Polonnaruwa is another important royal capital city of ancient Sri Lanka. It's situated 134 miles ( 215 Kilometers) from Colombo on the north eastern part of the country.
Anuradhapura's glorious reign as the nations capital came to an end due to the mnay devastating invasions by South Indian kings, which lay ruin to the city. One of these invasion by the Cholas, sacked Anuradhapura and established a new capital in the city of Polonnaruwa during the 11th Century. It was taken back by the Sinhala Kings for a brief time, but it was taken over by the Kalinga dynasty. Finally a Kalinga marauder by the name of Magha was driven out by the Singhalese. Eventually it again fell again to the Pandayan dynasty. The most prominent of the Singhalese Kings who ruled in Polonnaruwa were, Vijayabahu I, Parakramabahu I and Nissankamalla.
The ruins of Polonnaruwa are centered mainly in five localities unlike in Anuradhapura, where the ruins are scattered all over. An important site among them is the palace of King Parakramabahu. With it's ten foot thick walls, it was supposedly six stories high, was a masterpiece of ancient architecture. In the audience hall you can find intricate stone carvings highlighting the artistry and craftsmanship of the ancient people. To the east of the palace is a group of building built in various periods. One of them is the Thuparamaya and it's Vatadageya built by King Prakramabahu. It is the smallest of the Polonnaruwa gedige's. The only building built by King Vijayabahu was the Atadageya, which he built as a temple for the tooth relic of Lord Buddha.
Nissanka-lata-mandapaya is a pavilion with stone columns of Tivanka - thrice bent- lotus stalks. It was built by King Nissanakamalla. He also built a temple for the tooth relic known as the Hatadageya and alongside it is in an inscribed slab known as the "Gal Pota" or stone book. It records praises for the king and various edicts passed by him and it is the longest stone inscription found in Sri Lanka.
More towards the south of these ruins another set of monuments can be found. The Potgul Vihara or the Library Shrine is a striking with a hollow dagabe. The famous Polonnaruwa statue, a relief of a man holding an object that appears to be a scroll carved out of granite is another famous monument in Polonnaruwa. There are many theories as to who the statue represents, but the most popular one is that it is King Parakramabahu I himself.
Another interesting site is the Alahana Pirivena, also founded by King Parakramabahu I and it gets its name from the cremation grounds for royalty and sangha that lies nearby. There are three buildings that stands on this site, the Lankatileke image house, the Kiri Vehera and the convocation hall.
Not far from the Kiri Vehera lies the Gal Vihara, which is part of the Uththararama or the Northern monastery, also built by King Prakramabahu I. There are four fascinating statues of the Lord Buddha which are considered to be masterpieces of that time. Close to this you can also find the largest of the Polonnaruwa stupas, the Rankot Vehera.