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Polonnaruwa - The Medieval Capital

Ancient history and settlement.

Polonnaruwa was Sri Lanka’s medieval capital between the 11th and 13th centuries. Enclosed within three concentric walls, the city contained royal palaces, bathing ponds, monasteries and sacred architecture such as dagobas and image houses. Its grandeur was largely the creation of three kings, Vijayabahu, Parakramabahu and Nissanka Malla, although the last-mentioned emptied the coffers in doing so. At nearly 1000 years old, Polonnaruwa is one of Sri Lanka’s ancient capital cities (and part of the famous ‘Cultural Triangle’).

Gal Vihara, Polonnaruwa

The Layout of Polonnaruwa

The ruins of Polonnaruwa are scattered over an extensive area of dry, gently undulating woodland. The entire site is about four kilometres from north to south, and rather too large to cover by foot. The site is open daily from 7am to 6pm.You can see everything at Polonnaruwa in a single long day, but you’ll have to start early to do the city justice. Polonnaruwa was originally enclosed by three concentric walls and filled with parks and gardens. At its centre lay the royal residences of successive kings, Comprising the Royal Palace Group (containing the palace of Parakramabahu) and the Rest House Group (comprising the less well-preserved remains of Nissankamalla’s palace complex). South of here are the scant remains of the Southern Group, while just to the north of the palaces lies the city’s religious heart, the so-called Quadrangle, which contains the densest and finest group of remains in the city, and indeed Sri Lanka. The city’s largest monuments are found in the Northern Group, comprising the buildings of the Alahana Pirivena monastery, including the famous Buddha statues of the Gal Vihara and the evocative Lankatilaka shrine.


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