Polonnaruwa visiting places
The historical city of Polonnaruwa is a living testimony of the splendid bygone era of the island Sri Lanka. Polonnaruwa visiting places exceeds many dozens and most of them are closely connected to Sri Lankan history. Therefore, Polonnaruwa is a tourist hotspot, which is an attraction included in most Sri Lanka tour packages. Polonnaruwa is accredited with the token “World heritage site” by UNESCO…Here is a list of places to consider when you visit Polonnaruwa on your next trip.
Near the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, within the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, stands one of the greatest ancient treasures of Sri Lanka: A large number of well preserved, remarkably preserved vast building complex believed to have been constructed between the 10th to 11th century that may have housed many thousands of people. The dry zone ancient city sees hot dry season for 6 months and warm wet season for the rest of the year. Yet, it was home to a thriving, yet mysterious, civilisation – the Sinhalese.
This vast arid area on the eastern part of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, around half the size of Anuradhapura ancient city, is cut through with lush vegetation and dotted with towering Stupas, Dagobas, temples, palaces and many other monuments dating back thousands of years. The best-known monuments in Polonnaruwa are Thuparama, Parakramabahu palace, audience hall, Gala Vihara, sometimes referred to as the ‘Uttararama.’ Uttararama or Gal Vihara is located towards the northern border of ancient Polonnaruwa city. The Uttararama was famous for its beautifully preserved Buddhist temple with many gigantic granite Buddha statues.
What are the 10 best places to visit on Polonnaruwa tour?
- Palace of King Parakramabahu
- Polonnaruwa Quadrangle
- Thuparama-Places to Visit in Polonnaruwa
- Polonnaruwa Vatadage
- Alahana pirivena complex
- Lankathilaka Polonnaruwa
- Pothgul Vehera
- Audience hall of King Parakramabahu
- Gal Viharaya
- Archaeological Museum
Below is 20 historical places found in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Some of the historical places mentioned below located within the borders of the ancient city, while some of them are located outside of the ancient city. When you are venturing on a Polonnaruwa tour, usually it does not includes all 20 historical places we discuss hereunder, due to time constraints.
The article features 20 places to visit in Polonnaruwa ancient city, some of these historical places are quite unknown to most travellers.
- Palace of King Parakramabahu
- Polonnaruwa Quadrangle
- Thuparama-Places to Visit in Polonnaruwa
- Polonnaruwa Vatadage
- Alahana pirivena complex
- Lankathilaka Polonnaruwa
- Pothgul Vehera
- Ponds and Baths
- Audience hall
- Gal Viharaya
- Hindu shrines
- Nissanka pleasure pavilion
- Vishnu Devala No. 4 Polonnaruwa
- Siva Devala No.5
- Kali temple
- Archaeological Museum
- Vatadage Medirigiriya Polonnaruwa
If you are a foreign traveller and rely on a tour operator to organize the Polonnaruwa tour, most probably you will miss most of these places because tour operators include the most interesting and well-preserved monuments in the program. Thereby tour operator can save time (finish the tour within the allocated period) and reduce the cost of the tour package.
Places to visit in Polonnaruwa tour: how much time do I need?
Usually, the Polonnaruwa tour to explore the historical monuments lasts between 3-4 hours. Most Sri Lanka road trips include a visit to Polonnaruwa. During the 4 hours, you will be able to explore the important places in the ancient city as well as the Polonnaruwa archaeological museum.
How much does it cost to visit Polonnaruwa?
The entrance ticket cost USD 25 per person for foreign travellers. Polonnaruwa is an important archaeological site like Sigiriya and Dambulla and under the purview of the archaeological department. The visitors need to purchase an entrance ticket by paying USD 25 to see the monuments in the archaeological site. The visitors who purchase the entrance also entitled to see the exhibits at the archaeological museum of Polonnaruwa.
Polonnaruwa tour from Sigiriya, Habarana and Dambulla
Usually, the Polonnaruwa tour is a half-day program start either from Sigiriya or Habarana, in fact, that’s the best way to visit Polonnaruwa. Sigiriya, Habarana and other nearby places such as Dambulla are the popular places for travellers when choosing accommodation for their Polonnaruwa tours. Usually, the Polonnaruwa tour is combined with other trips to places such as Sigiriya, Dambulla which are located near Polonnaruwa.
