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Although he ancient city of Polonnaruwa is nearly 1000 years old it’s in better repair than the younger Anuradhapura which we also visited a couple of days later. It was declared a world heritage site by Unesco in 1982. I particularly wanted to visit Polonnaruwa because there are beautiful Buddha statues here. The complex covers quite a large area and is divided into 5 groups.

We started our visit in the archeological museum which described the history of the city and had interesting reconstructions of what some of the buildings are thought to have looked like as well as a large collection of Hindu bronze statues.

The southern group is approached via a road running along the edge of a huge man-made tank (reservoir) whose name in Sinhalese means sea (because of its size), where we saw many people taking their early morning bath or washing their clothes.


Inside this first group the Potgul Vihara is an unusual structure consisting of a rectangular shape with a dagoba (a Buddhist stupa) at each corner and one in the centre. The central dagoba is thought to have held sacred books.


Also in this area is a 4m tall statue of a male. Various suggestions have been made regarding who he is supposed to be – possibly King Parakramabahu I; one tongue-in-cheek suggestion is simply ‘man holding a slice of water melon’. The statue is unique in its lifelike representation as opposed to the more stylised representations usually found in Buddhist art.

Our guide reached up to pull some leaves off a curry tree and just missed being bitten by this snake. He hadn’t even seen it although we saw it move towards him.

Not much is left of the royal palace which measures 31m by 13m and is said to have had seven storeys.

Parakramabahu’s audience hall is notable for the frieze of elephants, each in a different position, with a frieze of lions at the top of the steps.




Vatadage, a circular relic house, has a moon stone at its northern entrance, which is reputed to be the finest in Polonnaruwa. The design of the sandakada pahana of the Polonnaruwa period differs largely from that of the Anuradhapura period. The single band that was used to depict the four animals was removed, and processions of the elephant, lion and horse were depicted in separate bands. The most significant change is the removal of the bull from the sandakada pahana. The Anuradhapura tradition of placing sandakada pahanas only at entrances to Buddhist temples also changed, and they are found at the entrances of other buildings belonging to the Polonnaruwa period as well. (Wikipedia)

The Gal Pota (stone book), nearly 9m long it’s a huge representation of an “ola” book (the page of ola books are made from palm leaves). Part of the inscription states that this stone, weighing 25 tonnes, was dragged to its current position from Mihintale, a mere 100km away.

standing at the entrance of the Hatadage you can see how beautifully symmetrical the building is

a typical bathing pool

the unusual ziggarat-style building of Satmahal Prasada



The 3 Buddha statues at the Gal Vihara

When this dagoba was discovered it still had some of its original outer layer of lime plaster in place

a headless Buddha statue




The Tivanka Image house contains a thrice-bent statue (this is what Tivanka means) of a Buddha; this form is usually reserved for female statues. There were some beautiful frescoes here, the only ones still extant in Polonnaruwa.

the lotus pond

the King’s council chamber

the lion throne

the royal baths


Comments on: "Polonnaruwa" (1)

  1. your pictures are beautiful and the information interesting. I particularly liked the photo of the lotus pool – how delicate and graceful.

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