The second capital of the island, Polonnaruwa was one of the great urban centres in South Asia. Today, the well preserved ruins of this UNESCO World Heritage site give you the chance to experience the grandeur of this period, marvel the artistry of the island’s early craftsmen.
Many of the existing ruins owe their construction to Parakramabahu the Great, the last in a sequence of warrior-kings, who developed the city on a lavish scale. He is also credited with the massive artificial lake that lies to the west of the city, The Sea of Parakrama.
On your way to Polonnaruwa is the tallest statue of the island the “Aukana statue” of lord Buddha. The rock cut statue stands 39 feet above its decorated lotus plinth and 10 feet across the shoulders. Belonging to the period 459-477 AD, it is a unique creation by an unknown sculptor.
At the heart of the ancient city are the remains of the Royal Palace and Council Chamber. Nearby is the Vatadage or relic house, a beautifully decorated circular structure. Among the other sites are the gal potha (stone book) – a 9m-long granite slab inscribed with the feasts of a king, the Lankatilaka Shrine and the supremely graceful Buddha statues at Gal Vihara, the pinnacle of Sri Lankan rock carving. The site also hosts many distinctly South Indian-style Hindu temples.
Polonnaruwa’s ancient splendour cannot fail to inspire. Set amongst gently undulating woodland, the monkeys, giant lizards and birdlife in abundance seem tamer than elsewhere in the island. Even 1980’s pop group Duran Duran were obviously impressed, featuring Polonnaruwa in their music video, Save a Prayer.
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