Polonnaruwa. Ancient City
is a city of immense historical significance that has experienced various periods in its development. The story of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura
can also be seen as a history of kingdoms that evolved in parallel with the Greek and Roman civilizations. Polonnaruwa today is a World Cultural Heritage site.
Approximately 4,500 years ago, the country of Lanka was governed by the sage Pulasti — the creator of the traditional medical system "Ayurveda
", he was the grandfather of the great king of Ravana, who brought Lanka maximum flourishing at that time. Ravana also created a separate highly developed civilization and managed the ten kingdoms of the world at the same time. During the reign of Sage Pulasti, the capital of Lanka was named in honor of his name Pulastipura («Pulasti» — the name of the ruler, «pura» — the city). Over time, the city's name was reborn in Polonnaruwa. In historical times Polonnaruwa has always remained one of the main cities of Lanka and even in that period when Anuradhapura
was the capital of the island, Polonnaruwa remained the second largest and most important city of Lanka.
Due to its high development, Polonnaruwa always attracted the inhabitants of the island. To solve the problem of the arid climate of the lowland zone, many reservoirs and irrigation systems for agriculture were created in this region. Those who ruled Anuradhapura
monarchs also used Polonnaruwa as a fortified outpost. According to legends, South Indian and Malaysian mercenaries were used to protect Polonnaruwa during various periods.
The kings who ruled Anuradhapura contributed to the development of irrigation systems in this area, which led to the flourishing of agriculture. The following rulers deserve special mention:
Wasabha (65 — 106 AD), who created the channel of Elahera
Mahasena (274 — 301 AD), who created the reservoirs of Minneriya and Kawdulla
Upatissa II (365 — 404 AD), who created the Topawewa reservoir
Agrabodhi II (571 — 604 AD), who created the reservoir Giritale
The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa
The first ruler who lived here during the existence of the kingdom of Anuradhapura was Agrabodhi IV (667 — 685 AD). The historical chronicle of the Mahavamsa contains a reference to the fact that King Agrabodhi III built a monastery in this place.
Constant incursions by South India have caused considerable damage to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Tamil, being Hindus, lived in the territory of Lanka for several centuries. The facts indicate that during the upheavals, Lanka was under South Indian influence. During the Chol-Pandian wars in India, Lanka provided assistance to the pandits, but they were defeated by cholami. Following this defeat, the Pandian king Rajasingha II arrived in Lanka with royal regalia and, leaving them there for safe keeping, fled to Kerala. The request of the cholas to issue royal regalia, sent to King Uday IV, who ruled at that time, was met with a refusal and caused the invasion of cholos into the territory of Lanka.
The Cholas Invasion
One of the most tragic moments of Sri Lankan history is the invasion of the Cholas, which occurred in 984 AD. e. This was the reign of King Mahinda V, who was of a good temper and not very… They ravaged Anuradhapura, captured Polonnaruwa and established Chol's authority over these territories. Twenty-four years later, the cholas captured King Mahinda V and exiled him to the kingdom of the Cholas, where he died in 1029, being a prisoner. These events well reveal the essence of the rule of cholov in Lanka. During his 73-year rule, the cholas used Polonnaruwa as a control center. At the same time, the significance of Buddhism decreased, giving way to the worship of Shiva, and most of the Shiva temples were built. Historical facts indicate that South India has significantly influenced the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka.