When the travellers based in one of these cities, one can easily visit all important historical places (Sigiriya, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Kandy) in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka from your hotel within a 1-hour drive. Therefore venturing on a Polonnaruwa tour from Sigiriya or Habarana is the best way of exploring Polonnaruwa.
Usually, the Polonnaruwa tour is combined 2 other highly important tourist attractions name Sigiriya rock and Dambulla temple. I have written a comprehensive article about one day tour to these places, please check, “VISITING SIGIRIYA, DAMBULLA POLONNARUWA IN ONE DAY“.
Visiting important places of Polonnaruwa from Kandy
If you start the tour from Kandy it will be a full-day tour, with the transfer. Polonnaruwa tour from Kandy can be a tedious task due to the very long travel time. However, if you start the journey early morning from Kandy you may able to reach Polonnaruwa within a 4 hours drive and the return journey also lasts about 4 hours. As you spend about 8 hours on the transport you may end up with about 2-4 hours for visiting monuments.
Visiting important places of Polonnaruwa from Colombo
It is not recommended to venture on a one day trip to Polonnaruwa from Colombo if it is not really necessary. The travelling time between Colombo and Polonnaruwa may last as much as 6 hours due to the very long distance that you have to cover. Therefore, the travelling time on both ways may last more than 10 hours giving you very little time to see the attractions along the way.
Visiting important places in Polonnaruwa on a Multiday Sri Lanka tour
Most travellers allocate only a limited time for the entire trip E.g. 10 days tour, 2 weeks tour etc. Also, travellers have a budget. The tour operator should craft the tour to match the time frame as well as the budget. Therefore, the tour operator that craft the tour package, choose the most interesting places to visit on the program.
If you are going to visit all places mentioned hereunder, you have to plan at least a 3 days Sri Lanka trip to Polonnaruwa tour. I’m pretty sure Your Polonnaruwa trip will not be that much longer because there are so many other interesting cities to explore during your holiday such as Kandy. Sigiriya, Dambulla, wildlife parks, beaches and many more.
What are the 6 best Sri Lanka tours to visit Polonnaruwa?
- Simply Sri Lanka 8 Days Private Tour with Luxury Accommodation
- 4-Day Essence of Sri Lankan Culture-Private
- Sri Lanka Classic Luxury-7 Days Private Tour
- 4-Day Essence of Sri Lanka Tour
- 6-Day Sri Lanka Heritage Private Tour
- Sri Lanka Grand-10 Days-Private Tour
Historical facts about Polonnaruwa lost city
Polonnaruwa under the ruling of King Parakrambahu and Vijayabahu
Polonnaruwa under the kings of Vijayabahu I and Parakramnahabu the great achieved prominence in several areas such as art, craft and engineering. There was a remarkable resurgence in the country, especially on Buddhism, which made the island the centre of Buddhism in Southeast Asia.
The resurgence of arts and architecture in Polonnaruwa
There had been many important achievements in the arts and architecture under these pious kings. The ruined city of Polonnaruwa hides many Dozens of structures with exceptional artistic skills of the ancient artisans and the aesthetic sense of the designers of the city. The statues, imposing image houses, dagobas or stupas and reliquaries bespeak the towering heights the architects and sculptors have reached.
During the same period, there had been a remarkable recovery in the Sinhalese literature, which was completely neglected under the foreign invaders. This chapter of Sinhalese literature is termed as a classical tradition of Sinhalese literature, as is evidenced by the poetic works of the period.
Importance of Polonnaruwa
The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is a living testimony of the splendid bygone era of the island Sri Lanka. Polonnaruwa is a tourist hotspot and a Polonnaruwa tour is an activity that included in most Sri Lanka tour packages. Polonnaruwa is accredited with the token “World heritage site” by UNESCO due to its immense share in Sri Lanka’s history and comparable with other historical places such as Anuradhapura.
There are many articles in this blog, revolving around this historically important city and places to visit in Polonnaruwa. But, in order to give more clear insight for our readers and narrow down the list of places to visit in Polonnaruwa, I decide to make this note featuring several important historical places in Polonnaruwa.
From many dozens of historical places in Polonnaruwa, we discuss a few places in this article, because as we know that every traveller can allocate only a limited amount of time for each site during their trip. Because you are not only visiting Polonnaruwa on your trip but also there are many places to explore. I feel these places, listed below, are the most important places in terms of historical value and most importantly they are in good shape.
