most of tourists cant believe that everything in the town is so preserved. The most beautiful fact is that the old part of the town and nature are very connected. Everywhere you look there is a lot of monkeys specially macaques, many other reptiles and also many trees. Polonnaruwa is also called as the medieval capital of Sri Lanka. Monks recorded and written down the early history of Sri Lanka. Those writings are known as the Great Chonicles, there are also a Chulavamsa known as the lesser Chonicles and they give us more accurate situation of the Polonnaruwa era.
Polonnaruwa Era existed between AC 1065- 1120. The governing period of this time was about 186 years and 19 rulers had sat on the throne in that period. During the final period in the Anuradhapura era, the cholas shifted the political power to Polonnaruwa, which was situated in the eastern side of the dry zone. the Sinhalese liberation force. During the time when Anuradhapura was the capital of the country, Thopa, Minneri and Giritale tanks had been built in the Polonnaruwa region. The agricultural development brought about by these tanks resulted in themigration of people to Polonnaruwa. The existence of a very fertile agricultural area helped to build the economic strength of kings. The main road from Rajarata to Ruhuna lay across Polonnaruwa. The province of Rohana served as a fortress for rebels and leaders. Since it is very easy to reach Rohana by wading across the Mahaveli Ganga, it was also easy to control Rohana from Polonnaruwa.It has been recorded that kings such as Aggabodhi III , AggabodhiIV and Sena II had visited Polonnaruwa to rest and there had been palaces built for the purpose.
Accordingly, Polonnaruwa appeared to have served as a sub capital even in the Anuradhapura Period. When the Pandyan king Sri Mara Sri Vallabha invaded Anuradhapura, Sena I is said to have gone to Polonnaruwa for protection. Therefore, Polonnaruwa has also been referred to as 'Kandavuru Nuwara' - the camp city. In the proximity to the harbour of Gokanna provided an opportunity to gain economic benefits through foreign trade. Similarly,it was easier to defeat the foreign invaders at the harbour itself before they could get a foothold in the country. Location on the banks of the Mahaveli made it a suitable area for irrigation and agriculture. The Cholas shifted the capital from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa. The Sinhalese kings who chased away the Cholas too made Polonnaruwa their kingdom.
Only few kilometres from Polonnaruwa you can find another remains of Polonnaruwa town - a World Heritage Site: Gal Viharaya., . One of the most striking of the many stone statues is a 14 metre Buddha statue, carved out of living rock. To one side of this reclining Buddha stands a 7 metre Buddha, in a rare pose with crossed arms. Another smaller statue of Buddha sits in deep meditation, while a fourth figure is set into a cave cut in the rock wall. The statues are carved of a long granite wall which forms the backdrop. Along the rock there are four images carved out of the rock. The southernmost depicts the Buddha seated in lotus pose with his palms resting on his lap. The face of the Buddha reflects all the tranquility of a person deep in meditation, and around the head of curls is a halo of light sparkling with the radiance of inner wisdom. The next image is within a rock-cut cave where the seated Buddha is surrounded by various deities, including Brahma and Vishnu. In the rock-cut cave there are the remains of mural paintings that would have brightened the interiors of the rock shelter and glowed in the light of oil lamps. The third figure is the Standing Buddha with his arms folded across his chest. It is an unusual and rare pose.
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