Vijayabahu I (1055 — 1110 AD). Liberation from invaders
The summons to the government of cholos, which lasted long enough, was thrown by Prince Kirti from the south of the country, brought up by military general Buddharaja (or Budanayaka). He was crowned under the name Vijayabahu in the region of Qataragama in the southeast of Lanka, and founded a small kingdom in the region of Rohana. He created and prepared a large army to liberate the country from the Chola yoke. But the first two attempts were unsuccessful. And only from the third time, when Vijayabahu sent troops from three directions to the region of Rajarata (one of the three regions of which Lanka was in the 11-13th centuries AD with the center in Polonnaruwa). In translation, «raja» means king, «rata» means country (a country of kings). Rajarata was under Chola's power, and the king managed to defeat the enemy and free the country. The ceremony of his coronation as a single ruler of Lanka was held in 1055 in Anuradhapura according to an ancient tradition according to which the introduction of the entire ruler to the throne of the coming ruler was to take place at the seat of the last king of Lanka. To this end, in a very short time the King's residence was built, the foundation of which has survived to this day. Subsequently, he established a center of government in Polonnaruwa and turned it into a well-fortified city, protected by walls and a moat.
Vijayabahu restored for the Buddhist monks the initiation ceremony in the highest spiritual order — Upasamda -, calling the initiated monks from Burma. This was an indispensable measure in supporting Buddhism, as Cholas are Hindus, during the last attack of Anuradhapura in 984 AD. gathered all the Buddhist monks of high rank in the same building and burned. In Lanka, there are no more monks left who are authorized to initiate in the highest order.
Restoring the abandoned reservoirs, Vijayabahu restored agriculture and, encouraging contacts with other countries, pushed trade relations to develop. He went down in history as a liberation hero from the Chola yoke and the keeper of the Sinhalese nation in Lanka. After his death Polonnaruwa plunged into a period of instability and internecine wars, the purpose of which was a power struggle between rival clans.
Parakramabahu the Great (1155 — 1186 AD)
In 1155, King Parakramabahu, who ruled in the south, became the king of the whole island with the capital of the kingdom in Polonnaruwa. Being a mature statesman gifted with organizational skills, Parakramabahu ruled the country peacefully, building and reviving large-scale irrigation systems. Among the spheres of his activity the historical chronicle of Chulawamsa (a small historical chronicle, the continuation of Mahavamsa) reports on the development of the Western region of the «dry zone», the construction of state institutions and works aimed at improving architecture. He built monasteries in Anuradhapura, encouraging Buddhism, and perfected the defenses of Polonnaruwa. He is the creator of a large reservoir Parakramasamudraya (Sea of Parakrama), which combined five small artificial lakes. After his death, Vijayabahu II became the ruler of Lanka, but a year after his coronation he was killed as a result of collusion.
King Nissakamalla (1187 — 1196 AD)
King Nissankamalla is considered the creator of many great buildings in Polonnaruwa, which he completed in a short period of time. The chronicles contain little information about Nissankamalla, who became king in 1187, but much about his importance can be gleaned from the vast number of inscriptions he left on various structures. He claimed to be the son of King Jayagopa from the Kalinga country (present territory of the states of Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand in India), and his mother was the younger sister of King Parakramabahu the Great. This fact he mentions, even in the inscription on the rock plate of Rathnamali in Polonnaruwa. Other powerful kings who ruled during the Polonnaruwa period often married princesses from Kalinga, which led to the strengthening of the influence of this country on Lanka.
The Invasion of Kalinga Magha
After the death of Nissankamalla, about 11 kings and queens ruled in Polonnaruk before the invasion of Prince Magha in 1214 AD., arrived from Kalinga. Often these rulers called for help from Tamil forces from India, and later they began to fight against each other. Arriving forces devastated the country, which can be inferred from the inscription on the stone memorial board in the Minipé area. Magha ruled the country for 40 years. And although Chulawamsa claims that he destroyed Buddhism and Buddhist books, there is evidence that this destruction began from an earlier time. The influence of Kalinga penetrated the country even in the time of King Parakramabahu. Being Buddhists, people from Kalinga were not patriots, which provoked frequent conflicts between them and the Sri Lankans.
Desolation of Polonnaruwa
Local residents left Polonnaruwa because of the aforementioned conflicts, and by the end of the first quarter of the 13th century the city was completely deserted. The next five hundred years here ruled the jungle with which the city grew, and the area was designated as a malaria-infected region of the country.
During the British rule Polonnaruwa again attracted attention, actions were taken to restore it. Work on excavations and conservation in the Polonnaruwa region, known as Alahan Pariwen, was entrusted to the department of archaeological research at Peradeniya University and was carried out during the implementation of the «Cultural Triangle Project» by university archaeologists and several restoration architects.
Statue of the King or Sage
The British claimed that the image belongs to King Parakramabahu the Great, but on the reverse side of the statue you can see the inscription «Pulatisi», which refutes the version about the king.
Potgul Vehera. The Monastery Library
A round building on a hill, located opposite a statue known as the Pulasti Statue, is called Potgul Vehera or a monastery library. The entrance to the building is decorated with a stone door frame. It is believed that the dome of the building was built entirely of brick, using a staggered masonry. The whole inner wall was once painted. Four small stupas are located in the corners of the upper hill. On the lower hill there were monastic cells. The inscription says that this building was built by King Parakramabahu.
But very doubtful is the fact that this building is used as a library in view of the following reasons: 1) there are no windows in the building, which prevented the penetration of light; 2) if we assume that books were stored in this building, then there should have been any shelves or cabinets for their placement, but in this case it is unclear why the walls were painted; 3) similar buildings have always been used to store Buddha statues.
Parakrama Samudraya. The Sea of Parakrama
The greatest irrigation construction of King Parakramabahu — Parakrama Samudraya — was created by combining five small artificial lakes. Reservoirs in Giritale, Minneriya, Kawudulla and Kantale are parts of one irrigation network. Parakrama Samudraya was filled with the construction of a dam on the Ambangang River and a canal from the reservoir in Giritale. The length of the dam is 12.5 km. It is one of the longest dams in the world. Reconstructions have led to small changes in this ancient irrigation system.
Archaeological Museum and Information Center
A well-equipped museum of artifacts found during excavations in Polonnaruwa was built during the implementation of the project of the Central Cultural Foundation for the restoration of the Alahan Pariwena area. To the right at the entrance is a hall with audio and video equipment. In the first part of the museum there are expositions that tell of significant periods in history from the time of Anuradhapura to the Polonnaruwa period. The second part of the museum represents the culture and life of people of the times of Polonnaruwa. Other parts of the museum contain a plan of the city and the palace complex, artifacts and descriptions of historical international relations. In the last hall of the museum — a rich collection of Hindu bronze statues on various religious themes, common during the Polonnaruwa period.
Parks and Reservoirs
The reservoirs, the water to which comes through the pipes of Parakrama Samudra, are considered the creation of the King of Parakramabahu. One of the inscriptions on the stone board says that the square ponds were built by King Nissankamalla. The Nissankamalla Pond in the Deepauyana Park is known as Anantha Pokharani.
A small building in the Dipauyana with walls covered with plaster is called a mausoleum. The purpose of this building, however, is not determined. A similar building is located near the Parakramabahu Palace. Perhaps, the building symbolizes the central mountain of the Universe — Mahameru.
Ruins near the mausoleum are considered the remains of the palace Nissankamalla. According to the inscriptions on the stone boards he decided to build a new palace for himself, not wanting to live in a palace built by another king.
Parliament and the Nissankamalla Hall
The throne of the king, known as the «throne of lions,» is supported by the majestic sculpture of a lion, on whose abdomen there is an inscription. Here you can also see the throne of the heir. The roof of the beautiful building was supported by four rows of stone columns. The inscriptions on the pillars prove the existence of a clear hierarchy in the royal system of that time — each of them is signed as the workplace of a certain official. This arrangement also provides an opportunity to understand who was close to the king and whom he trusted most.
Deepauyana. The Garden on the Island
This park on the island is the creation of Parakramabahu. The island is located next to the holiday house on the shore of Parakrama Samudra, near the fortress of Nissankamalla. On the island there were some royal buildings, including a font.
