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Polonnaruwa PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lanka Nest   
Sunday, 09 March 2008

Satue of King Parakramabahu
Polonnnaruwa,  216 km from Colombo ,  was the capital of Sri Lanka during the medieval period ( 11 c – 13c). Anuradhapura remained as capital for about 15 centuries.   With the growth of  South Indian Empires and frequent invasions by  them , Anuradhapura was no longer safe   as the Capital of the Sinhala Kings. It was because of this that Capitals started moving to the south. The first capital after Anuradhapura was Polonnaruwa.  After a few centuries capitals started to move further southward.  Capitals changed from one city to another very fast.  Sri Lankan historians call this the “southward drift “  - shifting of capitals to the south of Sri Lanka. Polonnaruwa remained as the capital of Sri Lanka for the longest period during this post Anuradhapura era. While a large number of the places of historical and archeological interest are scattered over a very wide area at Anuradhapura ,  at Polonnaruwa a large number of  such places are  found within a very small locality.

Historical background

History of Polonnaruwa goes back to  2c BCE. Historians are of the view the first inhabitants of Sri Lanka  is considered to be  the area  in which   such pre historic tribes had settled down.  Habarana  forest is considered to be the area in which  of ‘Sabara’ tribe had lived in.  ‘Sabara’ is the ancient name given to present day ‘Vedda’ community .  The name ‘Habarana ‘ is considered  to have  derived out of the word ‘Sabara” , people who were inhabiting around Habarana during pre historic times. Out of pre historic settlements as well as cemeteries found in Sri Lanka,  the largest  number is found   in the North Central Province.  Similarly ‘Veddas’ who are considered to be the descendents of pre historic tribes   live in this region even today.  These appear to confirm the view of historians that the earliest human settlements in Sri Lanka were in the North central province in which Polonnaruwa is situated in. consisted of pre historic tribes. Habrana which is situated close to Polonnaruwa

Chulawamsa as well as inscriptions of the Polonnaruwa period refer to Polonnaruwa as ‘Pulasthipura’ or  ‘Pulathisipura’. This name was given to Polonnaruwa in honor of the ancient ‘Rishi’ called ‘Pulasthi’.

Agriculture is the main occupation of those residing at Polonnruwa from very ancient times. Most of the residents of Polonnaruwa  at present , are colonists settled by the Government under several irrigation schemes. Polonnaruwa  being  a historic city  with many ruins of archaeological interest, thousands of local as well as foreign tourists  visit Polonnaruwa annually . Polonnaruwa  became a capital city  only  in the 11th century; therefore the   works of  Polonnauwa are  preserved  quite well. Since the places of interest at Polonnaruwa are situated within a small area, one could see them within a few hours.

Several important  events of world history took place during the Polonnaruwa period. These include  the birth of prophet Mohammed, the beginning of the dark ages in  Europe and  the  reign of the kings of Wan dynasty of China.

King  Parakramabahu, the  Great is considered as the greatest king of the Polonnaruwa period. His services extended to almost every aspect of human life of that time . His reign brought about vast changes to the economy, administration, culture, religion etc.  However his greatest work is considered to be ‘ Parakrama Samudraya ” ( the sea of Parakrama),  the tank he built by joining  tanks called  Giritale Wewa ,  Thopa Wewa and Kaudulu Wewa. It is generally accepted that the country was very prosperous during his reign. What is startling is that there is no record of building a tank by a Sri Lankan king for the next seven hundred years. Polonnaruwa period therefore is considered as a very prosperous period of Sri Lankan history.

The tanks in and around Polonnaruwa are as follows:

  1. Yodha wewa
  2. Mahagalkadawala wewa
  3. Mahakanadara wewa
  4. Magala wewa
  5. Kalawewa
  6. Kantale wewa
  7. Elahera wewa
  8. Parakrama Samudraya
  9. Akatti muruppu wewa
  10. Tisa wewa
  11. Nachchaduwa wewa
  12. Siyambalagamu wewa
  13. Tabbowa wewa
  14. Kawdulu wewa
  15. Amban ganga canal
  16. Maha Vilachchiya wewa
  17. Nuwara wewa
  18. Panikkan kulam wewa
  19. Man kattiya wewa
  20. Hurulu wewa
  21. Minneri wewa
  22. Giritale wewa

Old City of Polonnaruwa

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 30 April 2008 )
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