Polonnaruwa - The Mediaeval Capital of Sri Lanka

Polonnaruwa is the main town of Polonnaruwa District in the North Central Province, Sri Lanka. Kaduruwela area is the Polonnaruwa New Town and the other part of Polonnaruwa, remains as the royal ancient city of Polonnaru kingdom. The second most ancient of Sri Lanka's kingdoms, Polonnaruwa was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders in 1070 to reunite the country once more under a local leader.

While Vijayabahu's victory and shifting of kingdoms to the more strategic Polonnaruwa is considered significant, the real "Hero of Polonnaruwa" of the history books is actually Parakramabahu I. It was his reign that is considered the Golden Age of Polonnaruwa. Trade and agriculture flourished under the patronage of the king, who was so adamant that no drop of water falling from the heavens was to be wasted and each was to be used toward the development of the land. Hence, irrigation systems that are far superior to those of the Anuradhapura Age were constructed during Parakramabahu's reign - systems which to this day supply the water necessary for paddy cultivation during the scorching dry season in the east of the country. The greatest of these systems is the Parakrama Samudra or the Sea of Parakrama. It is of such a width that it is impossible to stand upon one shore and view the other side. It also encircles the main city like a ribbon, being both a moat against intruders and the lifeline of the people in times of peace. The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa was completely self-sufficient during King Parakramabahu's reign.

With the exception of his immediate successor, Nissankamalla I, all other monarchs of Polonnaruwa were slightly weak-willed and rather prone to picking fights within their own court. They also went on to form more intimate matrimonial alliances with stronger South Indian kingdoms until these matrimonial links superseded the local royal lineage and gave rise to the Kalinga invasion by King Kalinga Magha in 1214 and the eventual passing of power into the hands of a Pandyan King following the Arya Chakrawarthi invasion of Sri Lanka in 1284. The capital was then moved to Dambadeniya.

Vatadage

The Polonnaruwa Vatadage is located in a quadrangular area known as the Dalada Maluva in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. The Dalada Maluva contains some of the oldest and most sacred monuments of the city. The Polonnaruwa Vatadage, which occupies most of the south western area of it, is a prominent structure among them. It is the best preserved example of a Vatadage in the country, and is somewhat similar in design to those belonging to the Anuradhapura period, especially Thuparamaya and Lankaramaya.

The building has been built around a small stupa with a base diameter of 27 feet 8 inches (8.43 m). The Vatadage has two levels; the lower platform and the raised upper platform that contains the stupa. The upper platform is 80 feet (24 m) in diameter, and the lower one 120 feet (37 m). The lower platform is 4 feet 3 inches (1.30 m) from ground level, and the upper platform is 5 feet 3 inches (1.60 m) from the lower.

The circular lower platform is entered through a single entrance on the northern side. Four elaborately constructed doorways lead from it to the upper platform, which is surrounded by a brick wall on its edge. These entrances are oriented to the four cardinal directions. The center of this platform is occupied by the stupa, which has four Buddha statues seated around it, each facing one of the entrances. Each of these statues is 5 feet (1.5 m) high, and is seated on stone seats with a height of 2 feet 10 inches each. Three concentric rows of stone columns had existed on the upper platform. Two of these rows, of which nothing remains, were within the brick wall, while the third row is just outside it. The inner row had consisted of 16 columns, the middle row of 20, and the outer row of 32. The existing stone columns of the outer ring are about 8 feet (2.4 m) in height.

Hatadage

Hatadage is an ancient relic shrine in the city of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. It was built by Nissanka Malla, and had been used to keep the Relic of the tooth of the Buddha. The Hatadage had been built using stone, brick and wood, although only parts of the brick and stone walls now remain. It appears to have been a two-storey structure, but the upper storey has now been destroyed. Three Buddha statues carved out of granite rock are located within a chamber of the shrine.

The Hatadage is located in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, in the North Central province of Sri Lanka. It is close to the northern edge of the Dalada Maluva there, the quadrangular area which contains some of the oldest and most sacred monuments of the city. Its entrance, which is oriented to the south, directly faces the entrance of the Polonnaruwa Vatadage. The Galpotha stone inscription is near its eastern side, while the Atadage lies to its west.

