The Lost City Polonnaruva

Polonnaruva The Lost City

Polonnaruva did not lose its prominence so easily though i lost its prestige and importance as a capital to later cities such asDambadeniya and Yapahuva. Whether the Sinhalese rulers con-tinued to be in possession of the city after Vijayabahu III left Dambadeniya we are unable to ascertain 

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The Lost City Polonnaruva 

On the other hand Virabahu, who has entrusted the task of taking charge of Polonnaruva is also not heard of after the reign of Parakramabahu II. But, later, Parakramabahu III became king and ruled from the ancient capital Polonnaruva from about 1287 AD onwards for a brief period. This was immediately after securing the Sacred Tooth and Bowl Relies on the Pandyans under whose carĂ«these sacred objects were lying at this time. It is said that the relics were removed to Pandya country from Yapahuva by a Pandya army. Kublai Khan from China also showed an interest in having these relics brought to China from the Pandya country, but he was late and by this time Parakramabahu III had already brought them to Polonnaruva to continue his rule.

The chronicle further reveals to us that during the wars between Bhuvanekabahu II (1293-1302 AD) and ParakramabahuIII (1287-1293 AD) the former king subdued 

Parakramabahu Ill at his capital Polonnaruva and brought the Sacred Tooth Relic
and the Bowl Relic to his own city of Kurunegala. This was the last time that the city of Polonnaruva is mentioned in the historical writings in the country. "The jungle tide had swept over its splendid buildings until the site attracted the attention of archaea-biologists in modern times Parakramabahu Ill was thus the last Sinhala king to rule from Polonnaruva for a brief period from 1287 to 1293 AD for six
years. Thereafter, Kurunegala became the capital city and the royal residence. In the meantime, Polonnaruva suffered a natural death with its abundant wealth buried under the soil until the remains were discovered at the end of the nineteenth century by the colonial British rulers of the country. 

Polonnaruva is a ruined city that local and foreign tourists visit View the historical monuments that remain.

 But Anuradhapura, with many historical monuments, is still alive and
venerated by Buddhist pilgrims with their sacred daily rituals. They are also guarded by venerable monks, and the Polonnaruva ruins, by security personnel. The city of Polonnaruva covers an area of about one hundred and twenty-two hectares. Its ruins spread out to a distance of five kilometres from east to west. C. W. Nicholas who made a brilliant contribution on the Historical Topography of Ancient and Medieval Sri Lanka presents us a vivid description of the medieval capital of Polonnaruva and says it was Vijayabahu I in 1070 AD who built the first wall around the city: it was a high, strong wall with many bastions, and it was surrounded by a broad, deep moat. Parakramabahu I(1153-1186 AD) remodelled the city. A chain of walls. enclosed the town on all sides. Within the outer chain were three walls. decreasing in size. Within the innermost chain was a secondary chain of walls which enclosed the Citadel or Royal Enclosure. The walls were pierced by fourteen gates. The outer chain of walls appears to have crumbled away, but the inner chain is in a fair state of preservation. The west wall was really the bund of
Parakramasamudra whose huge sheet of water protected the city on the north-west, west and south-west. The most westerly. part of the city was a Promontory which projected intoParakramasamudra and was called the Dipauyyana or Island. Garden: on it was Bathing pools, the Audience Hall, CouncilChamber and other buildings, and it was a territory reserved for the use of the king and the court. Adjoining the cast was the citadel or Royal Enclosure at the south end of which stood the palace. Outside the southeastern part of the citadel was the Nandana Park, a pleasure garden for the king. Adjacent to theCitadel on the north was the Terrace on which stood the Temple and appurtenant fanes for the Tooth Relic. The whole area to thenorth of the Citadel for about two miles was occupied by Mon asteries. There were no religious edifices within the walled space south and east of the Citadel. The city had three suburbs on the north, east and south". Archaeologists in recent times have carefully studied the planning of the ancient city and recorded their findings The main city comprises a walled inner citadel and an outer walled city provided with four main gateways. The ancient gates to the east and west of the wide boundary wall enclosing the present city have been unearthed during recent excavations of itsnorthern and western sectors. The wall had apparently been two different stages: the lower part, built earlier, appears to be
well preserved, and has even retained its original plaster work inSitu. The streets are laid out on a regular grid, oriented north-South and east-west. The walled citadel, containing the royal palace complex, covers an area of ten acres. The building withinthe citadel and those outside it conform to their, indiVidual requirements and are carefully planned on terraces. The archaeological remains of the medieval city of Polonnaruvaconsist of the following sites: a. The Citadel b. The Outer city C. The Park area d. The Peripheral zone. However, as the ancient city of Polonnaruva is laid out on asouth-north axis along the eastern boundary of the ParakramaSamudra, we propose to describe the monuments too from southto north to help the visitor identify the archaeological ruins. In doing so we will re-organise the archaeological sites into tourist zones as follows: 

