Siva Devalaya No. 1 of Ancient Polonnaruwa (ශිව දේවාලය – අංක 1)

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The Cola occupation of the country during the period 1017-1070 CE saw the establishment of many shrines dedicated to the worship of godheads of the Hindu Pantheon. Polonnaruwa having been their centre of administration for several decades, most of these shrines were founded within the capital itself.

At least fourteen ruined monuments of this category were discovered by Bell during the first decade of the twentieth century. Recent excavations have exposed one more brick built devales including a one in the Alahana Parivena complex. It is possible that some of these monuments were founded in the thirteenth century when yet another wave of invasion took place under Magha of Kaliga which ultimately saw the fall of the Polonnaruwa kingdom.

It is also possible that the Hindu monuments continued to be maintained during the reign of Sinhala rulers as well, since the royal court consisted of South Indian mercenaries as the king’s bodyguards and, as attested by inscriptional evidence, the protection of the Tooth and the Bowl relics of the Buddha, too were protected by these mercenaries loyal to the king.

Siva Kovil (no. 1) is the first kovil you will come across after entering the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. This is one of the more well preserved kovils and lies south of Dalada Maluwa. The walls of this kovil are made out of closely fitted stone blocks of a type that is not found anywhere near Polonnaruwa. The carvings of the Gods of this kovil are of Indian style and it is thought that these carved stones are probably brought from India or done by Indian Artists who came to Sri Lanka.

This kovil indicates the architectural features of Pandyan with granite walls and dome-like brick roofs thus must have been built during the 13th century (Seneniratne, 1998). The devale is laid within a quadrangle 105 feet by 75 feet bounded by a brick wall and comprised of the usual components of a Hindu shrine, namely, the inner cell (Garbhagraha) with the domed vimana, the pronaos (antarala) and the outermost mandapa.

This kovil is most significant for the hoard of an exceedingly fine set of bronze images, varying in height up to 3 ft. discovered by HCP Bell in 1907 at Siva Devale No. 1 . Bell reports that the bronzes are perfectly preserved, and as specimens of skilled artwork in metal are magnificent, alike in the spirited action they exhibit and in finished detail. All relate to the worship of Siva. The most striking is the figure of Maha Deva (Siva), in a halo, dancing on the Daitiya, Tripurasura whom he slew after a combat lasting ten days.

These were discovered accidentally when running a trial trench outside the front wall of the temenos. An exquisitely produced Siva and Parvati bronze sculpture from this collection now displayed at the Colombo Museum is shown below.

It is also worth noting that until HCP Bell visited and started excavations of Polonnaruwa ruins around 1906-1908, all the British explorers who had visited these ruins called this devalaya, the Dalada Maligawa in their writings for some unknown reason.

Hindu Shrines Discovered in the Ancient Polonnaruwa Kingdom

  1. Siva Kovil No. 1
  2. Siva Kovil No. 2
  3. Siva Kovil No. 3
  4. Siva Kovil No. 4
  5. Siva Kovil No. 5 (Naipena Viharaya)
  6. Siva Kovil No. 7
  7. Vishnu Kovil No. 2
  8. Vishnu Kovil No. 3
  9. Vishnu Kovil No. 4 (Naipena Viharaya)
  10. Ganesh Kovil


  1. Coomaraswamy, A.K. and Pearson, J. (1914) Bronzes from Ceylon: Chiefly in the Colombo Museum. Ceylon: Colombo Museum (A No 1).
  2. Silva, R. et al. (2007) History and Archaeology of Sri Lanka Volume II – The Art and Archaeology of Sri Lanka I – . Padukka, Sri Lanka: Central Cultural Fund.
  3. සෙනෙවිරත්න අනුරාධ (1998) පොලොන්නරුව : මද්‍ය කාලීන ලක්දිව අග නගරය . කොළඹ 7, Sri Lanka: පුරාවිද්‍යා දෙපාර්තුමේන්තුව .
  4. Bell, H.C.P. (1911) Archaeological Survey of Ceylon – North Central, Central and Northern Provinces – Annual Report – 1907. Colombo: H. C. Cottle, Government Printer.

Also See

Map of Siva Kovil (No. 1) of Ancient Polonnaruwa

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Driving Directions to Siva Kovil – No. 1 (Polonnaruwa Sacred City)

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 : Matale – Dambulla – Habarana
Distance : 140 km
Travel Time : 3.5 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google maps
Route from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa Sacred CityRoute from Batticaloa to Polonnaruwa Sacred City
Though : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance : 103 km
Travel Time : 2 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Though : Chenkaladi – Valachchena
Distance : 97 km
Travel Time : 2 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map


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