Rankoth Vehera

Rankoth Vehera is a stupa located in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka. The stupa was built by Nissanka Malla, who ruled the country from 1187 to 1196. The Rankoth Vehera has been built according to the tradition of the stupas of Mahavihara of the Anuradhapura period, and bears a close resemblance to the Ruwanweli Seya stupa. In fact, a stone inscription situated close to the stupa even identifies it by the name "Ruwanweli". However, it has later come to be known by the currently used name, Rankoth Vehera. In Sinhalese, ran means gold, kotha is the name given to the pinnacle of a stupa, and vehera means stupa or temple. Thus, the name Rankoth Vehera can be roughly translated to English as "Gold Pinnacled Stupa". Along with the Kiri Vehera, it is one of the most revered stupas in Polonnaruwa. Rankoth Vehera is structure made entirely of brick, and has a base diameter of 550 feet (170 m) and a height of 108 feet (33 m). However, the original shape of the stupa, particularly its upper portion, has been changed during renovation work carried out by later rulers and it is estimated that the original height of Rankoth Vehera may have been almost 200 feet (61 m). Despite this, it remains the largest stupa in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, and the fourth largest stupa in the country. The stupa has four large Vahalkadas, a structure used for offering flowers and also to support the weight of a stupa. These are also made of brick. The stupa is located in the center of a large square terrace, which is also surrounded by a brick wall. The terrace has four entrances oriented to the four cardinal points, with sand paths leading to them. A stone inscription near one of the entrances mentions that King Nissanka

Malla observed and supervised the construction of the stupa from there. It is also mentioned that he worshiped the stupa from a small platform, which is located in a corner of the terrace.

Nissanka Latha Mandapaya

Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is a unique structure in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka. Built by King Nissanka Malla (1187 1196) and named after him, it is located near the western entrance of the Dalada Maluva, the area that contains the oldest and most sacred monuments in the city. A nearby stone inscription identifies this as the building used by Nissanka Malla to listen to pirith (chanting of Buddhist scriptures).

The structure is an elevated stone platform with a number of stone columns and surrounded by a low stone wall. These stone columns are the unique feature about the Nissanka Latha Manadapaya, since they are carved in a manner that is found nowhere else in the country. The eight granite columns are arranged in two rows, with four in each row. Presumably used to support a roof, each of them is approximately 8 feet 4 inches (2.54 m) in height. In each of these columns, the crown is carved in the shape of a blossoming lotus bud. The rest of the column is elaborately carved to resemble the stem of the flower. Unlike stone columns commonly seen in the architecture of this period, these are not straight, but are curved in three places. According to archaeologist Senarath Paranavithana, the stone columns at the Nissanka Latha Mandapaya are the best examples of this feature of ancient Sri Lankan architecture.

At the center of the platform, flanked by the stone columns, is a small stupa. This is also made from stone, but the top part of it has been destroyed. Its base is decorated with a carved design. The platform is surrounded by a stone railing, and the structure is entered through a single stone doorway. In contrast to the elaborately carved stone pillars, these have an undecorated and plain finish.

Galvihara

The Gal Vihara, also known as Gal Viharaya, is a rock temple of the Buddha situated in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in north-central Sri Lanka. It was fashioned in the 12th century by Parakramabahu I. The central feature of the temple is four images of the Buddha, which have been carved into the face of a large granite rock. The images consist of a large seated figure, another smaller seated figure inside an artificial cavern, a standing figure and a reclining figure. These are considered to be some of the best examples of ancient Sinhalese sculpting and carving arts, and have made the Gal Vihara the most visited monument at Polonnaruwa.

The images of Gal Vihara follow a different style from the images of the previous Anuradhapura period, and show some significant differences. The identity of the standing image is subject to a certain amount of dispute among historians and archaeologists, some of whom argue that it depicts the monk Ananda rather than the Buddha. Each of the images have been carved in a way that uses a maximum possible area of the rock, and their heights seem to have been decided based on the height of the rock itself. Each statue appears to have had its own image house, as indicated by the remains of brick walls at the

site. The Gal Vihara, or Uttararama as it was known during that period, was where Parakramabahu I held a congregation of monks to purify the Buddhist priesthood, and later drew up a code of conduct for them. This code of conduct has been recorded in an inscription on the same rock face containing the images of the Buddha.

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