How much does it cost for the Polonnaruwa tour?
The entrance ticket to Polonnaruwa historical city cost USD 25.00. The ticket can be purchased at the historical museum of Polonnaruwa. All monuments listed below located within the border of the historical city of Polonnaruwa and there is no detour required to visit any of them, and when you purchase the entrance ticket to Polonnrau historical city, you can visit all these places without any additional charges. However, the transportation cost for the Polonnaruwa tours varies depending on the starting point of the trip.
Visiting important places in Polonnaruwa with a half-day tour from Sigiriya?
Making a half-day Polonnaruwa tour from Habarna or a half-day tour from Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa is the best way of exploring Polonnaruwa. I have done both versions of these tours many times with our customers and according to my experience, it is the most convenient way of touring to Polonnaruwa. Time takes to both versions of the Polonnaruwa tour is by and large the same.
The Polonnaruwa tour from Sigiriya and Habarana consume only about 4 hours and the rest of the day you can dedicate yourself to some other interesting activities such as exploring Sigiriya rock, visiting Dambulla temple, Polonnaruwa safari at Minneriyan national park, village tour in Sigiriya. The Polonnaruwa tour from Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa can also be easily combined with any other tour package or excursion.
Visiting important places in Polonnaruwa from Kandy?
I have seen some travellers start the one-day Polonnaruwa tour from Kandy. According to my experience, it involves a bit too much travelling and can not be recommended. It takes at least 4 hours from Kandy to Polonnaruwa (one way), therefore, you have to spend at least 8 hours on the road.
If you plan to visit important places in Polonar from Kandy, it would be a good idea to make a 2 days trip to Polonnaruwa. During the 2 days, you can explore many other important tourist attractions in the cultural triangle along with Polonnaruwa.
What are the places included in 2 days Polonnaruwa tour from Kandy
- Spice garden
- Sigiriya rock fortress
- Dambulla active temple
- Minneriya national park (safari)
Temples are among the important places to visit in Polonnaruwa and they are sacred
There are many Buddhist temples included in the Polonnaruwa tour, and most of the temples are historical monuments and some of them are in condition while some others are still in good shape. All temples are sacred to local people, regardless of their present condition.
The Buddhists are worshipping the Buddha statues placed in those temples. There are a few rules that you need to stick to, if you are not aware of them read our comprehensive article about visiting the temple in Sri Lanka. Visiting Sri Lanka Buddhist temples, Sri Lanka temple dress code and the temple of the tooth dress code->
Half-day Polonnaruwa tour from Sigiriya and Habarana is as below
- Start the journey from Sigiriya/Habarana
- Drive to Polonnaruwa-1 hour
- Purchasing a ticket and visit museum -30 minutes
- Drive to the historical city-15 minutes
- Exploring the monument-2 hours
- The return journey to your hotel in Sigiriya/Dambulla – 1hour
4 days Sri Lanka tour with Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya and Dambulla
1. Important places to visit in Polonnaruwa tour: Palace of King Parakramabahu
King Parakramabahu ruled the country from Polonnaruwa in the 11th century AD (1153-1186). According to the historical information period of 33 years of his rule the country had been very prosperous and the military strength of the island had been so strong the invaders were feared of entering the island. Furthermore, the entire country was under the command of King Parakramabahu the Great.
This pious King had contributed immensely to the development of the country and built gigantic lakes, Buddhist temples, gardens, parks, and he built a 7 storied palace in the inner-city of Polonnaruwa. Sinhalese call it “Vijayantha pasada”, which sits in the centre of the inner-city.
The palace of Parakramabahu is among the most important places to visit in Polonnaruwa, and almost none of the visitors of Polonnaruwa miss it. A large part of the palace is destroyed in the past and today the visitors can see what remain like huge walls and granite staircase.
The walls of the palace are measured to be 1 meter thick, which is a good suggestion to prove the magnitude size of the palace. It is believed that the palace was destroyed in a fire ignited by invaders. A model of the palace is housed in the archaeological museum of Polonnaruwa.
