Polonnaruwa ancient city site is a UNESCO world heritage. Polonnaruwa hides many dozens of ancient places and most of them are in very good shape. A part of the ancient city is still buried and yet to be excavated. The most ancient structure of Polonnaruwa has a strong relationship with Buddhism. Gal Viharaya temple, Thuparama temple, Vatadage, and Ayurveda hospital are a few popular Buddhist monuments in Polonnaruwa.
Table of Contents
- Importance of Polonnaruwa
- Is it worth visiting Polonnaruwa?
- Polonnaruwa tours
- Hindu shrines of Polonnaruwa
- Naipena vihara or Cobra hood cave
- Siva Devala No.5
- Nissanka pavilion and other Hindu shrines
- Nissanka dana vinoda mandapa mandapa
- Kali Temple
- Polonnaruwa Museum
Importance of Polonnaruwa
Anuradhapura was the first capital of Sri Lanka. According to the historical documents, its origin goes back to the 3rd century BC. Anuradhapura was abandoned as the capital of Sri Lanka in the 10th century AD mainly due to the south Indian invasions and Polonnaruwa was developed as the capital in the 10th century AD. Today Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa are important historical sites in Sri Lanka with hundreds of ancient monuments. Both cities are visited by travellers from Sri Lanka as well as from all other countries in the world. But sometimes the travellers ask which city is most important and which should be included on their trip, Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa. Both cities are similar in many ways but when you make a comparison between Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, the monuments in Anuradhapura are much older than the historical monuments found in Polonnaruwa. Sametime the historical monuments in Polonnaruwa ancient city are in better shape compared to most monuments in Anuradhapura.
Is it worth visiting Polonnaruwa?
“Is it worth visiting Anuradhapura?“, “Is it worth visiting Polonnaruwa?“, “Is it worth visiting Sigiriya, what is the importance?” are some of the questions that we get from our readers. They ask the same question with regard to many other ancient places and tourist attractions. To my knowledge, it is well worth visiting Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Sigiriya. You may pay hefty bills on your visit to these places (USD 30 entrance fees for Sigiriya, USD 25 entrance for Polonnaruwa and USD 25 entrance for Anuradhapura), however, all of them are UNESCO world heritage sites and you will not any similar ancient site in other countries in teh world.
Polonnaruwa is an important historical site that sits well over 200 km from Colombo. Polonnaruwa had been the second capital of Sri Lanka after Anuradhapura, in the 10th century AD. Three Kings namely Parakramabahu the great, Nissankamalla and Vijaybahu are 3 mighty Kings, who ruled the island from Polonnaruwa.
Polonnaruwa historical site is a UNESCO world heritage. Polonnaruwa hides many dozens of ancient places and most of them are in very good shape. A part of the ancient city is still buried and yet to be excavated. The most ancient structure of Polonnaruwa has a strong relationship with Buddhism. Gal Viharaya temple, Thuparama temple, Vatadage, and Ayurveda hospital are a few popular Buddhist monuments in Polonnaruwa.
Due to its historical and religious importance, it is well worth visiting Polonnaruwa, therefore, Polonnaruwa is included in most Sri Lanka tour packages. Most multiday tour packages such as 7 day Sri Lanka trip cover the most important places of Polonnaruwa. However, visiting Polonnaruwa on a day trip from Colombo can be a daunting task due to the 5 hours journey. A Sri Lanka day trip to visit Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, and Dambulla is available from Habaran and Sigiriya. However, this Sri Lanka one-day trip package is not available from far away destinations like Colombo.
Polonnaruwa is a city located within the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, therefore every cultural tour and heritage tour within the cultural triangle includes a visit to Polonnaruwa. Sri Lanka cultural triangle tour can be booked as a standalone activity from Colombo and Kandy. It can also be combined with other tour packages such as Sri Lanka 6 days tour, Sri Lanka 7 days tour, 8 days Sri Lanka tour package etc. Most popular Sri Lanka cultural triangle tours include Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and other major historical places of the Cultural triangle. If you are a traveller, who loves to study the ancient cultures and historical facts of the country you visit we strongly suggest you visit both Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
Hindu shrines of Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa had been a Buddhist city and it harbours a large number of Buddhist temples, Stupas, dagobas, and Buddha statues such as Gal Vihara (Polonnaruwa Gal Vihara). Same time, travellers can witness many temples with Hindu backgrounds, which is a clear sign that Hindu influence was very evident in Polonnaruwa by the 10th century AD. In this article, we discuss some popular Hindu shrines in Polonnaruwa because they are also considered important places to visit in Polonnaruwa. These Hindu shrines are spread over the entire ancient city, except in the Polonnaruwa quadrangle, however, most of them are discovered near the main entrance.
