Polonnaruwa is second in importance as royal city to Anuradhapura. In the 11th Century the capital was moved from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa, as it was hoped that this new kingdom in such an inaccessible area would be better protected from the notorious raids from the Indian Sub-Continent. As a result Polonnaruwa became a splendid kingdom and capital. During the reigns of king Parakrama Bahu the Great (1153 - 1186) and his successor Nissanka Malla 1187 - 1196 the Singhalese kingdom reached its last golden age, of which the splendour of its buildings and palaces the impressive irrigation system with artificial lakes, tanks and channels give clear evidence.
The Citadel housed the palace and the administrative buildings of King Prakramabahu, the Great (12th century AD) and is enclosed by a huge rampart more than a metre thick. According to historical records the King's Palace had been seven stories high with a thousand chambers. The remains of three stories and a few of the chambers can be seen. The Council Chamber where the King met his ministers is situated a few metres away in front of the palace. It is an impressive building with fine stone carvings. The Royal Bath is outside the rampart with a flight of steps leading to it. The beautiful bath is made of stone with a small pavilion probably used as a changing room.
Gal Vihara or the Rock Temple of the 12th century is a magnificent group of stone Buddha images that had been originally enclosed in brick buildings. They are masterpieces of Buddhist sculpture in Sri Lanka and had been the work of King Parakramabahu, the Great.
Parakrama Samudra, which means 'Sea of Parakramabahu', is a man made irrigation tank to the southwest of the ancient city covering an area of over 23 square kilometres. It has been restored more or less in its original form. The tank bund is about 13 km. long and 12 metres high.
Other Ruins in Polonnaruwa
Alahana Pirivena: A Monastic university complex extending over more than eighty hectares erected by King Parakramabahu I in the 12th Century.
Demala Maha Seya: (The Great Tamil Dagoba) A Dagoba that King Parakramabahu wanted to build in Polonnaruwa using South Indian prisoners of war to surpass the mighty Ruwanvelisaya of Anuradhapura but was never completed.
Galpotha: (The Stone-book) A huge stone inscription of King Nissankamalla (12th Century) on a granite block measuring 8 metres in length and 4.3 metres in width recording among other things the King's invasion of India.
Hatadage: A relic chamber built by King Parakramabahu I to house the sacred Tooth Relic.
Hindu Shirines: Remains of Hindu Shrines dedicated to God Shiva built during the Chola occupation of Polonnaruwa in the 10th century.
Kiri Vehera: The best preserved dagoba in Polonnaruwa built in the 12th Century by Queen Subhadda one of the wives of King Parakramabahu, where the original plaster is still intact.
Lankatillake: A large Buddha image house with a collosal Buddha image built by King Parakramabahu.
Lotus Pond: A stone pond built in the shape of a lotus flower in eight parallel tiers probably to provide seating to the monks while bathing.
Nissanka Latha Mandapa: A stone structure with pillars built in the shape of floral stems constructed by King Nissankamalla (12th century) to listen to the chanting of Pirith (recital of Buddhist scriptures) by the monks.
Ronkoth Vehara: A fairly well preserved large dagoba built by King Parakramabahu emulating the Ruwanvelisaya of Anuradhapura.
Sathmahal Prasada: An unidentified edifice getting the name from its seven stories.
Vata-da-ge: A circular relic chamber built enclosing a dagoba that had been a popular architectural style in ancient Sri Lanka.