We get up early, rent bikes for the day and head off to the ruins. Pollonaruwa was the Royal capital of both the Chola and Singhalese kingdoms. In its day it was a thriving commercial and religious centre. Now it is an archeological gem on the UNESCO world heritage list. When the South Indian Chola dynasty captured Anuradhapura in the late part of the 10th century they established Polonnaruwa as their capital and when the Singhalese drove off the Chola years later they retained Polonnaruwa as capital.
Under King Parakramabika (1153 to 1186) the city reached its zenith. He erected many fine buildings and parks and created the 25 square kilometer tank (man made lake) and irrigation system still evident today. The tank was so large it has been named the Sea of Parakrama. Major buildings were established for worship, to house the royalty and monastic orders. Hugh temples and meeting areas were created including the sacred temple to house the Buddhas tooth. Extensive social and commercial laws enacted. A civilization flourished that was as sophisticated as the western Roman Empire. Thieves were given payment to stop thievery and the land was extensively irrigated with tanks and networks of sluices and canals. The treasury was enriched by charging a fee for water use and the kingdom was encouraged to use every drop of water to produce food for internal use and trade. By the 13th century Polonnaruwa was increasingly attacked by India and abandoned, with the centre of Singhalese power moving to the west of the Sri Lanka.
Ruins include the Royal Palace and Quadrangle housing the temples supposedly housing the sacred toothed well as the Vatadage, the circular relic house, the Lankatilaka Temple and the Val Vihara, one of the finest examples of Sinhalese rock carving. The impressive images of Buddha are carved from one huge slab of granite. The standing Buddha is 7 meters tall.
VAL VIHERA RECLINING BUDDHA
VAL VIHERA SITTING BUDDHA
VAL VIHERA STANDING BUDDHA
VATADAGE GUARD STONES
VATADAGE MOONSTONE (ENTRY STONE)
THE LANKATILAKA TEMPLE
TANKS AND IRRIGATION
The land was systematically dammed to create hugh lakes with sluices that would divert water into canals that could be used to irrigate the land and provide water to residents. The system is remarkable and still in use today. Villages and rice paddies are still provided water through this system and the remarkable thing is that after more than a thousand years the land is still arable and alive. The tanks had systems to purify the water for drinking and they had a system of pots put they would put under latrines filled with charcoal and rocks to filter waste before it went back into the ground. Pretty impressive.
CANALS AND SLUICES
IRRIGATED RICE FIELDS
PARAKRAMA AT SUNSET
THE ROYAL PROCESSION
We hire a driver and jeep for the afternoon. The first couple of hours we explore the backroads of village life here. The villages are spread out along canals and ditches. Everyone has front door water access., some by walking across log bridges to access. The villagers are not used to seeing a jeep pass by their front door and everywhere we go the villagers rush out to greet us and wave and say hello. Standing in the back of the. Jeep, we wave back. Mani says she feels like royalty passing by. The countryside is alive with birds and wildlife and we get a few close ups to add to our collection.
MALABAR PIED HORNBILL (THEY CALL IT A TOUCAN)
In the later afternoon we go exploring for elephants. We skirt the edges of the parks but find the highest concentration on the roads including the main highway. One elephant decides to cross and as I am focusing on shooting a video and gets upset and starts to charge after a motorcycle passes by. Our jeep is in full gear down the road as I am trying to focus.