2. Important places to visit in Polonnaruwa tour: Quadrangle
Polonnaruwa Quadrangle coming under the most important places to visit in Polonnaruwa. The quadrangle is placed on a stone banked site in the direction of north of the inner-city of Polonnaruwa ancient city. There are numbers of important monuments are built on the site. Most places were constructed for the purpose of storing the tooth relic of Buddha.
3. Thuparama – Places to visit in Polonnaruwa
Thuparama which is built of rock (Gedige style building) is located in the South-west corner of Polonnaruwa Quadrangle, considered being one of the best-preserved buildings in Polonnaruwa. Thuparama considered being the best-preserved building among the constructions in the city. The history of the building is unknown and it had been used as an image house, and it is aligned east-west with an entrance bay on the eastern side.
History of Thuparama
By considering the external ornamental of the building, it may be dated back to the 12th century. Two other image houses in Polonnaruwa (Lankathilaka and Thiwanka-image house) are shown a lot of similarities with the Thuparama image house. The other two image houses are located further to the north of the medieval capital.
Circumambulation of this monument enables the visitor to observe that the lower reliefs in brick and stucco around the monument are lions with forepaws raised in each figure. Above the stylobate, the walls of the shrine are ornamented with numerous buildings shown in relief. The image house is very similar to the pronaos (mandapa), which has another side entrance from the direction of north, then a vestibule and finally the sanctum which houses the image of Buddha.
The present condition of Thuparama
The main Buddha statue of the building that is in a seated posture is situated in the centre of the building. The huge Buddha statue which is located on a colossal brick pedestal is severely damaged and be seen close to the back wall of the shrine. At present, there are within the shrine a number of the limestone upright as well as seated statues of the Buddha which date from an earlier period.
Thuparama regarded as the best-preserved ancient monument in the city of Polonnaruwa Quadrangle. Thuparama is an image house on the premises called the Quadrangle, where there are 7 religious constructions. The quadrangle is situated at the highest point of Polonnaruwa.
The age of Thuparama is not known to anybody but most archaeologists opine it was originated during the medieval period, nearly 1000 years old. The external ornamentation of the building had been very helpful to judge the antiquity of the temple. Thuparama is one of the three image houses in Polonnaruwa and other image houses are also located near Thuparama.
There is a large collection of murals on the outside wall of Thuparama. Round the building is lions with a fore-paw raised. Thuparama is a brick building and it is the best-preserved historical monuments in Polonnaruwa. This impressive building had been an image house. There are several standing and a seated Buddha statue even today. It is difficult to imagine this image house was in very bad condition as it was discovered during the British administration in the country.
What do we see in the Thuparama temple?
Thuparama image house is dedicated to Buddhism, the most widely practised religion in Sri Lanka. The main statue of the image house had been placed on a raised platform of bricks. The pedestal is colossal and centrally situated. The pedestal can be seen even today but the statue is not to be seen any more. At present, there are several standing limestone Buddha statues. Those are the size of a human. One seated Buddha statue in the meditation posture is also located on the left side of the pedestal.
The vaulted roof and the central part of the buildings are still in good condition, it indicated the manner in which the roofs of other buildings of the period were constructed.
4. Important places to visit in Polonnaruwa tour: Vatadage
Vatadage (Circular image house) is located in the direction of North-East from the Thuparama image house. Vatadage is one of the most important buildings in the Polonnaruwa Quadrangle and dated back to the 12th century. There is a dagoba within the circular building.
The Dagoba is constructed on a circular platform built of stone masonry, which in turn is built on a bigger circular terrace circumscribed by a rounded kerb with an entrance porch on the northern side. There are four seated Buddha statues placed against the dagoba and around it, Buddha statues are facing the four entrances to the upper terrace in the cardinal directions.
There had been three circles of stone pillars around the dagoba, which suggest an existence of a roof over the dagoba or the area around the dagoba. Outside the second circle of pillars is a brick wall, and a carved stone screen that connects the outermost line of pillars encompasses the shrine.
The reliefs on this screen consist of quatre-foil flowers arranged in a diaper pattern with small flowers in the interstices. The remaining wall of the upper terrace is decorated with figures of dwarfs and lions. The guard stones of the Vatadage are in good condition especially the guard stone of the eastern side considered to be one of the best-preserved monuments in the city.
