That got your attention, didn’t it? Well, hold that thought and I will explain shortly :-)
We were on the quest of visiting and exploring UNESCO heritage sites in Sri Lanka. There are numerous world heritage sites here but since we were not full-time travellers on a limited time-off-from-work period, we could only visit a few. The last heritage site we visited before returning to Colombo, was Polonnaruwa. After 2 days of visiting Dambulla Caves and climbing up Sigiriya the Lion Rock in the Central Province, our drive went slightly further up to North Central Province.
The drive from Peradeniya to Polonnaruwa was about 3-4 hours. For this excursion, we had to wake up earlier than previous days, thus we set off at 7am. We stopped en route to have breakfast, and thank goodness, we did as the exploration of this world heritage site required hours under the hot sun and and in a dry environment.
Polonnaruwa was the royal capital of Sri Lanka in the 11th century AD but its origins could be traced even much earlier to 2nd century BC. The capital was strategically important to defend the kingdom of Anuradhapura from foreign invaders so much so it was known as the Fortress City. Based on a pamphlet which I bought from the museum gift shop, Polonnaruwa was at its highest glory due to 3 rulers: Vijayabahu the Great, Parakrambahu the Great and Nissanka Malla. These rulers promoted the growth and development of irrigation works and the overall agriculture of the province; religious activities namely the restoration of numerous shrines; city planning and architecture; and medicine and medical science.
Before we started exploring the sites, we bought entrance tickets at the museum. Ticket costs US$25 and all visitors are required to visit the museum first. I highly recommend this as the museum gives you an introduction to the ancient city, and summarises the historical background of the heritage site. Also, upon leaving the museum, do drop by the gift shop and purchase the “World Heritage Site of Polonnaruwa’ pamphlet because it contains a map of the city. It makes exploration easier particularly for those who do not wish to hire a guide. We chose not to hire a guide as we wanted to travel within our budget. Our driver knew where to take us and although each site has a plague providing information, the pamphlet helped us in getting our bearings right – names of various sites, and the directions on what to see and where we were going next.
It took us about 5 hours to explore the most visited sites. There were many others but were left as crumbling ruins or just an empty shrine. Here are the various photographs I took at Polonnaruwa:
Potgul Vihara Monastery built by King Parakrambahu
It was said that the statue was carved in the image of King Parakrambahu.
Royal Palace of King Parakrambahu
Shiva Devale No 1
The builder of this Hindu shrine is unknown but it is believed to be dated back to 13th century. The main object of worship still left behind in the shrine is the sacred Shiva lingam stone.
Dalada Maluva & Hatadage
A quadrangle area containing some of the oldest and sacred monuments in the ancient city. This area was built by King Nissanka Malla and had been used to keep the relic of the tooth of the Buddha.
Rankoth Vehera Stupa
The largest stupa in ancient Polonnaruwa and the fourth largest stupa in Sri Lanka.
Commissioned by King Parakrambahu, there are 4 images of Buddha carved out of a single large granite rock. And this is considered some of the best examples of ancient Sinhala carving and sculpture.
Tivanka Image House
Built by King Parakrambahu to house 3 images of Buddha but unfortunately, they are almost destroyed. The inside walls of the building are decorated with frescoes and in bad condition. Hence flash photography is not allowed to preserve what’s remaining of the frescoes.
Ok, so what’s the connection between Polonnaruwa and Duran Duran? As I was doing a little research when writing this post, I found out that Duran Duran filmed the video clip “Save A Prayer” in Sri Lanka including Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa! Duran Duran was my favourite band when I was in primary school (love John Taylor and his hair!) and I have always liked their songs.
In the video clip, the part where they sang on top of huge rock with a flat top – that’s the Sigiriya the Lion Rock – and scenes of the large Buddha statues are from Gal Vihara of Polonnaruwa.
Admittedly, the video clip looks so cheesy now but back then, it was cool and artsy :-) Enjoy!
If you have missed previous posts on Sri Lanka, please click Pleasant in Sri Lanka, Idyllic Peradeniya, Dambulla Caves, Dreamy Galle Face Green and Sigiriya