January 21, 2013

The Small Miracle : Sri Lanka - Polonnaruwa

Continuation from here...

So after lunch we continued our Sri Lankan exploration to another excellent site.

This site is located about 64km from Sigiriya so yeah... another long ride in the van. *yawnnnn*

Sri Lankan attractions are spreaded out and for those who loves history and culture, they certainly wouldn't wanna miss the Cultural Triangle. Within this triangle, there are a number of sites that plays significant roles in Sri Lankan history.

the Cultural Triangle 

 One of them is Polonnaruwa, an ancient capital which marked the early Sri Lankan civilization. In the late 10th century, Chola dynasty of southern India invaded the country and made its capital here. Polonnaruwa reached its height under the reign of King Parakramabahu I. The king developed the city with architects and technicians brought down from India and built huge buildings, planned beautiful parks and created a spectacular artificial lake which was the main source of irrigation of that area.

The city was enlarged and improved with each successive generation during 11th to 13th century. However, by the 13th century AD, new waves of attacks from southern India forced the Sinhalese kings to abandon the north of the island, and the centre of Sinhalese power shifted to the western side of the island, near modern Colombo.

 Now, Polonnaruwa's extensive and well-preserved remains offer a fascinating snapshots of medieval Sri Lanka. The remains and monuments are scattered but compact enough to be thoroughly explored within a day. 

As we hired Rammuni, our transportation was settled but I guess if you come here by public transportation, the best idea is to rent a bicycle cos the area is rather too large to cover by foot. Plus the ticket can't be bought at the entrance itself. We had to go to the museum in the village.

The first attraction that we saw was a large lake while on our way to the museum. Parakrama Samudra is actually a man-made rainwater reservoir, a lifeline to the agricultural district of Polonnaruwa and surroundings.

Then we moved to the nearby attraction, the man who built the lake. The striking rock carved statue is believed to be that of King Parakramabahu. Standing at 3.5 metres tall, the statue holds an unknown object, maybe a book? 

Statue of King Parakramabahu and some school students blocking my full view

At the heart of the ancient city, the Royal Citadel has many interesting monuments. Enclosed by a circuit of walls, the Royal Palace lies at the center of the complex. The palace is said to be originally seven storeys high and richly decorated but what remains now is only a three storeys brick. A little further on is the royal bath, the Kumara Pokuna. Across the way is the beautiful Council Chamber, embellished with lion, graceful pillars and a moonstone. This was where the king granted audiences to his ministers and officials. 

Royal Palace

Royal Bath

Council Chamber

Not far from the Citadel stands the Quadrangle. This rectangular walled enclosure, built on a raised terrace, was the religious heart of the city, and is now home to the finest and most varied collection of ancient buildings in Sri Lanka.

The Vadatage is an amazingly beautiful circular relic house, and lavished with moonstones and guard stones. Oh it was here where my camera's battery went flat. Gahhh!!! Damn it. Luckily I had my phone and iPad, which explains the different quality of pictures. 


While we were there, some of the monuments were undergoing restoration works. One of them were Thuparama, a vaulted shrine, which is said to be the oldest image house at Polonnaruwa. 


In my opinion, Polonnaruwa is home to some interesting edifices. Just take a look at Satmahal Prasada. It's a stepped pyramidal tower that contains seven square tiers, and each side of the tier is decorated by a deity. The purpose of this edifice is not known, though most assumed it is a stupa.

Satmahal Prasada

The rest of the Quadrangle...

Hadatage, the Sacred Tooth Relic

Gal Potha, a massive stone on which King Nissankamalla had his own deeds recorded

Next, we visited the Rankot Vihara, or also known as the Golden Pinnacle Shrine. Being 55 metres high, it's the largest dagoba in Polonnaruwa and also the fourth largest in Sri Lanka. I went circling the area alone cos the Chickpeas were lazy to take off their shoes. Around the enormous dagoba are image houses and flower alters set in the wide sand terrace surrounding the stupa. 

The inscription on the stone-seat in front of the dagoba says that King Nissankamalla used to supervise the construction of this Rankot Vihara so I guess this dagoba must be really special. 

Rankot Vihara

Another prominent monument in Polonnaruwa is the Gal Vihara. It's a group of Buddha images carved out of a granite boulder. There's a massive 14 metres reclining Buddha, a 7 metres standing Buddha and a seated Buddha. 

Finally, we went to Tivanka-patamaghara image house. Nobody was there cos it was almost sunset when we arrived there, plus it was a little further from the rest. The caretaker opened the door and switched on the light just for us. 

Inside, there's a headless Buddha image, and paintings on the walls. But the 12th century frescoes depicting scenes from tales of previous lives of Buddha have now faded.

the headless Buddha

frescoes on the wall

There's an owl too! The caretaker said he's been inside there for 12 years already! O_o

I'm watching u!

 Polonnaruwa is open daily.
The site opens from 7 am to 6 pm.
 Entrance fee is USD 25.

Crossing off another destination in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Weee!!

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