Sri Lanka Part 2/7. Polonnaruwa is the one of the most ancient capital of Sri Lanka kingdoms; it became the next capital after the fall of Anuradhapura about 100km north-west of here. Ruwan our guide told us that the ruins are in better condition here than at the earlier capital, and shared fascinating tales of the glory of the heydays, the subsequent internal fights between Tamil and Sinhalese faction; and finally the rise of anarchy and invasions from southern India that eventually led to its downfall.
Polonnaruwa was originally surrounded by three concentric walls and sculpted with parks, gardens and outdoor baths with sophisticated aqua-ducting system, and in the center of the ancient city lies the remains of the royal palace complex. We rented bikes to get around the sprawling grounds.
These ancient ruins remind me very much of Angkor Wat. The city then was also primarily a Buddhist inhabitants enclave, although you can spot the odd Hindu temple influences here and there as a result of cross royal marriages.
The noon heat was getting to us so we took refuge at a drink stall under the shade of the trees. We tried the king coconut (wasn’t as sweet as the Thai varietal), the local pomelo juice; and also sampled the wood apple that looks like a large wooden baseball, which is juiced, then mixed with water, sugar and salt – a rather tangy concoction and an acquired taste.
The highlight of the visit was the Gal Vihara Temple, built in the 12th century featuring 4 images of the Buddha carved into the large granite rock face, the largest being the reclining figure.
The other images consist of a large seated Buddha, a smaller seated figure, and a standing figure. These cravings are testament to the skills of ancient Sinhalese sculptors and carvers – the detailing are still very sharp despite the passage of time. Overall, the visit was a very enriching education of the early history of Sri Lanka; the wars and fightings that sadly reduced these majestic palaces and structures to ruins – it’s not difficult to image how grand they once were. It is a blessing that Polonnaruwa has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, hopefully for the appreciation of many generations to come.
Ruwan our guide is highly recommended; personable, reasonable prices and and great service. He can be contacted at Ruwan Trips.