Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka's splendid medieval capital was established as the first city of the land in the 11th Century, A.D. It replaced Anuradhapura, plundered made desolate, and laid hopelessly bare to the invading armies from South India. Three Kings dominate the annals of the city and the period.
The city reached a dazzling but pitifully brief zenith in the 12th century and though ravaged by invasion in the centuries following, much evidence remains of the old grandeur and glory.
The ruins of the ancient city stand on the east shore of a large artificial lake, the Topa Wewa Lake, or Parakrama Samudra (the Sea of Parakrama), created by King Parakramabahu I (1153-86), whose reign was Polonnaruwa's golden age. Within a rectangle of city walls stand palace buildings and clusters of dozens of dagobas, temples and various other religious buildings.
A scattering of other historic buildings can be found to the north of the main complex, outside the city walls and close to the main road to Habarana and Dambulla.
To see many of the relics excavated from the site such as the stone lion which once guarded the palace of King Nissanka Malla, or the fine Hindu bronzes unearthed from the ruins of the Siva Devale Temple - you may have to visit the National Museum in Colombo, where they are kept. However, with the opening of the new Polonnaruwa Visitor Information Centre and its museum in 1998/9 some of the key exhibits were scheduled to return to the place where they were discovered.
Picture gallery of Polonnaruwa