a. The Southern Outer City-Southern Park Area

b. The Citadel

c. The Ancient City

d. The Northern Outer City-Northern Park Area. 

The architects have taken advantage of the undulation of the site to set out terraces, avenues and pathways at different levels.The building complexes were also surrounded by forest reservesand parks. Water, an essential requirement in the dry zone, wasprovided by building large reservoirs and an extensive network
of tanks and channels. The great man-made lakeis laid Parakramasamudra, 2500 hectares in extent, has a capacity ofthe P134 million cubic metres. too fe SOUTHERN OUTER CITY Visitors to the medieval city of Polonnaruva can begin their journey first by entering the Southern Outer City lying to thesouth of the city. It can be approached from the Habarana-Kaduruwela main road. Before entering the Polonnaruva townfrom the direction of Habarana, one could see the signboard"New Town" that takes you to the Polonnaruva Rest House along the channel. On either side of the Parakramasamudra res-ervoir bund are the ruins of the Southern Outer City. Near the Rest House on right hand side are the ruins of a dagaba, image
house, council chamber and the audience hall of Nissankamalla,the royal garden, mausoleum, stone-pond, the island pavilion and the modern museum, When you turn left at the junction of thereservoir bund and proceed about a mile forward until you reachthe signboard indicating the Potgul Vehera. This is situated rightin front of the District Secretary's Bungalow. Entering throughthe fence gate on your left hand side, you will behold twomonuments on either side, the one on the left is the so called Parakramabahu statue carved out of a rock and on the right-handSide is seen the ruins of an old building on a terraced land with four small database in the four corners. This is generally knowas Potgul Vehera. Let us now consider the first item


The Statue of Parakramabahu or of a sageThis is a large statue cut in high reliet within a nicheOne Carved out of a rock boulder facing the south. This is certainly
the finest pieces of sculpture in Sri Lanka. It is eleven feetof inches in height. Though the statue is popularly known as that ofking ParakramabahuI who ruled Polonnaruva from 1153 to 1186AD, there is another opinion that identifies this as the statue ofa rishi or sage. Some who hold the view that it is the statue ofa sage further argue that this is the statue of sage Pulasti afterwhom the city was named as Pulastinagara meaning the city ofPulasti. The Sinhala name is Polonnaruva. There are still otherswho think that this statue represents the sage Agastya or Kapila.Burrows thought that this is the statue of Párakramabahu holding
the open book of the law in his hands.Paranavitana who argued first that this statuerepresents anascetie or a sage later changed his opinion and spoke in favour
of Parakramabahu. There is a worn-out rock inscription behindthe head of the statue which reads Pula-sa-ta (Pulasti). If thisreading can be accepted as true, then this image could representPulasti, and further discussion on the subject would be nice-ssary. However, we can also examine the possibilities of a new

Statue of Parakramabahu Argued

H. C. P. Bell argued that this is not a statue of a king or Buddhist abbot, but clearly that of a once-famous guru, perhapsKapila. Ananda Coomaraswamy argued in favour of both the opinions, king and sage. Vogel thought it is the statue of either
Agastya or Kapila. Paranavitana thought that the object in the hands of the statue is a yoke, a symbol of sovereignty while others thought that it is a palm leaf manuscript or book.Looking at it one gets the impression that this image resem-
bles more a sage than a king. But who the sage could be is the problem that has to be solved today. The most important


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