Best places to visit in Polonnaruwa

Posted on

Best places to visit in Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa, a city steeped in the history of Sri Lanka, is renowned for its archaeological treasures and ancient city ruins, which are a significant part of the Cultural Triangle. The city was the capital of Sri Lanka from the 11th to 13th centuries and is today a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors are drawn to Polonnaruwa to explore its well-preserved architectural relics and sculptures that showcase the craftsmanship of ancient Ceylonese culture. The vast complexes of palatial structures, temples, stupas, and intricate carvings speak volumes of the city’s former grandeur and the advanced urban planning of past civilizations.

Life in Polonnaruwa is deeply rooted in its rich history, with local communities maintaining traditions that have been passed down through generations. The lifestyle here is a blend of the old and the new, where modernity meets heritage. Visitors enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of the city, which is significantly less commercialized than other tourist destinations. The food in Polonnaruwa reflects the agricultural produce of the region, with rice dishes being predominantly served alongside spicy curries that feature local herbs and vegetables. The simplicity of life here, combined with the hospitality of its people, makes visiting Polonnaruwa a truly authentic experience.

Although not known for lavish parties, Polonnaruwa offers cultural festivals and religious ceremonies that are vibrant and full of life. Events such as the Poson Poya, which commemorates the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka, are celebrated with great enthusiasm, featuring processions, music, and dancing. The community’s welcoming nature shines during these celebrations, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to partake in local traditions and enjoy the communal spirit of the city.

Best Places to Visit in Polonnaruwa:

  1. Gal Vihara: This rock temple is renowned for its impressive stone sculptures of the Buddha created in the 12th century. The images, which include a massive 46-foot reclining Buddha, are masterpieces of Sri Lankan Buddhist art and draw scholars, devotees, and tourists alike.

  2. The Quadrangle (Dalada Maluwa): A compact cluster of remarkable ruins, the Quadrangle holds some of the most ancient and significant constructions in Polonnaruwa. Each structure here, from the Vatadage (a circular relic house) to the Thuparama, a gedige (image house), is architecturally unique and rich with decorative detail.

  3. Polonnaruwa Vatadage: This circular relic house is believed to have housed the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha. It stands out for its elaborate stone carvings and beautiful symmetry, making it a highlight of Polonnaruwa’s architectural heritage.

  4. Lankatilaka Temple: Distinguished by its tall walls and the remains of a once gigantic Buddha image, this temple offers insights into the blend of Hindu and Buddhist religious influences over the centuries.

  5. Rankoth Vehera: This large stupa is reminiscent of the Ruwanwelisaya in Anuradhapura and serves as a testament to the city's religious significance. The stupa's dome shape is a classic example of ancient Sinhalese architecture.

  6. Kiri Vehera: Another well-preserved stupa, Kiri Vehera is associated with a revered monk from the ancient kingdom's era and is visited for both its historical significance and its serene spiritual environment.

  7. Parakrama Samudraya: King Parakramabahu I constructed this vast reservoir, which underscores ancient engineering skills. Today, it’s a scenic spot that supports local agriculture and provides a habitat for diverse birdlife, making it perfect for nature lovers.

  8. Archaeological Museum: The museum provides context to the ruins, with exhibits that display artifacts recovered from the area, including Hindu statues, Buddhist carvings, and everyday items from the period of Polonnaruwa’s prominence.

  9. The Lotus Pond (Nelum Pokuna): This lotus-shaped pond is an exquisite example of the advanced hydrological engineering of ancient Polonnaruwa and is often admired for its symmetry and the peaceful atmosphere it provides.

  10. Medirigiriya Vatadage: Located a bit outside the main city, this is a beautifully preserved vatadage that shelters four Buddha statues facing the cardinal directions. The solitude of Medirigiriya makes it a reflective site, less frequented by large tourist crowds.

These sites collectively offer a comprehensive glimpse into the historical and cultural tapestry of Polonnaruwa, revealing the sophistication of past civilizations and the enduring legacy of Sri Lankan heritage. Visitors to these locations are often left awe-inspired by the historical depth and the peaceful countryside that surrounds this ancient city.