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Updated by Joanna James on May 29, 2020
Headline for Best Attractions in Polonnaruwa – An archaeology paradise
Joanna James Joanna James
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Best Attractions in Polonnaruwa – An archaeology paradise

Polonnaruwa is a small city situated close to Sigiriya and Anuradhapura which make up the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. There are plenty of things to see here especially for the history lovers out there! So here are a few places to visit on your vacation in Sri Lanka if you are planning on exploring culture and history.


Gal Vihara

This is an amazing display of ancient Sri Lankan art. It is basically a thick slab of granite where four images of Buddha have been carved out. The carvings are quite precise and expertly done. There is one image of the reclining Buddha, 14 metres long, where even the dip in the pillow his head is resting on has been sculptured perfectly! There are various designs on the Buddha's feet and pillow as well. The images of the standing Budhha's look sad and are all with hands crossed. The whole artefact is part of King Parakramabahu I's monastery. Gal Vihara is about a 1 ½ hour drive from many a Dambulla hotel.



This is a few meters away from the palace and is as its name suggests a quadrangle. A set of pillars can be seen at an elevated base towards the centre. Carved on the stairs are various queer images and in the centre of the whole base is a statue of Lord Buddha carved out in stone. Inquire about how to get there from your local hotel like Heritance Kandalama.



This is yet another temple in Polonnaruwa that was built in the time of Parakraamabahu I but was later refurbished by Vijayabahu IV. The temple has thick walls that are about 17 metres tall, although the roof has caved in, you can still walk through the aisle. This aisle leads to a standing headless Buddha statue. The offerings of incense and the pillars all around give the whole place a mystified look.


Rankot Vihara

This too is a dagaba that has been built with earth and bricks and is the 4th largest one on the island and is said to have belongs to the period of King Nissankamalla. There seems to have been a hospital nearby as well where surgical equipment much like the ones used today has been found.


Polonnaruwa Ruins

This is a park with remnants of little bits of the Polonnaruwa Kingdom which once belonged to the Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms. The park can be explored in a day.


Tivanka Image House

Towards the north of Polonnaruwa is the Tivanka Image House which is the only set of murals that have survived in the Polonnaruwa kingdom. Inside are elaborate paintings decorating the image house from roof to floor. There are also several sculptures depicting the previous lives of Lord Buddha. Some of it was restored once by Parakramabahu III. But the rest of the structures prove to be even more older.

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