Polonnaruwa| Sri Lanka


Historic or Archeological Sites

Royal ancient city of polonnaru kingdom

The conquering Cholas constructed monuments to their religion - Brahmanism - and especially temples to Shiva, where admirable bronze statues were found (they are now in the museum at Colombo).

The reconquest of Ceylon by Vijayabahu I (c.1070) did not put an end to the city's role as capital, but it became covered with Buddhist sanctuaries, of which the Atadage (Temple of the Tooth Relic) is the most renowned.

The apogee of Polonnaruwa occured in the 12th century AD. Two sovereigns, then proceeded to endow it with monuments. Parakramabahu I (1153-1186) created within a triple-walled enceinte a fabulous garden-city, where palaces and sanctuaries prologned the enchantment of the countryside.

Nissamkamalla (1187-1196) constructed monuments which, though less refined than those of Parakramabahu I, were nonetheless splendid

After this golden age, Polonnaruwa underwent a century of difficulties, before its definitive decline. The city which was invaded by the Tamils and the Maghas, then reconquered in a precarious manner, was only periodically the capital before the end of the 13th century when it was captured in an assault by Bhuvanaikabuha II, who set up his government at Kurunegala.

The immense capital created by the megalomanic sovereign, Parakhambahu I, in the 12th century, is one of history's most astonishing urban creations, both because of its unusual dimensions and because of the very special relationship of its buildings with the natural setting.

What to See

Many of the finest monuments at Polonnaruwa were constructed in the mid-12th century under Parakramabahu. Among these are:

• the Lankatilaka, an enormous brick structure which has preserved a colossal image of Buddha;
• the Gal Vihara, with its gigantic rock sculptures which may be placed among the great works of Sinhalese art; and
• the Tivanka Pilimage, where wall paintings of the 13th century illustrate the Jataka (narratives of the previous lives of the Buddha)


Rankot Vihara


The late 12th century saw the construction of the Rankot Vihara, an enormous stupa measuring 175 meters in diameter and 55 meters in height. Its plan and dimensions are reminiscent of the dagabas of Anuradhapura.