5. Important places to visit in Polonnaruwa tour: Gopalapabbatha
As one proceeds north from Rankoth Vehera (Stupa of Rankoth) access are gained to a group of rocks on the higher ground. Among them is a cave with a drip ledge cut beneath its brow. There are also a number of boulders that would have provided sanctuary for forest-dwelling monks in the early centuries of the present era.
On one of these rocks surface, there is an inscription cut in Brahmi letters datable to about the 5th-century A.C giving the name of the site as the Vihara. This spot may be taken as one of the earliest occupied sites in Polonnaruwa. From the find of two Buddha images in one of these caves, it is evident that the cave was used as an image house.
6. Important places to visit in Polonnaruwa tour: Alahana Pirivena complex
The convocation hall named Baddhasima-pasada the Lankathilaka image house and the dagoba known as the Kirivehera are the three main buildings in the monastery known as the Alahana pirivena, which was founded by Parakramabahu 1. Access is gained to the premises of the Baddhasimapasada after traversing a series of terraces north of the Gopalapabbatha.
The monument itself is reached from the western and eastern directions. As one come up from the west side there are pillared buildings to be seen on the terraces. On the second terrace up from the east of the gravel road, there is a cave that shelters seated Buddha images cut from the living rock, remaining models of the Galvihara group to be seen further to the north.
There are four entrances to the large brick building of the Baddhasipapasada which has arches as the window on all four walls. A point worthy of note is that among the thick coats of plaster on the brickwork there is a red coloured plaster too. In the centre of the hall, there is a square platform with a provision for a canopy over it. It is here that the monastic ceremonies and rites were performed.
North of the chapter house the other monuments of the Alahan pirivena can be reached either directly from the western side of the former monuments, or along the ancient road at a low level on the eastern side.
7. Polonnaruwa visiting places: Lankathilaka
The main approach to the premises of the Lankathilaka is by a pathway westwards from the ancient road, by way of flights of steps across two terraces. On either side of the path on the terraces, there are cells for the monks of the monastery. As the third terrace is reached to the left of the visitor there is to be seen a conserved stone pavilion which takes the form of a bayed structure. The pillars are ornamented rather like those of the Atadage in the Quadrangle. The stylobate is devoted to a dado of lions reliefs, and there are two entrances, east and west to the pavilion.
The visitor looking west of the pavilion cannot fail to impressed by the sight of the stupendous ruin of a brick-built image house for the standing Buddha known as the Lankathilaka. Like the Thuparama, and the Tivanka image house in the north of Polonnaruwa. This monument has a second entrance on the north side of the vestibule. From the vestibule, two flights of stairs led up, north and south, to an upper floor.
There is an inscription on the inner sidewall of the south balustrade recording that this monument was repaired by Vijayabahu 6 (1270-1272). On the façade of the building, there is a row of lions in relief and at a higher level, there are dwarfs or ganas as ornamentation. As in the Thuparama the walls are ornamented with the relief of buildings in the niches of which there would have been statues of deities. These facades are ornamented with sacred geese and leogrifs.
8. Polonnaruwa visiting places: Pothgul Vehera
To the north of Pothgul vehera (Pothgul temple), outside the boundaries of the site, lies a rocky boulder of which south face is adorned with a large statue hewn into the rock in high relief. This is among the places to visit in Polonnaruwa in order to witness the best examples of the fine craftsmanship of the ancient artists.
The statue of pothgul vehera is 11 ft and 6 in height. Even though the figure is not identified yet, it believes to be either of king Parakramabahu or depicting a Brahminical sage. The most archaeologist believes it to be the statue of a Brahminical sage and this theory is supported by the evidence of the matted hair, long moustache and beard, very simple dress and lack of ornaments, Brahmanical sacred thread that runs from the left shoulder across the body around the right hip, corpulent stomach and an object reminiscent of an ola leaf book held in the hand.
As for the identification of the sage represented by the statue, the following come to mind Agastya, Kapila, Pulasti. Archaeologists believe that it could not be representing the Agastya on account of the absence of the iconographical attributes of this sage, the pot and the necklace. The figure suggested being present the Kapila for whom king Parakramabahu is reported to have built a dwelling. The third possibility is that it could be representing the Pulasti, a possibility that comes to mind when it is remembered that an early name for Polonnaruwa was Pulastipura.
9. Polonnaruwa visiting places: Ponds and Baths
Sri Lanka possessed an advanced water management system in ancient time. The pond and drain spill system, which existed in Polonnaruwa, shows some important evidence to prove it.
