Monday, June 17, 2013

#817 Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

It would be hard to say exactly what was the most amazing thing about Polonnaruwa because there were so many fantastic historical relics. From giant stupas, to intricately carved buddhas, to triangular temple buildings to rows of pillars, beautiful small pond-tanks, and the famous carved circular entrance stones. It still astounds me as to why this place is not more famous in the world -- both Polonaruwa and Sri Lanka. It is truly amazing!

Cool facts: 
-For 3 centuries it was the royal capital of both Chola and Sinhalese Kingdoms
-Even if it is only (!) 1000 years old, it is in very good repair
-Apparently, the location was chosen because of its strategic position and because it supposedly had fewer mosquitoes than other locations
-It was built by King Parakramabahu I who lived from 1153-86
-The ruins are separate from the new town, and are divided into five groups: those near the Rest House (a British empire relic), the Quadrangle group just north of the Royal Palace (citadel) group, the Northern Group, and the Southern Group.
The huge 2500 hectare ancient tank "Sea of Parakrama" next to the town.
Polonnaruwa South
There are not many ruins in the southern complex.
Polonnaruwa Rest House Group
The Rest House is a pleasant colonial house on the shore of the big tank. These ruins are often the first visited because of their proximity to town.
Polonnaruwa Citadel
Parakramabahu's Palace is a beautiful ruin -- 31m by 13m and supposedly 7 stories high (probably in wood). This area has the audience hall with beautiful elephant freizes around its base (all in different positions and lions at the top of the steps, as well as a bathing pool with superb crocodile-mouth spouts.
Polonnaruwa Quadrangle
Including a chapter house, Bodhisattva shrine, bodhi tree shrine, a vatadage, the finest moon stone in Sri Lanka (purportedly) a gedige, hatadage (tooth relic chamber), the Gal Pota (longest stone book in Sri Lanka), a lattice-stone fence with pillars shaped like lotus stalks, and an almost Cambodian -style 7 story tower, atadage (another tooth relic chamber).
Polonnaruwa Northern Group
North of the city walls is this group of ruins on the former royal cremation grounds. The famous 'Gal Vihara' of Buddha images are beautiful and a bit too well-protected (overhangs leave many shadows on the sculpture). This complex includes Rankot Vihara (a great dagoba near to a former hospital), Buddha Seema Pasada (the monastery abbot's convocation hall), Lankatilaka (a huge gedige with 17m walls, and a large headless Buddha -- beware of offending local visitors by putting your back towards the Buddha to take your photo), Kiri Vihara ("Milk-White", so called because when years of detritus were removed the limestone underneath was in excellent condition). I particularly liked the Lotus Pond where the whole shape and its concentric rings is reminiscent of the flower.
Source: Lonely Planet Sri Lanka

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