Better known as the medieval capital of Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa saw its development taking place mainly during the 10th and 12th century. This world heritage site has its own unique features of art and architecture that can be found nowhere else in the country or even the world.
Polonnaruwa was the second kingdom of Sri Lanka following the chapter of Anuradhapura. It was made capital of the country by King Vijayabahu I. However, it was Parakramabahu I who was the grandson of King Vijayabahu who developed Polonnaruwa to a grand city. During the reign of this King the city underwent drastic growth in the fields of agriculture and trade. The famous quote of King Parakramabahu I was that “not a single drop of water that falls from the heavens should be left unused”.
King Parakramabahu I took measures to build irrigation systems and huge reservoirs that were advanced than what was in Anuradhapura. The waters were well used for agriculture purposes. The enormous tank called the Parakrama Samudraya is the best case in point for the constructions that took place during the golden era of Polonnaruwa.
From the kings who were appointed rulers after the demise of King Parakramabahu I, King Nissankamalla I was the ruler who contributed significantly to the development of this great city. After many rulers, the city faced a point where further development could not be achieved, which in turn paved the way for the establishment of a new capital. Thereafter, the reservoirs, statues and shrines went hidden under large lush jungles. By the 19th century, most significant places in Polonnaruwa were hidden in the tropical foliage and bountiful earth.
Excavations and conservations are still underway in search of the hidden treasures of this unique city. However, the efforts of the early Kings of Polonnaruwa can be seen even today and that has been the reason why this great city is identified as one of the country’s best planned ancient cities.
Even after many centuries, agriculture is the main source of living of the people of Polonnaruwa. It is also recognised as one of the cleanest cities in the country. The lush green environment, the recently opened modern hotels and facilities has given this ancient city a new twist whilst preserving its great heritage.
World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka