Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

"Polonnaruwa bears witness to several civilizations, notably that of the conquering Cholas, disciples of Brahminism, and that of the Sinhalese sovereigns during the 12th and 13th centuries. This immense capital created by the megalomaniac sovereign, Parakramabahu I, in the 12th century, is one of history's most astonishing urban creations, both because of its unusual dimensions and because of the very special relationship of its buildings with the natural setting. It is also a shrine of Buddhism and of Sinhalese history."

"After the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993 by Rajaraja, Polonnaruwa, a temporary royal residence during the 8th century, became the capital. The conquering Cholas constructed monuments to their religion (Brahmnism), and especially temples to Shiva where fine bronze statues, today in the National Museum in Colombo, were found. The reconquest of Ceylon by Vijayabahu I did not put an end to the city's role as capital: it became covered, after 1070, with Buddhist sanctuaries, of which the Atadage (Temple of the Tooth Relic) is the most renowned. The apogee of Polonnaruwa occurred in the 12th century AD. Two sovereigns then proceeded to endow it with monuments. Parakramabahu I (1153-86) created within a triple-walled enceinte a fabulous garden-city, where palaces and sanctuaries prolonged the enchantment of the countryside… After this golden age, Polonnaruwa underwent a century of difficulties, before its final decline." (Source: UNESCO; Read more).


Royal Palace of Parakramabahu,
dates from 12th cent. CE (1, 2)

It apparently had seven storeys,
the top four made of wood

A surviving staircase and
the palace's thick walls

Some of its chambers, said to
be a thousand in all (more)

Water was delivered via a
pottery pipe system (1, 2)

Adjoining quarters that housed
the palace's support staff

The Kings council chamber
in front of the palace

Carved pillars on top supported
a wooden roof

One of the carved pillars

Around the base are friezes
of lions and elephants

Elephants; each carving is
intentionally different

The council chamber friezes
depict dwarves and lions

Kumara Pokuna, or
the Royal Bath

The platform of a building
next to the pool

Fed by an underground water
system (more)

A royal urinal?

Vatadage, a circular relic house
with four entrances (1, 2)


The northern entrance,
with customary guard stones

Likely the finest moon
stone in Polonnaruwa

A Buddha statue at each of
the four entrances (1, 2)

The Buddha of Polonnaruwa
(more, info)

Hatadage, a tooth relic chamber
built by King Nissankamalla

Main entrance

Three standing Buddhas in the
inner hall of Hatadage (more)

Atadage, a tooth relic chamber
built by King Vijayabahu

A standing Buddha in the
inner chamber

Latha-Mandapaya, a pavilion
for listening to chants

Galpotha Inscriptions,
aka Stone Book (info)

Goddess Gajalakshmi flanked by
elephants on the stone book

Thuparama Gedige, a 12 cent.
temple with thick walls

Buddha statues inside

Chapter House (more, info)

Siva Devale #1 (1, 2)

Lingam and Yoni

Siva Devale #2

Lingam and Yoni

Pabalu [or Pabula] Vehera (1, 2)

A dagoba, from 12th cent. CE

Ruins of a reclining Buddha

Made from red bricks

Galvihara: giant, exquisite Buddha
statues carved out of granite

Buddha entering parinirvana
at Galvihara (more)

Visiting monks at Galvihara

Buddha in an unusual pose (more)

Rankoth Vehera, the largest
in Polonnaruwa (1, 2)

Similar in style to the giant
dagobas of Anuradhapura (more)

Monks' Hospital with 15
rooms and halls

Stone cut trough to immerse
patients in herbal oil

Monastery near Rankoth
Vihara, home to 3,000 monks

Monks' residences

Monastery near Rankoth
Vihara (more)


Chapter House (info)

Kiri Vihera, the best preserved
dagoba at Polonnaruva

Ruins near Kiri Vihara (more)

Lankatilaka, a cathedral-like
structure with 17 m high walls

A Buddha statue down the isle

Tivanka Image House (more)

Remains of frescoes inside (1, 2)

Remains of frescoes inside

Remains of frescoes inside

Manik Vehera, likely the earliest
shrine in Polonnaruva

Built by King Vijayabahu (1, 2)

Guard stones and terracotta
carvings around the base

A temple or monastery next
to Manik Vehera (1, 2)

Monks' cell near Manik Vehera

Neelum Pokuna, a lotus shaped
bath with Tamil inscriptions

Landscape near the ruins
of Galvihara

A modern imitation of Lankatilaka

Visitor at a monastery
near Kiri Vihara

Visitor at the king's
council chamber

Visitor at the king's
council chamber

Waiting for a train to


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