Brick building on the territory of the inner fortress — Parakramabahu Palace. The chronicles describe the palace in the smallest details, mentioning seven floors and many rooms. The palace is also known as Vaijayantha Prasadaya («a huge building with all modern conveniences»). Near the entrance is a large hall, which, played the role of a hall for audiences. The walls of the building were unusually thick, and the roof and floors were wooden. Various smaller buildings can be seen to the south and east of the palace. Apparently, they were intended for queens and other dignitaries.
Parakramabahu Conference Room
Hall — a classic example of the art of ancient masonry masters. At the entrance to the hall there is a moonstone and steps decorated with statues of Makar — mythical creatures of Hindu mythology. Above them are statues of lions. It is believed that this room for audiences was specially built by the king for advisors and lawyers. The design of the building is not combined with ancient traditions. For example, moonstone, balustrades and other elements present in this building were formerly used only in the construction of monasteries.
Kumara Pokuna. King's Font
This pond is located between the inner wall and the existing channel, which is located behind the conference room. Perhaps the font was part of Parakramabahu Park, known as Nandan Uyana. It consists of a pavilion and a restroom. A distinctive feature is the use of fountains for bathing. A lot of stone ponds scattered throughout the Polonnaruwa were used to store water supplies. It should be borne in mind that this pool was outside the residence of the royal family — on the territory of the monastery complex that surrounded the residence. Therefore, the assumption of the use of this font by the representatives of the royal family is doubtful.
Shiva Dewalaya 1
Shiva Dewalaya 1 is a large-scale stone Hindu temple near the Sacred Quadrilateral. He occupies an important position almost at the entrance to the fortress. The worship of Shiva originates in South India. This temple of the 13th century, taking into account the traditions of the Pandian architecture, is known for its fine stone carving, especially the figures of lotuses. The grade of stone used in the construction was not of local origin, but was brought from other places. Found here a collection of bronze statues can be seen today in the Museum of Colombo. Most of the statues depict Shiva along with his wife Parvati or the dancer of Shiva. A pile of bricks at this point indicates that the roof was built using brickwork.
From the Temple of Shiva on the steps to the right, we fall into the territory of the Sacred Quadrangle. At the base of the steps there is a small ditch with water, in which, according to ancient tradition, the feet of those who came to worship should wash their feet. Almost all the buildings in the Holy Quadrangle, built by various rulers, reflect the architectural traditions of the Polonnaruwa period. Various structures are united in a monastic complex. Buddhist and Hindu temples located side by side indicate that Buddhism and Hinduism coexisted without conflict at the same time. Another distinctive feature of this place is that the moonstone, unlike the moonstone in Anuradhapura, does not contain the image of a bull. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the bull Nandi was worshiped as the carrier of the god Ishwara.
Vatadage. Round House of Relics
The round building on the left at the entrance to the territory of the Sacred Quadrilateral — Vatadage. The entrance to the building is adorned with an elegant moonstone and protective stones located at the beginning of the steps. All the protective stones here are perfectly preserved. In Vatadage you can get by breaking the span of 8 steps, framed by figures of dwarfs. Stone Buddha statues here are fine examples of art. Still here you can see a statue of a cobra with seven hoods and a stone figure decorated with carvings. Vatadage was several times restored during the reign of various kings, which led to the addition of new elements. Five circles of columns — three outside and two inside — supported a wooden roof. The building is a testament to the high level of architecture in that period. The model in the museum shows in some detail how this building was in its final form.
Thuparama. House with the Buddha image
A brick monastery with a vault also known as «gedige» (the style of building a building completely made of bricks, including the roof), looks like houses with images of the Buddha of Lankatilaka and Thiwanka. The architecture of the building resembles those that were used in the days of Anuradhapura. Inside the building are several Buddha statues carved on a special marble that reflects sunlight. So the effect of lighting the room from the inside was created. The beautiful condition of this building, which was abandoned for almost 600 years, testifies to the superiority of ancient architectural traditions.