Underground drains from the rubble-lined embankment of the Topawewa connect with a sluice from which aqueducts carried water through a diverging drain to a spill that borders a pond on its western side. The eastern boundary of this pond is a bow-shaped embankment that permits excess water to flow through two drains into a second pond which is roughly in the form of a square.
Abutting the first pond and to the mouth of it are to be seen the baths of king Nissankamall (1187-1196). There are two baths here, first a circular bath and connected to it at a lower level a rectangular bath. The circular bathe is a little over 5min internal diameter enclosed by a brick wall, but no signs of an entrance can now be seen. The floor of the bath is plastered in durable lime plaster. The water for this bath was provided by way of a covered brick drain from a cistern within a brick structure situated about 5m slightly west of north.
The second bath which is a sunken chamber is built of brickwork faced with stone and has steps leading down to it from ground level. The water for this was led in from the circular bath over the sill on its northern side. The east side wall bears an inscription of Nissankamalla at the end of which it is recorded that this was the bath of the king. The excess water was led over the south wall into the pond.
To the west of the baths of Nissankamalla and bordering the bund of the tank, there are the remains of a few buildings built of brick which are aligned roughly south to north. Among these structures is a rectangular hall with an entrance on the northern side fronted by a weathered ornamented moonstone cut in limestone, depicting the four animals of the cardinal direction, elephant, lion, horse, and bull.
The last of these animals are generally not to be found in the moonstone of the Polonnaruwa period, probably due to a certain Hindu influence. It is likely that this particular moonstone belongs to the Anuradhapura when Polonnaruwa was the camp-city. Immediately to the north of the western side of the building a flight of steps leads to the tank.
10. Polonnaruwa visiting places: Mausoleum
A short distance from Parakrama Samudra is a two-storied building, the lower story walls of the building are intact, this is the mausoleum which is among the places to visit in Polonnaruwa. The constructions of the building were completed in the 12th century. The walls are ornamented with stucco and friezes of sacred geese.
There are some patches of the original painting that beautified the building; the paintings were in a single colour, blue and red. The plaster of the wall is observed to be of high quality. A flight of steps can be seen in the building which was constructed in a later period at the south-east corner of the building. One distinct feature of the architecture of the building is the absence of windows that had led to the term mausoleum being applied to the building.
11. Polonnaruwa visiting places: Audience hall
The audience hall is among the quite unknown places to visit in Polonnaruwa, and it is to be found in the direction of north-east from the mausoleum is the audience hall. The long rectangular shaped building is constructed of bricks aligned east-west and has two entrances on either short side. The audience hall is constructed on the platform with a moulded base; the building is with a large open hall that presumably used as the audience hall. Lower platform set against the sidewalls of the north, south and eastern sides serving as seats for the assembly.
The roof of the audience hall was supported by two rows of stone pillars and they are adorned with various forms of stone carvings. Towards the western end of the building is the separated ante-chamber which had an upstairs section.
The remains of a right-angled flight of steps can be seen at the south-western corner of the building. A broad couch which is built of brick can be found in the north-east corner of the building that has moulded sides and a flat top. At the back of the couch is the wall of the ante-room and beyond this wall, there is a lavatory.
12. Important places to visit in Polonnaruwa tour: Gal Viharaya
The image house known as Gal Viharaya houses one of the most outstanding statuary of the medieval period of Sri Lanka and it is one of the most places to visit in Polonnaruwa. This tourist icon is visited by thousands of travellers every day and the rock cuts life magnificent statues takes them by surprise.
Who built Gal Viharaya?
Gal Viharaya was built by King Parakramabahu the Great (1153 AD-1186 AD). The statuary is part of the Uttararama temple complex. There are 4 Buddha statues in the statuary. All statues are carved on to the living (a Cronkite biotite gneiss) by the stone craftsmen of that time. This rocky outcrop rises gradually from one side and then falls in height towards the other end.
What do we see in the Image house?
According to the historical information, there had been four image houses and every image house was surrounded by a protective wall. The first image house is known as nisinnapatimalena. There is a four meters tall meditation Buddha statue n the first cave. The statue is carved on a natural granite rock.
