Sri Lanka’s most ancient kingdom is that of Anuradhapura, however with its destruction the privilege was passed on to Polonnaruwa. Serving as a capital under both the Chola as well as Sinhalese Kingdoms, at the height of its reign Polonnaruwa was a self sufficient and highly advanced city. Its complex irrigation systems were the best even by today’s standards and ensured that the capital was agriculturally independent. This prosperity also ensued in the growth of culture and religion.
Once their conquest of Anuradhapura was complete, the Chola shifted the attention to Polonnaruwa, making it their capital city during the 10th century. Its strategic location gave them an advantage over any attack from the neighbouring Ruhunu Sinhalese Kingdom. An advantage that didn’t seem to play out when Vijayabahu I defeated them in 1070 and continued to rule from this city.
The shift in rulers saw a shift in construction of monuments too. While the Cholas built temples to their religious deities including Lord Shiva, bronze statues of which can be found today in the Colombo Museum, Vijayabahu I created Buddhist sanctuaries. The most famous among them is the Atadage or Temple of Tooth Relic.
The zenith of the Polonnaruwa Kingdom occurred during the rule of Parakramabahu I. Considered the Hero of Polonnaruwa; his far sightedness saw the capital thrive in agriculture and trade. While he did erect beautiful parks and large monuments, what defined his reign was the irrigation system. Including the colossal Parakrama Samudraya or Sea of Parakrama, that even today supplies the water necessary for paddy cultivation in this zone. After his time however the rulers that followed saw Polonnaruwa lose its splendor and eventually the capital status too.
Today an UNESCO heritage site, there are many ruins that remind of this city’s once glorious past. The Gal Vihara with its rock sculptures and giant Buddhist statues measuring 7m and 14m is one such place. The Palace of King Parakramabahu also still stands. Though not the imposing 7 storey structure it once was, the intricately carved Royal Audience Hall, royal bath area, elegant stepping stones and extraordinarily thick walls stand testimony to its grandeur.
When it comes to airport transfers Sri Lanka offers a number of options. An ideal choice in this regard is Malkey Rent a Car.
Jayani Senanayake is a writer who dabbles in travel and all things exotic. Under the pseudonym of Caliope Sage, she writes of the allures that must simply be discovered.Google+