This structure once protected the Bodhi tree, which Buddhists revere as a tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. The temple of the Bodhi tree is an integral part of the Buddhist monastery.
The inscription on the stone board says that this building is the creation of King Nissankamalla. According to the conviction of British historians in this place, the king listened to Buddhist sermons, but the purpose of the building says that in fact the people here worshiped the Tooth of Buddha. The external walls of the building in the form of a wooden fence, decorated with ornament and connected by stone beams, resemble a fence in the Jetavan monastery in Anuradhapura. In the center of the building is a stone-cut stupa carved from stone with a cropped top that could have been used as a support for the Tooth of Buddha during worship.
Columns of the building of unusual shape, symbolize the stem of the lotus, crowned with a flower. This charming building vividly testifies to the skill of the builders of the Polonnaruwa period.
In this ruined building to the north of Nissakalatamandapa you can see a statue of a reclining Buddha. The building, including the Buddha statue, was entirely made of bricks.
The Bodhisattva Statue
Not far from Nissakalatamandapa there is a statue, which, as it is supposed, depicts the future Buddha — Bodhisattva. The statue, some parts of which are missing, is turned towards the Temple of the Tooth of the Buddha or Atadage. The eyes of the Bodhisattva and the eyes of the Buddha statue in the middle of Atadage temple «look» at each other and are on the same level.
Atadage. Relic Temple
In Sinhala, Atadage means the Eighth House of the Tooth of Buddha. This building, also known as Dalada Mandira and built by King Vijayabahu I, is the Temple of the Tooth of Buddha. The tooth was stored on the top floor with the sacred cup, and on the first floor there were sacred images. The inscription on a stone board in Tamil language near the building tells how to guard the Tooth. Vijayabahu used wage soldier of Vellaikkara as security guards. The inscription also mentions the ritual of Nethramangala, which was dedicated to the depiction of the Buddha.
Hatadage. Relic Temple
In Sinhala Hetadage means the Sixtieth House of the Tooth of Buddha. This building, which is considered the third building built along with the Temple of the Tooth of Buddha, can be accessed by walking on the porch. King Nissakamalla sacrificed his son and daughter for Buddhism, and received them back after the construction of this temple. The first floor of the building is made of stone, and the second, most likely, made of wood. On the porch you can see the musicians and dancers participating in the procession depicted on the plaster. The temple, which measures approximately 40 by 30 meters, contains three Buddha statues.
Galpotha. The Stone Book
Located to the east of Hetadage, this monument is an inscription made by Nissankamalla. This is the largest inscription of this kind in Sri Lanka. Its dimensions are 8 by 4.30 meters. Symbolizing a manuscript made of palm leaves, this monument is also known as the Galpotha. It is believed that a huge boulder for this monument was brought to Polonnaruwa from Mihintale. The narrow vertical side of the monument contains an image of two elephants watering the goddess Lakshmi, and indicates a Hindu influence. The inscription on the monument says that only people from Kalinga can become kings. It also describes the process of establishing trade relations with other countries. On the monument you can still see the image of a swan and a climbing plant.
The brick building is a stupa of an unusual step-pyramidal shape. Similar buildings are also in the north of Thailand. Perhaps the building was built with the aim of introducing unusual forms to the ensemble of the Holy Fourth Chest. Similar structures can be seen in the countries of South-East Asia, in which Buddhism flourishes. Satmahal Prasadaya, perhaps, symbolizes the connection with these countries. The first Sri Lankan archaeologist, Professor Satmahal Paranawithana, mentions that such buildings existed even during the Anuradhapura period. The height of Satmahal Prasadaya makes this building commensurate with the Wat Kukut monastery in northern Thailand.
Uposathaghara. House of Assembly
The structure between Hetadage and Satmahal Prasadaya was probably used as a meeting house — Uposathaghara.
