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The ancient city of Polonnaruwa: one of the best planned archaeological relic sites in Sri Lanka

Marija Georgievska

The main town of Polonnaruwa District in North Central Province in Sri Lanka is the ancient city Polonnaruwa which was established as the first city of the land in the 11th century.

It was declared by king Vijayabuha I, who defeated Chola invaders in 1070 to reunite the country once more under a local leader.

Polonnaruwa is the second largest city in North Central Province. Photo Credit

Polonnaruwa is the second largest city in North Central Province. Photo Credit

 

Polonnaruwa Vatadage. Photo Credit

Polonnaruwa Vatadage. Photo Credit

The real Hero of Polonnaruwa is actually Parakramabahu I and under his command trade and agriculture flourished. It was his reign that is considered the Golden Age of Polonnaruwa. He installed irrigation systems, far more superior to those of the Anuradhapura Age which to this day supply water necessary for paddy cultivation during the scorching dry season in the east of the country.

He believed that no drop of water that fallen from the heavens should be wasted and each was to be used towards the development of the land.

The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa was completely self-sufficient during King Parakramabahu's reign. Photo Credit

The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa was completely self-sufficient during King Parakramabahu’s reign. Photo Credit

 

Statue of King Parakramabahu.

Statue of King Parakramabahu.

 

With the exception of his immediate successor Nissakamalla I, all other monarchs of the city were weak-willed and rather prone to picking fights within their own court. They formed matrimonial alliances with stronger South Indian kingdoms until these matrimonial links superseded the local royal lineage. This prompted an invasion by the Aryacakravati dynasty King Kalinga Magha in 1214, who founded the Jaffna Kingdom or the Kingdom of Aryacakravati.

Following the Jaffna Kingdom invasion of Lanka in 1284, local power passed into the hands of a Pandyan dynasty, who moved their capital to Dambadeniya. During this brief period under the Pandya, Polonnaruwa was also called Jananathamangalam.

The Royal Palace. Photo Credit

The Royal Palace. Photo Credit

The ancient city of Polonnaruwa has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Today, it remains one of the best planned archaeological relic sites in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the Kingdom’s first rulers. Its beauty was an inspiration for the band Duran Duran who shoot their video Save a Prayer there in 1982.

Another draw for tourists is the city's population of toque macaques. Photo Credit

Another draw for tourists is the city’s population of toque macaques. Photo Credit

Polonnaruwa is a very popular tourist attraction and therefore there is a small town near the ancient city with several hotels and some glossy shops, and places to fulfill day-to-day needs.

The city is known as one of the cleanest and more beautiful cities in the country with a green environment, amazing ancient constructions, and the lake Parakama Samudra.

Read another story from us: The ancient city of Matera – one of the first human settlements in Italy

It is also popular for the monkeys who have been living in ruins since the human occupation and continue to thrive here long after the humans left.