The Ancient Capital of Polonnaruwa

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The Birth of Polonnaruwa

The history of Polonnaruwa goes as far back as the 6th century BC when a minister of the king Vijaya (From whom the Sinhalese race was born) established a town called “Vijitha Grama” in the area now called Kaduruwela. This is also the place for the famous “Battle of Vijithapura” between the Great King Dutugamunu (161-131 BC) and the Tamil invader Elara in his effort to reunite the country under one Sinhalese King. This area was gradually developed as an influential agricultural town with large irrigation tanks and complex waterways built by various kings who ruled from Anuradhapura.

The selection of Polonnaruwa as the capital was not a random choice by the invaders but a strategic choice. Polonnaruwa was developed to be the next kingdom by the Sri Lankan kings from the fifth century BC itself and even during the Anuradhapura era some kings chose this area to rule from whenever the Anuradhapura was under siege.`

Anuradhapura was the first kingdom in Sri Lanka and lasted for over 15 centuries from the 4th century BC. The last king of Anuradhapura was the king Mahinda V who was captured by Chola Invaders from South India in 993 and took him prisoner and was taken to India. Later he died in India itself. The Chola Invaders destroyed everything in Anuradhapura and took their ruling capital to Polonnaruwa in 1017 which they called “Jananathapuram”. During this period most of the Sinhalese in these areas migrated to the south to escape the cruelties of this Tamil ruler. After the death of King Mahinda in 1029 in India, the Sinhalese started a definite revolution starting from the South. This revolt was headed by the youngest son of King Mahinda who died unexpectedly. Ten years later a prince by the name of Keerthi made the final attack on Polonnaruwa in 1070 and defeated the “Soli” king who reigned the area for almost 75 years. He held his consecration in Anuradhapura as King Vijayabahu (see The Royal Palace of King Vijayabahu I in Anuradhapura) and made his ruling capital Polonnaruwa.

Map of Polonnaruwa

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Driving Directions to Polonnaruwa

The modern town of Polonnaruwa is also known as New Town, and the other part of Polonnaruwa remains the royal ancient city of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa.

Route from Colombo to Polonnaruwa Sacred CityRoute from Kandy to Polonnaruwa Sacred City
Through: Central Highway – Kurunegala – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo: 230 km
Travel Time: 4.45 hours
Driving Directions: See on Google map
Through : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance: 103 km
Travel Time: 2 hours
Driving Directions: see on Google map
Route from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa Sacred CityRoute from Batticaloa to Polonnaruwa Sacred City
Through : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance: 103 km
Travel Time: 2 hours
Driving Directions: See on Google map
Through : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance: 103 km
Travel Time : 2 hours
Driving Directions: see on Google map

Places of Interest in Polonnaruwa ( view in alphabetical order )

  1. Parakrama Samudraya (The Ocean of the King Parakrama)
  2. Pothgul Vehera (Pothgul Temple) Statue – Statue of King Parakramabahu
  3. Pothgul Vehera (Pothgul Temple)
  4. Deepa Uyana
  5. Unidentified structure at the Nissanga Malla’s court
  6. Nissanga Malla’s Audience Hall (Raja Sabha Mandapaya)
  7. Palace of King Nissanga Malla 
  8. Weijantha Palace (Palace of King Parakramabahu) 
  9. Royal Court of King Parakramabahu 
  10. Royal Pond of King Parakramabahu
  11. Shiva Kovil (number 1) 
  12. Dalada Maluwa 
  13. Vatadagê (The Stupa-house)
  14. Image of Boddhisathwa
  15. Thuparama Image House
  16. Nissanka Latha Mandapaya 
  17. Oth-pilimaya 
  18. Atadage 
  19. Hetadage 
  20. Gal-potha (Stone Book) 
  21. Sathmahal Pasada (Seven storied building) 
  22. Pabalu Vehera 
  23. Shiva Kovil (number 2) 
  24. Vishnu Kovil (number 2) 
  25. Shiva Kovil (number 3) And Gansh Kovil 
  26. Eastern Entrance to the Inner City 
  27. Menik Vehera 
  28. Shiva Kovil (number 4)
  29. Rankoth Vehera 
  30. Gopala Pabbatha
  31. Alahana Privena
  32. Badda Sema Malakaya 
  33. Kuda Gal Viharaya (Small Rock Temple)
  34. Lankathilaka Image House
  35. Kiri Vehera
  36. Gal Viharaya (Rock Temple) 
  37. Damila Maha Seya (Stupa of Tamils) 
  38. Nelum Pokuna (Lotus Pond) 
  39. Thivanka Image House
  40. Vishnu Devala (number 4) – Naipena Viharaya 
  41. Shiva Devala (number 5)

Other Historical Sites around Polonnaruwa

  1. Dimbulagala Rajamaha Viharaya
  2. Namal Pokuna Viharaya
  3. Medirigiriya Vatadage (Medirigiriya Stupa House)
  4. Somavathiya (Somavathi Chethiya)
  5. Pulligoda Galge frescos

Other Sites in and Around Polonnaruwa

  1. Kaudulla National Park
  2. Minneriya National Park
  3. Giritale Tank
  4. Manampitya Bridge

A chronological list of rulers in Polonnaruwa [For a full list click here]

“Chola” InvadersSouth Indian invaders1017-1070
Vijayabahu I 1070-1110
Jayabahu IYounger brother of Vijayabahu I1110-1111
Wickramabahu ISon of Vijayabahu I1111-1132
Gajabahu II 1132-1159
Parakramabahu IThe father of Parakramabahu , Manabharana was the son of Mitta, who was the sister of Vijayabahu I The mother of Parakramabahu was Rathnavali who was a daughter of Vijayabahu1153-1186
Vijayabahu IISon of Parakramabahu’s sister1186-1187
Nissanka MallaThe father of Parakramabahu, Manabharana was the son of Mitta, who was the sister of Vijayabahu I The mother of Parakramabahu was Rathnavali who was a daughter of Vijayabahu1187-1196
Wickramabahu IISon of Nissanka Malla1196
Choda GangaA nephew of Nissanka Malla1196-1197
Queen LeelavathiWife of Parakramabahu I1197-1200
Sahasa MallaCame from the Kalinga kingdom in India1200-1202
Queen KalyanavathiSecond wife of Nissanka Malla1202-1208
DharmashokaWas made the king at the age of three months1208-1209
Anikanga MahadipadaRuled the country for 17 days1209
Queen Leelavathi (restored) 1209-1210
LokeshwaraInvader from Kalinga kingdom in India1210-1211
Queen Leelavathi (restored) 1211-1212
Parakramabahu PanduA relation of Nissanka Malla who came from the Kalinga kingdom in India1212-1215
MaghaInvader from the Kalinga kingdom in India1215-1236


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