Brick stupa to the right of the Sacred Quadrilateral — Pabalu Vehera. This medium stupa has a flat top. The existing form of the building is the result of restoration work of archaeologists, and from it, in particular, the name of the building occurs. Steps lead to the second circle at the base of the stupa, and the entrance to it is framed by a stone door frame. Around the stupa are statues of Buddha and several houses with his images. According to the legend, the stupa is built in honor of Queen Rupavati, the wife of King Parakramabahu.
Shiva Dewalaya 2
The Hindu temple, located near Pabala Vehera, is known as Shiva Dewalaya 2. It was built during the reign of the Cholas in Polonnaruwa in the dedication of Queen Wanawanma Devi, the wife of King Rajaraja. The temple is a prime example of South Indian architecture. In the center of the temple is the linga (genital organ) of the Hindu God Shiva. Around the temple you can see several images of bulls, which remind of the bull Nandi, who transported Shiva.
The Northern Gate of the City
At the junction of the roads of the old city is an ancient wall. Equipped with a roar and guard rooms, it testifies to the deep concern for the safety of the city, which Vijayabahu and Parakramabahu showed. Among some statues of Hindu gods is worth noting the statue of Ganesha, which is now on display at the Archaeological Museum. On both sides of the road that leads from Alahan Pariwena to the Temple of Tooth of Buddha building, one can see the ruins of Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples — Vishnu Devalaya and Ganesha Devalaya.
In Sinhala, Menik Vehera means Stupa with Precious Stones. Monastery complex Menik Vehera is located in the park to the north of the wall on the northern border of the ancient city. The building rests on a hill and is supported by high walls. Around the ring at the base of the stupa there are sculptures of lions made of terracotta. The carved door frame indicates that the stupa may have had a roof. The center of the structure was probably open. In addition to the stupa, the monastery also includes several houses with images and Bodhighara — the Bodhi Tree Temple. Around this stupa, during excavations, many precious stones were found.
Rankot Vehera. Stupa with the Golden Horse
The large stupa to the left of the entrance to the Alahan Pariwena complex is Rankot Vehera. Two spans of stone steps lead to the entrance. The construction of this stupa was started by King Parakramabahu, and finished — King Nissankamalla. A stupa 53 meters high was destroyed and was reconstructed during the British rule. The final reconstruction was carried out during the «Cultural Triangle Project» under the auspices of UNESCO. To the left of the stupa were built several ponds, which served as sources of water for Buddhist monks.
The Monastery Near Rankot Vehera
An abandoned hill in the south of Rankot Vehera is a monastic complex. It includes a stupa, a Bodhi tree temple, a house with images and, perhaps, a small house of assembly. The monastery refers to the type of monasteries known as the Pabbata Vihara, which in Sinhala means Monastery on Mount
Following from Rankot Vehera to Alahan Parivena, visitors can get acquainted with the monastic hospital, which was recently discovered by archaeologists of the «Project of the Cultural Triangle». The unique monument tells a lot about the healthcare system in Polonnaruwa of the 12th century. On the territory of the hospital was located a therapeutic bath — Behet Oruwa (Medicinal Boat). It was used to treat patients who have experienced snake bites or who suffer from arthritis, arthrosis, etc. During the excavations, surgical and medical instruments were found, which are now exhibited in the Polonnaruwa Museum.
Along the southern border of Alahan Pariwena there is a natural rock formation called Gopala Pabbata (Mount of Grazing Cows), in which there are several caves. One of the caves is known as Madalaya Alena (Madalaya Cave). It became the source of some legends that tell about the settlement of this region by people. On the cave roof there is an inscription that was made in the 2nd century BC. At that time, representatives of the elite often gave monks caves. It is believed that this cave was also presented to the monks by the head of the clan, who may have been called Madalaya.