Naipena vihara or Cobra hood cave
Vishnu Devala No. 4: is known to people as the Naipena Vihara, which literally means “cobra hood temple”. Of the two contiguous Hindu shrines, that on the north is the shrine devoted to the worship of Vishnu.
After passing through the entrance porch which stretches on either side of the eastern boundary wall of the premises the devotees won’t pass through four antechambers before reaching the sanctum on the western of the building. There are no statues of God Vishnu, however, a pedestal to place the Vishnu statues can be seen.
“Naipena vihara” is the name of this Hindu temple, the name derived from the presence peculiar type of Cobra head. The cobra head is made of five cobra hoods of stucco. It is placed on the dome of the Hindu temple, which is been reclaimed by nature and is in a ruined status now.
Siva Devala No.5
Siva Devala No.5: the southern monument which is known as Siva Devala No.5 is entered through a porch by the side of the road. There is hale proceeding the sanctum within which is placed the lingam and Yoni. During the excavation of the shrine, there was found below the Yoni stone a nine-hole reliquary in one of the holes of which there was a small gold figure of the sacred bull.
Among the finds unearthed during the first excavation conducted in 1908 were a number of fine bronze of Hindu deities now in the Colombo Museum (J.Royal Asiatic Soc. (Cey.Branch) 16, (1915-16), 189-222. Between September and November 1960 much other bronze of Siva and other Hindu deities were excavated at this site, and they are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum in Anuradhapura. (J. Royal Asiatic Soc. (Cey.Branch) 7, part 2 (1960), 239-253).
Nissanka pavilion and other Hindu shrines
On either side of the Polonnaruwa signboard at the north and of the town there are more Buddhist and Hindu ruins. On the western side of the road is the remnant of ancient construction. The construction had been a brick building and it was identified as the Pritidanaka mandapa or ” Joy-conferring pavilion “.
It was a resort of refuge even for miscreants, according to an inscription on the site. A flight of steps, which is a little bit shallow is located towards the western slope. This flight of steps is cut onto the rock in order to make access to the summit of the rock. To the north of this stairway, the rock surface had been used to create a stone inscription of King Nissankamalla, who rule the country from Polonnaruwa. The inscription is consisting of 45 lines and spreads over an area of 2.6 m square.
To the west of the inscription, down below at ground level, there can be seen, within a rubble enclosure, a brick building which was devoted to the worship of Vishnu. The statue of this many an armed god was removed to the Anuradhapura museum. There is a makara-spout that leads out the sanctum from the northern wall, and on the outer surface of the brick wall of this building, there are niches. The moulded brickwork is bevelled following Hindu tradition.
Nissanka dana vinoda mandapa mandapa
Further westward from the aforementioned temple is Nissanka dana vinoda mandapa mandapa or Nissanka pleasure pavilion of alms distribution. Nissanka dana vinoda mandapa mandapa is yet another quite unpopular historical monument in Polonnaruwa and is rarely visited by travellers. Sitting on a raised platform the building is made of brick.
The Nissanka dana vinoda mandapa mandapa is square-shaped building. It has 4 bays, The building was built with 2 stairways, in order to access the building. The stairs are in dilapidated condition. There had been a stone and balustrade made of rock at each entrance.
Towards the southeast of Nissanka dana vinoda mandapa mandapa is another ancient temple, which was dedicated to worshipping the goddess, Kali. The temple is enclosed in a rubble wall. There are two antechambers and a vestibule leading to the sanctum.
There is drain giving out to the northern side and at a higher level, one can see lotus-shaped stone support for a pot. The surface of the outer wall had been decorated with pilasters fashioned in brick. There had been an arch decorated with the mythical animal Makara. Some statues that can be visible on the outer wall, seems to be standing on the ahead of a buffalo demon, which was killed. With her eight arms the goddess holding her insignia such as the club, sword, shank, discus etc, were removed to the Anuradhapura museum.
Towards the eastern side of the Polonnaruwa signboard, one can see the ruins of Siva Devala with two subsidiary Hindu shrines. A statue of a sacred bull along with ling and yoni was discovered at the site, today they are placed in the Anuradhapura museum.
The Archaeological Museum is situated close to the Resthouse by the side of the channel from the Topawewa. Visitors need the permits obtained from the Archeological Department of Sri Lanka to make photographs in the museum.
Visiting Polonnaruwa museum is also very important and it houses a large number of artefacts discovered during the excavation in Polonnaruwa. Polonnaruwa Museum is divided into a few compartments; one of those compartments is reserved to accommodate the Hindu artefacts found in the city. The visitors can witness a large number of god figures and many other insignia important to Hindusim. The entrance to the museum is free and you can use the same entrance ticket you buy to visit the historical site.