Polonnaruwa, the ancient glorious kingdom of Great King Parakramabahu where the glamour and richness of the bygone era is yet evident… one could almost picture the mighty King proceeding with his court members comprising of Nilames and servants dressed vibrantly, along the beautifully decorated paths of the city, visiting people subject to his command. Among the number of Kings who ruled Thambapanniya with Polonnaruwa as their Capital, Parakramabahu the Great, Vijayabahu II & Kirthi Nissanka Malle hold very prominent positions in history. King Parakramabahu II paved way for the construction of many buildings, for religious upheaval as well as the communal benefit. The ruins of the palace built by King Parakramabahu are still to be seen, covering a large area.Siva DevalayaThe remarkable point visible in each movement is that various influences of that time being very evident, such as the Cola influence being shown through the formation of the SIVA DEVLAYA by stone in the 10th Century BC during the Cola occupation. Several devalayas are found in Polonnaruva, which are said to have been built by the Indian invaders during the 11th or 13th century.
Thuparamaya An astonishing structure is the THUPARAMAYA which was built to give shelter to a number of statues of Lord Buddha. The eyes of the statues of the Lord Buddha are said to have been done with precious stones, which reflects the sunlight that comes in through one small window of one wall , These precious stones have been taken off by unauthorized treasure hunters, causing much damage to the structure of the statues. These glittering statues no doubt marvel today’s traveller with the riches, tremendous knowledge and creativity possessed by the great men of that portion of history.
Stupas and Viharas Among other formations within this huge city, we find several Dagabas built by the initiation of King Parakramabahu the Great. One such dagaba, being DEMALA MAHA SEYA considered the largest construction of that time. Today it remains as a mere mound, leaving us to imagine its former architectural elegance. Other erections that were initiated by King Parakramabahu the Great which was done in grand scale is the JETAVANA STUPA, which lies north of Demala Maha Seya and the LANKATHILAKA VIHARAYA. One feature is the massive structures that were constructed of brick and lime mortar, emphasizing the architectural technology of the period.
Gal Vihara Complex The enormous figures of Lord Buddha at the GAL VIHARAYA complex, with his unearthly qualities expressed taking into consideration every minute detail through each stroke of the chisel in the hands of the patient artist, bring a wonderful sense of peace and calmness to the very soul of the observer, even today. The effort of the artist to impress each facial expression that glorifies the qualities of METHTHA, KARUNA, MUDHITHA and UPEKSHA of Lord Buddha towards all mankind is evident to a great extent, through the statues that have been carved out of majestic singular rocks. The keen observer will no doubt be able to identify the expression of the softness of the embedded pillow under the head of Lord Buddha, capturing the natural weight of the figure in his stage of PARINIBBANA, the ultimate undefeatable death.
Moon Stone: Conference Hall One of the most remarkable items that still remains rather untouched by nature and numerous invasions of lndian Emperors, is the MOON STONE, found at the feet of the Royal Conference Hall, where the King is said to have met his subordinates and fellow Adhikarams to discuss the civil matters related to justice and other business. At this point, two steeping stones can be seen, through which the entire philosophy of Buddhism is highly emphasized, each single element describing the most natural and accepted cycle of life, starling from birth to rebirth. As per the very descriptive moon stones belonging to the Anuradhapura era, the elephant signifying the birth, known in the Sanskrit context as “JAATHI”, the horse symbolizing the ageing, known as “JARAA”, the figure of Lion bringing out the emerging sicknesses and plagues that affect healthy living, known as “VIADHI”, the most inevitable death focused through the figure of the bull, known as “MARANA” and again the figure of the elephant, emphasizing the rebirth process, remind us that the cycle of life or “SAN SARA CHAKRAYA” never ends. Among these figures of animals, the Swan, being a very intelligent animal that is said to have the ability to separate milk from water, is related to human beings who are capable of separating the good from all evils, and spread the knowledge among all mankind, while giving priority to “MADAYAMA PRATHIPADA” or else known as the middle path between the two extremes of greater luxuries and greater sufferings, which ultimately leads to the end result of NIBBANA, dedicated to the Lotus flower in the very center of the stone. The differing factor between the moonstones of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa eras is the Hindu influence that has had an effect on the traditions and beliefs of the Buddhist culture. This is very evident by the removal of the figures of the lion and the bull from the stepping-stones of the Polonnaruwa region. With this Dravidian influence it is quite accepted that there is an obvious tendency towards over ornamentation and excessive details, leaving no trace of the simplicity and vitality of the Gupta style.
Watadageya The formation of WATADAGEYA is another part of the city infrastructure done by King Parakramabahu. One remarkable feature of this structure is that there are four pillars of Guardians at its entrance, of which one pillar has been taken off by the Department of archeology for exhibition purposes at the Museum in Colombo. We find similar structures in front of massive tanks, the difference being those containing only five heads. The pillars of the Watadageya that remain today prove to us that there was a roof to protect the entire formation from natural disasters. One could say that there was a lot of activity happening at this point related to the uplifting of Buddhism, with recital of Pirith and religious talks being conducted, with the Royal intervention in a very grand scale, as the Watadageya is given a prominent central location of the city infrastructure where the crowd can gather easily for participation at any occasion. It is also suggested that there was enough space within the formation for meditating.
Statue Of King Parakrama Bahu The Great The particular figure facing its back to the Parakrama Samudraya is suspected to be the figure of King Parakramabahu the Great, holding one book of PUSKOLA LEAF. Some argue that this figure belongs to one religious monk of Hindu Culture, taking in to judgment his attire.