The alms of this seated Buddha statue is folded and resting on the lap. The seat is beautifully decorated with a neatly carved thunderbolt (vajrasana) and the lion (simhasana). There are some patches of painted lime on the statues, which suggest that the statue was painted in the early days of the temple.
The second image house of Gal Viharaya is also cut out of the same rock as the first cave. In front of the second cave are a small pavilion and a wall surrounding the whole area. Next to the second cave is a stone inscription dating back to the 12thcentury.
A standing Buddha statue of Gal Viharaya with folded arms across the chest can be seen after the stone inscription. There are some indications such as brickworks to suggest that there had been a separate image house for the statue.
Fourth Image: sleeping Buddha
After the standing Buddha statue is the recumbent Buddha statue, which measured to be 14 meters long. It is one of the biggest Buddha statues on the island and the biggest of the row at Gal Viharaya. The rock-cut Buddha statues at Gal Viharaya are in very good condition and regarded as a masterpiece of ancient craftsmen.
The Buddha statue was housed in an image house. There had been one entrance and two windows in the image house. The centre of the pillow on which the Buddha’s headrests are decorated with a lion face (kirtimukha). This motif is found in both Hindu and Buddhist art. While the feet of the Buddha statue is also rested on a cushion, there are lotus flower symbols are carved on to the soles.
13. Polonnaruwa visiting places: Hindu shrines
On either side of the Polonnaruwa signboard in the north and of the town there are more Buddhist and Hindu ruins. To the west of the road on a conspicuous rock outcrop, there are the remains of a brick-built pillared hall which was known as the Pritidanaka mandapa (Joy-conferring pavilion) and was a resort of refuge even for miscreants, according to an inscription on the site.
On the western slope, a shallow flight of steps had been cut giving access to the rocky summit, and to the north of this stairway, the rock surface was prepared for the inscription of Nissankamalla which runs into 45 lines within an area of 2.6m square.
To the west of the inscription, down below at ground level, there can be seen, within a rubble enclosure, a brick building that 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.
14. Places to visit in Polonnaruwa: Nissanka pleasure pavilion
Further to the west there lies on the raised ground a large brick building known as the Nissanka dana vinoda mandapa (Nissanka pleasure pavilion of alms distribution) which is very close to the Topawewa on three sides.
This square building with projecting bays on the four sides is entered from the east by two stairways now in ruin, betokened by moonstones, and stone balustrades in the case of the upper flight. The pavilion also has an entrance from the western side at least. There are massive pillars indicative of a substantial building here originally.
15. Places to visit in Polonnaruwa: Vishnu Devala No. 4 Polonnaruwa
Vishnu Devala No. 4 is popularly known as the Naipena Vihara (Vihara of the cobra hood). Of the two contiguous Hindu shrines, 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 going through four antechambers before reaching the sanctum at the western end of the building. No image of Vishnu was found within but the stone-built pedestal for the statue is to be seen. The presence of a five-headed cobra hood in stucco on the dome of the monument which is fallen in ruins behind the sanctum gave the name Naipena Vihara to this Hindu shrine.
16. Places to visit in Polonnaruwa: Siva Devala No.5
Siva Devala No.5 -the southernmost monument of Polonnaruwa, which is known as Siva Devala No.5 can be accessed through a porch by the side of the road. There is a hall proceeding the sanctum within which is placed the lingam and Yoni. During the excavation of the shrine, there was a Yoni and a stone of nine-hole reliquary in one of the holes of which there was a small gold figure of the sacred bull.
Among the artefacts 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 many other bronzes 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).
17. Places to visit in Polonnaruwa: Kali temple
To the south-east of this site, there remains another shrine enclosed by a rubble wall, where the Hindu goddess Kali was worshipped (consort of Siva in her fearful aspect). Two antechambers and a vestibule leading to the sanctum. There is a drain giving out to the northern side and at a higher level, one can see lotus-shaped stone support for a pot.
The outer wall surface is adorned with pilasters fashioned in brick and the west wall has a simulated makara-arch. The status is shown as standing upon the head of the buffalo demon that she slew (Mahishasuramaradini) with her eight arms holding her insignia such as the club, sword, shank, discus etc, was removed to the Anuradhapura museum.
18. Places to visit in Polonnaruwa: Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological Museum is situated close to the Rest house by the side of the channel from the Topawewa. Visitors need the permits obtained from the Archaeological Department of Sri Lanka to make photographs in the museum. The museum is coming under popular Polonnaruwa visiting places and attracts a large number of travellers every day.
