Since I was a child I remember the famous video of Duran Duran and its wonderful Buddhas, well here my dream came through as i saw them live and in color. The Gal Vihara is a majestic group of Buddhas all cut from one long slab of granite, Four images of different sizes are carved out of a cliff about 56 yards long and falls away gradually at each end. Nearly 15 ft. of rock has been cut away to form the three large images and the cave. For me it was a very rewarding experience.
Outside the quadrangle, north of the city wall, stands the Rangkot Vihara a huge Dagoba (the largest in Polonnaruwa) constructed as other Dagobas in the country of a earth fill building, covered by a dome made of brick mantle and plaster.
The Atadage is the first Tooth Relic Temple of Polonnaruwa. It was built by Vijayabahu in the 11th century. The name Atadage means "House of Eight Relics". What remains of Atadage today are 54 stone pillars which once supported a timber upper floor where the relic was kept.
A big Buddha statue stands near the end of the temple.
Located on the north side of the quadrangle, the Gal Pota is an old stone book that sings praises to king Nissanka Malla, also includes the foot note that the slab (Weighin 25 tonnes) was brought from Mihintale (100 kms away).
This ziggurat-style temple wich consists of six diminishing storeys is an example of south-east asia influence on Sinhalese architecture, and it really reminds me of other pyramid style temples i´ve seen in Angkor Wat and Tikal.
The centerpiece of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, the Dalada Maluwa (the hall of the Tooth Relic), was a sacred precinct containing 12 magnificent buildings. Although there are numerous vatadage across Sri Lanka, the Vatadage at Polonnaruwa is the most famous. As with many other vatadage, it had a stupa in the centre with four Buddha images facing the cardinal directions.
The Vatadage, one of the oldest & most beautiful monuments in Polonnaruwa, is to our left as we enter the Dalada Maluwa. In spite of its modest proportions, the circular building with concentric terraces is a superbly planned & executed 12th century masterpiece. It was certainly intended to house the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha, which is now deposited at The Sacred Temple of Tooth in Kandy. Built by King Parakrambahu the great (1164-1196AD), it was later embellished by King Nissankamalla (1198-1206).
Outer structure, the first terrace
The entire outer structure with a diameter of 18m is a gorgeous riot of artistry, with almost every surface carved in a melee of decoration. The outer wall is decorated with friezes of lions & dwarfs, & topped by an abstract lotus design.
Upper structure, the second terrace
Four entrances to the upper terrace are adorned with magnificent stone carvings: moonstones flanked by nagaraja (Cobra king) figures with seven hooded cobra head guardstones.
While the Nagaraja figures were believed to prevent evil spirits entering the premises, the moonstones- elaborate semi-circular welcome step stones carved in polished granite- represent the spiritual journey from samsara, the endless cycle of death & rebirth, to Nirvana, the ultimate escape from suffering. These were unique decorative features of Sinhalese architecture. The moonstone at the northern entrance is the finest in Polonnaruwa.
Central dagoba (stupa)
From the upper terrace, steps lead through four entrances, aligned in the cardinal directions & each presided over by a seated Buddha. In the center are the ruins of the small central brick stupa in which the Tooth Relic was enshrined during the glorious days of ancient capital, Polonnaruwa. In sharp contrast to the building, this innermost sanctum, the reason for the very existence of Vatadage itself, is virtually unadorned.
Lost to the Dravidian invaders
The building has lost the conical roof of three concentric circles, most of the dagoba (stupa) and one of its guardstones at the base of the steps among many other features & surrounding buildings to the marauding Dravidian invaders from South India.
Located in the quadrangle, a compound within its own rectangle of walls, guarding the richest collection of ancient buildings in any of Sri Lanka's ruined capitals. The Thuparama Gedige (hollow Buddihist temple with tick walls) is a fine example of the gedige style of temple architecture which flourished at Polonnaruwa, and the only one to survive with its roof still in place. There are several Buddha images in the inner chamber, maybe one of the most beautiful and well preserved buildings in the city.
A mond wich was once the site of King´s throne (the throne is now housed in the Colombo archaelogical museum) adnd was used also as a audience hall. At the bast of the council chamber are bas-relief elephants. At the entrance are two flights of steps with moonstones, franking them are Makaras (mythical dragon-like beasts). The wooden roof of the building now gone was supported by elegantly carved pillars under which the great king used to seat and hold council.
The acoustic of the council chamber is said to be so good that the king can hear his ministers even those standing at the far end of the chamber.
King Vijayabahu reunite the country after defeating the Chola invaders from India, and moved the capital from Anaradhapura, declaring Polonnaruwa as the new capital. A massive tank was constructed encircling the city and creating a stable defensive barrier against attacks. The royal palace was the center of the power, a huge palace of seven storeys, where the king used to live.
This is where the king would have met advisors and petitioners. The hall consists of a raised terrace studded with columns, the roof has long gone. It's set on a huge base supported by bas-relief elephants. The entrance has two flights of steps with moonstones and dragons.
This is a group of four Buddha statues carved out of a granite cliff-face. My favourite was the 14 metre reclining Buddha. There is also a 7 metre tall standing Buddha and two others showing the Buddha in a seated position.
I found the statues to be fascinating and the area to be both spiritual & relaxing. The only negative is the metal roof structure covering them. This keeps them in the shade and prevented a clear sharp photograph. There is also a protective screen in front of one of the seated Buddha statues.
Dominating the Quadrangle is the Vadatage. This decorated circular shrine was built by Parakramabahu and later embellished by Nissanka Malla.
Its outer walls are covered with carvings of lions, dwarfs and lotuses. Each of the four entrances have moonstones & guardstones, these have images of king cobra fgures on them. The steps lead up to the central dagoba which is guarded by four Buddha statues.
The stone is 9m long and 1.5m wide, and up to 66cm thick. It's a representation of an ola book and is covered in inscriptions praising King Nissanka Malla. Inscriptions also show that the stone was dragged here all the way from Mihintale, a distance of 100 km.
Galvehera is one of the most famous sites in Sri Lanka. It consists of three figures of Lord Buddha carved out of a cliff of granite. The first figure is a sitting Buddha with an artificial cavern cut out of the rock. The other two are an upright Buddha and a reclining Buddha. The reclining Buddha is 14 m in length. See more pics for other Buddha.
The Royal Palace of King Parakramabahu I was built in the 11th Century and the massive brick walls of the main hall stand amidst the ruins of about 40 inter-connecting rooms. The palace originally rose to seven storeys.