Must see sights in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. The size of this world renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site is huge and there are many ways to see it.

The welcoming committee at Polonnaruwa

With so many archeological sites in this ancient city, here is our list of spots not to miss.

1. Four Buddhas at Gal Vihare

The four statues of Buddha at this site is magnificent. Carved from a huge single granite rock, the statues are in near perfect condition and shows Buddha in several positions: sitting, standing and reclining.

These four images of Buddha are considered to be the best example of rock carving and sculpting arts of the ancient Singhalese. Some archeologists suggests that in earlier years, the statues were coated in gold. Wouldn’t that have been a sight!

The are two statues of a seated Buddha. The large seated image is just over 4.5m tall and is sitting on a carved throne. Next to it, inside a cavern is similar to it’s larger neighbour only smaller at 1.5m in height.

The standing Buddha is 7m in height!

The most impressive one of all is the reclining image. At over 14m in length, it is one of the largest sculptures in Southeast Asia.

Admiring the reclining statue of Buddha

2. Sacred Quadrangle

A must for any visitor, the sacred quadrangle is a compact group of beautiful and well preserved ruins. Bound by walls, the area contains the most concentrated group of ruins in the whole ancient city.

Ancient ruins of the Vatadage

In the centre of the quadrangle is the Vatadage, which although typical of its time, certainly left an impression on me. Even with what is left of the circular structure, you can tell it was once a building that held significance.

The moon stone at the bottom of the steps were the ancient door mats, ensuring all those who entered has clean feet.

Believed to have been built to hold the relic of the tooth of the Buddha, it has four entrances each protected by well preserved guard stones. At the top of each entrance is a  buddha statue and the entire building is surrounded by intricate carvings.

3. Audience Hall

Made from one solid rock and probably once held up a wooden roof, this is where the King occasionally addressed his subjects or listened to their complaints. There are 48 stone pillars that can still be seen today, which historians believed indicated who was supposed to sit there.

The Audience Hall is raised on a platform and with lions guarding the entrance
Grand entrance of the Hall requires you to walk up 3 terraces/levels
Perfectly aligned columns
One of the 48 columns lined up in groups of four.
Detailed elephant carvings on the side of the Audience Hall

4. Royal Palace

The first group of buildings not long after entering the grounds includes the Royal Palace. Once built as a seven storey building, you will see ruins of tall thick brick walls, granite staircases and rooms.

Evidence of grandeur at the Royal Palace

Granite Staircase

5. Rangkot Vihara

With a base of 170m in diameter and standing at a whopping 54m tall, this stupa is the largest in Polonnaruwa and the fourth largest in Sri Lanka! Built according to the tradition of stupas at the time, in Singhalese Rangot Vihara is roughly translated as “Gold Pinnacled Stupa”.

Hints of the huge size of this Stupa as you approach

We knew very little about the history of Sri Lanka and we found this ancient city to be the most fascinating of all. Filled with ancient details that weren’t hidden behind a glass case and a ‘do not touch’ sign, in Polonnaruwa it is easy to immerse yourself in the history of it all.

In fact, walking in between ruins & temples overrun by the jungle and wild monkeys, you would be forgiven if you have a few Indiana Jones or Lara Croft moments. We sure did 🙂

Polonnaruwa is worth a visit and I hope you make it a part of your trip. This was part of our private itinerary organised by Selective Asia.

Thanks, Khris

Would you like to visit the ancient city of Polonnaruwa? Are you more like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.