Alahana Pariwena is a large monastic complex, built by Parakramabahu I and intended for the training of monks. According to the Chulavamsa chronicle, the northern boundary of the complex is Gal Vihara (Ancient Uttararama), and the southern boundary is Gopala Pabbata. The monastery was named Alahan Pariwen, which means the Cremation Monastery. Before the construction of the monastery, this place was used for cremation and burial. After the construction, representatives of the supreme clergy and members of the royal family continued to be cremated here.
Alahana Pariwena is built on a hill, the surface of which is divided into several levels. The sacred buildings, Buddha Sima Prasadaya (Building of the Court), Lankatilaka (House with the Image of Buddha) and Stupa Kiri Vehera are at the top of the hill, and the places of residence of monks, baths, wells, canteens, etc. — on the lower levels. During excavations, the «Project of the Cultural Triangle» has found many interesting monuments and artifacts.
Buddha Sima Prasadaya. Courthouse
Buddha Sima Prasadaya, or the Courthouse, is located at the highest point of the Alahana Pariwena complex. Monks used this building to listen to the disciplinary code. In the very center, on the dais, was the place where the chief monk or treasury was located. Covered with exquisite carving columns with the image of Purna Ghata were located outside the building, indicating the eclectic purpose of the building. Here you can also see the stepped windows, characteristic for the period of Polonnaruwa. The house had twelve floors.
Lankatilaka. House with the Buddha image
In the north from Buddha's Sima Prasadaya is the House with the Image of Buddha — Lankatilaka. This large brick building was built by King Parakramabah the Great. The statue of Buddha, whose head is missing, is 14 meters high. According to the chronicles, the building consisted of five floors, and was decorated with images of various climbing plants, flowers and figures of the gods. The building is constructed of very large bricks. It should also be noted a small group of steps that led to the upper gallery. The exit was built in the wall of the front of the house so that the worshipers could leave the temple without turning their backs on the Buddha, according to tradition. This structure, whose base is 41 by 22 meters, may initially have reached 33 meters in height. Opposite this building you can see the structure with columns, which is considered to be Bodhighara. But some sources suggest that there was a pavilion of drummers.
Kiri Vehera. Milk Stupa
It is believed that the stump of Kiri Vehera north of Lankatilaka was built by King Parakramabahu in memory of his wife, Queen Subhadra. Also there is an opinion that the building was built by the queen herself. This stupa, which preserved the original cladding, is one of the best preserved stupas in Sri Lanka. The height of the building is approximately 32 meters.
Gal Vihara. Stone Monastery
Known in the chronicles as Gal Vihara or Uttararama (Northern Monastery), this place is the most outstanding and symbolic monument of the art of the Polonnaruwa period. This great religious complex, created by Parakramabahu, includes four stone statues carved from a granite rock. The first statue is Buddha sitting in a meditative posture. The second is a statue in a groove called Vijadhara Guha with an inscription made nearby. The third statue is a standing Buddha. The fourth is the reclining Buddha. The place of the first Buddha statue in a meditative position is decorated with sculptures of a lion and a symbol known as the Vajra. The head of Buddha is framed by a beautiful halo. Next to the statue in the groove you can see the statues of Brahma and Vishnu. It is supposed that this statue symbolizes Buddha's enlightenment. The inscription next to the indentation is known under the name of Polonaru Qatikavata. She describes the rules established by the monks.
Historian Bell claims that the standing Buddha with hands crossed on his chest symbolizes Ananda Thera (Ananda Monk) during the death of Buddha — Parinibbana. But, according to the historian Prematilake, this statue symbolizes the second week after enlightenment, when the Buddha expressed his respect for the Bodhi tree, under which he attained enlightenment. A reclining statue of Buddha, whose length is about 15 meters, symbolizes Parinibbana, that is, the death of Buddha.
