Polonnaruwa was the medieval capital of Sri Lanka from the 11th Century AD. In its time, a 6 km (3 ½ mile) rampart protected the city. Even during the Anuradhapura era, this was an important city because it strategically commanded all the crossings over the Mahaveli River and acted as a buffer against the invading armies.
Parakrama Samudra is an irrigation tank built by King Parakramabahu I. It covers an area of 5,940 acres, hence its name, ‘Samudra’ meaning the sea. It has 11 channels directing water to feed a network of irrigation canals and smaller tanks.
Archaeological Museum contains superb Chola bronzes and other artefacts.
Summer Palace of King Parakramabahu is now home to a variety of birds.
Potgul Vehera (Library Museum)
Here you will find four small dagabas surrounding a circular brick building on the central platform. The acoustics of this building are excellent and this has led to the suggestion that it was a lecture theatre where the tenets of Buddhism were read aloud.
Statue of King Parakramabahu I
Statue of King Parakramabahu I or Agastaya is a huge 12th Century AD rock sculpture. A barefoot figure clad only in sarong, stands out of the rock from which he was carved. His broad face has a look of seriousness and he is holding a sacred manuscript from which he appears to be reading aloud. However, the subject of the statue is a matter of debate. Was it Agastaya or King Parakramabahu I ?
The Royal Palace of King Parakramabahu I
The Royal Palace of King Parakramabahu I – built in the 11th Century. The massive brick walls of the main hall stand amidst the ruins of about 40 inter-connecting rooms. The palace originally rose to seven storeys, however since the upper floors were wooden, no trace of them remains now. The Kumara Pokuna, the handsome royal bath, is a bit further on from here. The Royal pavilion still has its lion portals, graceful pillars and a moonstone (a delicately carved stepping stone).
Audience Hall contains exquisite stone carvings, bas-relief elephants support the base of this building and the entrance has two flights of steps with moonstones flanked by mythical dragons.
Kumara Pokuna is where the ladies of the court would have taken their evening bath.
Dalada Maluwa (The terrace of the Tooth Relic)
The centrepiece of the ancient city. It was a sacred precinct containing 12 magnificent buildings. Today it is known as the Quadrangle.
Vatadage(a circular stupa house with roof)
Built in the 7th Century, it is one of the oldest monuments in Polonnaruwa.
Thuparamaya is an image house built in the 3rd Century BC for the worship of Lord Buddha. It is built in a style of the original form of architecture that flowered at Polonnaruwa. The barrel-vaulted and domed buildings had very thick brick walls, stuccoed and painted with figures and architectural subjects. The roof is still intact and several images in the interior are preserved.
Atadage(House of Eight Relics)
This was the first Tooth Temple built by King Vijayabahu in the 11th century. This is a neat plantation of 54 stone columns. A statue of Lord Buddha, almost 3 m (10 ft) in height, stands amongst the columns.
Hatadage Relic Shrine resembles the Atadage in plan and name and was built for the same purpose. Its thick stone walls still contain three carvings of Lord Buddha.
an inscription recording the foundation and embellishment of the city.
Sathmahal Prasada (Seven-Storeyed Stupa)
Has an unusual stepped pyramidal form. The design of this contributes significantly to the study of stupa evolution.
A brick dagaba built by Queen Rupavati – one of King Parakramabahu’s queens. It is surrounded by image houses.
Shiva Devale is a Hindu shrine. It is the only all-stone temple still in perfect condition. This shrine was built in the 11th Century and some superb bronze statues were found within.
Menikvehera appears to be constructed in at least two stages, and the first stage dates around the 8th Century AD. The stupa is built on a high walled terrace with a small lotus-shaped stupa in the centre. It is unique in its design.
Alahana Pirivena was a Buddhist monastic university. It consisted of many separate apartments laid out to a regular plan. Each apartment was two-storeyed with tiled roofs and had its own living unit. However, the bath-house, refectory and other facilities were shared.
One of the two big stupas of the Alahana Pirivena monastic complex.
Buddha Sima Pasada
Buddha Sima Pasada was a chapter house. Its sacred functions were to enforce the rules of the Buddhist priests.
The walls of this image house soar to a height of 16 m (55 ft). Inside the shrine stands the headless statue of a Lord Buddha and the interior walls are adorned with murals. The outside walls are horizontally divided into five floors. Inside is a single tall space, which is now open to the sky but must have had a type of domed roof.
Kirivehera (Milk White House)
One of the two big stupas of the Alahana Pirivena monastic complex. It is the best-preserved dagaba with its original lime plaster stucco intact and the remains of small structures cluster around it.
Galvehera is one of the most famous sites in Sri Lanka. It consists of three figures of Lord Buddha carved out of a cliff of granite. The first figure is a sitting Buddha with an artificial cavern cut out of the rock. The other two are an upright Buddha and a reclining Buddha. The reclining Buddha is 14 m (46 ft) in length.
Within the Jetavanarama Monastery is this elegant pond built in the shape of an open lotus.
Tivanka is the most important building in the Jetavana Monastery. It is an image-house. The name is derived from the image of the Lord Buddha in the narrow antechamber, which is seen in the ‘Tivanka’ or thrice bent posture. The most important paintings of the Polonnaruwa period were found on the walls of the Tivanka.