19. Visiting Demalamahaseya on Polonnaruwa tour
The gravel road takes the visitor further north and a footpath to the right leads the visitor to a wooded hill the slope of which is strewn with brickbats, and on the flat summit of which there stands a dagoba on rubble platform. The hill represents Demalamahaseya the largest dagoba on the island and is so named as Parakramabahu is stated to have utilized Tamil labour in the form of captured forces from his south India campaign. As the colossal dagoba was not completed a smaller Dagoba was built at some later date on the summit of the hill.
20. Visiting Vatadage Medirigiriya
Medirigirya Vatadage is one of the popular Polonnaruwa visiting places and located in the central province of Sri Lanka. It is one of the off the beaten track tourist site in Sri Lanka. It is known not a popular tourist attraction on the island and rarely included in a Sri Lanka trip. But it worth a visit if you have time during your Sri Lanka tour and beach holiday package because it was built after a unique architectural style and showcases the engineering skills and ancient engineers.
Circular image house of Vatadage
The most important and attractive building of the Medirigiriya historical temple is identified as the Vatadage or circular image house. Vatadage is located on a natural rock with higher elevation. The main entrance of the temple is located towards the northern direction of the image house. The giant doors are supported with granite door frames that are with a dimension of 9’ 9” * 4’ 9”.
How big the Vatadage
Magnificently carved moonstone can be seen before entering the Vatadage. The flight of steps with 25 steps, behind the door, paves the way for the Vatadage. There is a Verandah with the size of 25’ * 25’ adding some imposing look to the construction. The Verandah is situated 13’6” above the surrounding plain. Few steps further up are the outer terrace of the Vatadage. There was a wall between the inner terrace and an outer terrace with four doors allowing the people to move between two terraces. Today the wall is in very bad condition and not restore for a long time.
Entrance of Vatadage
There are two Punkalas or full pots on both sides of the entrance of the Vatadage. This is signifying the prosperity of the temple. A stupa is placed in the middle of the inner terrace, which believed to be constructed before the circular building. The diameter of the dagoba is 26’ and the height is 5’. There had been four Buddha statues on the inner terrace facing the four cardinal points. The statues were constructed in Dyana mudra.
At present only 2 Buddha statues are in good condition while the other statues were damaged in the past. There are few platforms in the inner terrace made of bricks. Prof. Paranawithana in the opinion that they were built to place Bodhistava statues but there are no traces of Bodhistava statues found so far.
Granite pillars fo Vatadage
Vatadage is a special tourist attraction among the Polonnaruwa visiting places. The Vatadage is consisting of three rows of stone pillars right around the terrace. The stone pillars are in an octagonal shape, the top end and the bottom end of the pillars are decorated with flowers decorations. The outermost row of stone pillar consists of 32 pillars and it is 9 feet in height. The distance to the outermost circles of pillars from the centre of the building is 14’5”. There are 20 stone pillars in the middle row of stone pillars and it is 16 feet in height. The stone pillars of the innermost row are 17 feet in height and there are 16 pillars in the row.
The stone wall between the second and third rows of stone pillars is damaged but originally existed right around the whole construction. There had been a stone wall in between the stone pillars of centre raw. The wall is named Galgaradi weta and 3’6” in height. According to the archaeologists, the circular building was constructed in the 8th Century AD to protect a Stupa. The circumference of the terrace is 11.43 meters.
The archaeologists have different opinions on the roof of the circular house. According to Prof. Paranawithana, it had been built with wooden, flat tiles. The tiles were in a semi-circle cone shape.
21. Polonnaruwa visiting places: Audience hall of King Parakramabahu
The audience hall of Parakrambahu is located in front of the palace of King Parakramabahu and it is among the popular Polonnaruwa visiting places. It is quite understandable that the king had built it a few meters from his palace because therefore he can reach it with convenience. The king had taken all the important state decisions with the help of his ministers, who had gathered at the audience hall on a regular basis. It was one of the important buildings in the citadel.
The building was consisting of one chamber. The basement of the audience hall is about 3 meters tall, the basement is built with rectangular granite stones. The audience hall was consisting of granite pillars and a roof upon it. Today the basement and the granite pillars can be seen. The roof is not to be seen.
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