This is the largest stupa in Polonnaruwa. The diameter at the base is 200 meters. At first glance, it may seem like an unfinished attempt to turn an existing hill into a mortar. Excavations carried out during the «Cultural Triangle Project» really showed that the stupa was built around the existing quartz hill. In the center of the flat top of the stupa is another stupa of smaller dimensions. If the erection of this stupa could be completed, it would be the highest in the world and would be more than 210 m in height, but because of the death of King Parakramabahu the Great, the construction stopped.
Nelum Pokuna. The Lotus Pond
Cut out of a lotus-shaped stone pond is known as Nelum Pokuna (Lotus Pond). It is in the west direction from the road leading to the Thiwanka (House with the Image of Buddha). The walls of the rounded pond are formed by steps that gradually decrease, descending to the bottom. Archaeologists argue that such refined ponds are the creation of Polonnaruwa architects, who, due to aesthetic diversity, sought to atone for the lack of grandeur that was present in Anuradhapura. Other such lotus-shaped ponds, which most likely contained water for monks, can be found today on the territory of the monastery. Overgrown with wood, they rest in ruins, waiting for their recovery.
Thiwanka. House with the Buddha image
The house with the image of the Buddha to the north of the Lotus Pond has earned fame for several reasons. Here is one of the highest brick Buddha statues. Its name — Tiwanka — means Bent in Three Places — shoulder, hip and knee. The temple also contains a unique collection of wall paintings. Buddha worshipers could walk around the building and worship in a specially designated space between the first and second walls. The most significant paintings are on the inner walls. The porch and the front part of the building contain images of the stories «Jataka» — a story about the previous births of the Buddha, and on the part under the ceiling — antral — you can see a story about how the Gods ask the Bodhisattva in the skies of Tusitha about his birth in the world of people. The inner murals depict various stories from the life of the Buddha. One still distinguishable painting depicts «the indulgence of the Buddha from heaven on the stairs of Sankhasa.» The outer walls are covered with decorative images of the gods on the throne, other divine beings, dwarfs, Bodhisatva, swans, lions and lotuses. It is believed that this house of images to a certain extent reflects Hindu influence.
Naipena Vihara. Hindu Temple Complex
Two Hindu buildings south of the exit to the main road between Polonnaruwa and Habarana are known as Naipena Vihara. This is the ruins of the Hindu temple complex, which included the Shiva temple and the temple of Vishnu. The name of Naipena Vihara (the Cobra's Temple) came from the decoration in the form of a hood of this snake on the nave of the temple of Vishnu. The temple in the south of Naipena Vihara is dedicated to the god Shiva. These structures were built during the stay of Polonnaruwa under South Indian influence. Nearby are several other temples of Shiva. Most of the images of Shiva, which can now be seen in the archaeological museum of Polonnaruwa, was found in this place.
Vasantha Maligawa. The Spring Palace
Vasanta Maligava is the creation of King Parakramabahu. He is on the road leading to Parakrama Samudraya. The winds above the lake bring a pleasant coolness to this place. The tradition to build summer houses for kings existed from the time of Anuradhapura to the Kandiyan period.
King Nissakamalla built a grand hall at the alms-giving place begging for alms. The construction site of the hall is closer to the accumulation of Hindu temples, away from the road between Polonnaruwa and Habarana. From this building today there was only a hill, covered with vegetation. Figures of early archaeologists show that the building consisted of two parts. The inscription found in this place says that the king founded an orchard here. The collected fruits were intended solely for beggars. If other people violated this rule, they were deprived of their property and themselves were forced to ask for alms.
A tour of the historical monuments of Polonnaruwa is a wonderful occasion to get acquainted with the history of the fairy-tale Sri Lanka. The trip is highly recommended to you when you are vacationing in Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya or in Northern and Central Sri Lanka.
About your desire to visit the historical sites of Polonnaruwa please inform managers of Lankarus in the hotels of Polonnaruwa
, Dambulla, Batticaloa, Kalkudah / Passikuda
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