Polonnaruwa, the magnificent medieval capital of Sri Lanka and the second most ancient kingdom, was declared the capital of the country by King Vijayabahu I, following the downfall of Anuradhapura at the hands of the invading Indian army. But it is during the reign of King Parakramabahu from 1153-1186 A.D, that that the city of Polonnaruwa actually flourished and became entirely self-sufficient. This period was considered the ‘’Golden Age of Polonnaruwa’’ where the region achieved its zenith of development in irrigation and agriculture. King Parakramabahu was considered the Hero of the city, because he strongly believed that every drop of rainwater falling to the earth should not be wasted. Therefore many irrigation systems came into place, the greatest of which still stands today – The Parakrama Samudraya. This man-made lake covering an area of 5600 acres, has 11 channels taking water in different directions and more 1800acres of paddy land is served by this reservoir.
Today the city of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the must see cultural destinations in Sri Lanka. With its balance of preserved ruins and wildlife sanctuaries, it has something for everyone to look forward to during their visit. The city is home to ruins of both King Parakramabahu the Great as well as his successor King Nissankamalla (1187-1196 AD). Both of these ruins are found on the banks of the lake. The ruins of the royal palace is found at the center of the Polonnaruwa Visitor Information Centre and Museum, which was built with the help of the Dutch government and gives you a detailed explanation of the surrounding complex and is definitely worth visiting before you set out on your exploration.
Then you have the Quadrangle, another impressive structure which stands within its own rectangular cage that houses the most magnificent collection of ancient buildings. Within the quadrangle you will find buildings such as the Vatagade, the Thuparamaya, the Lata Mandapaya, the Hatagade and the Satmal Prasada. All of these buildings are prime examples of the architectural style that flourished in Polonnaruwa in the days gone by.
Polonnaruwa is home to some famed Buddhist and Hindu temples as well. Found north of the Quadrangle these include the Siva Temple, Vishnu Temple, Rankot Vihara, Lankatilaka Vihara and the Gal Vihara.