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Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka's second most ancient kingdom, took its place in history after King Vijayabahu I defeated the invading Cholas and moved the capital from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa. The city reached a zenith in the 12th century and much of its grandeur still remains in its remains. The golden age of Polonnaruwa was during the reign of King Parakramabahu I (1153-86 AD). The King was instrumental in monumental changes and development from an agricultural perspective to Polonnaruwa where his royal decree was that not a single drop of rain should be wasted. New irrigation and waterways were constructed as well as the enormous man made tank titled the Parakrama Samudraya that forms almost a ring around the city and functions both as a protective barrier as well as an enormous catchment area for the collection of rain water to irrigate the agricultural land around the city of Polonnaruwa. Exploring Polonnaruwa, which is today a UNESCO World Heritage site, one can see Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas and the monumental ruins of the fabulous garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century.

Some of the key monuments in the ancient city are:

Stone Lion guarding the palace of King Nissankamalla. The palace of King Parakramabahu I, which was an imposing edifice once with richly decorated structures and seven storeys high. With remaining walls of the palace having an extra-ordinary thickness as well as a technologically advanced drainage system. The Royal Bath can be seen a little further on. The Royal Audience Hall is embellished with beautiful lion portals; graceful pillars adorned with carvings, and intricately designed stepping stones called moonstones

The Library Monastery or Potgul Vehera where the central square Terrance is the principal monument with a circular shrine where the sacred books were deposited. The site is surrounded by four small stupas or dagabas

Some of the Hindu influences are evident in the ancient city, with a Shiva Temple seen in the complex which is built entirely by stone with a stone carved phallus or lingam inside. A Nandi Bull statue can be seen in front of the temple, which is the vehicle of God Shiva.

Thuparama Image House: This magnificent structure is the oldest image house in Polonnaruwa, and goes back to the times of King Vijayabahu I.

Vatadage: The circular relic house possesses a strange elegance and mystique which is rare even in ancient Sri Lanka. Believed to have been built during the reign of King Parakramabahu I to hold the relic of the Tooth of Lord Buddha. The entire structure is decorated with stone carvings with intricate details.

Gal Vihare: Is a rock temple close to the ancient city complex which is believed to be fashioned by King Parakramabahu I. The temple features beautiful rock relief statues of Lord Buddha which are carved into the massive granite rock face. These are considered to be some of the best examples of ancient Sinhalese sculpting and carving arts, and have made the Gal Vihara the most visited monument at Polonnaruwa.

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