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Stone carvings that decorate the ancient buildings include some of the best examples of moon stones in Sri Lanka. These moon stones are said to explain the cycle of life in Buddhist culture
Our journey today explores Polonnaruwa as we trace the steps of kings across ancient ruins. The ruins we explore today are younger than those in Anuradhapura, making it easier to imagine how the palaces once rose into the sky. We wander ruins of palaces, shrines and temples of the old capital of Sri Lanka. Exploring can build up an appetite, so we visit a local home turned restaurant to experience some authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. We enjoy the local food against a scenic backdrop of farms and rice fields. The afternoon is yours to explore the local village in Sigiriya, where your guide will help out to ensure an enjoyable afternoon.
The journey to Polonnaruwa winds through jungle, takes us past several lakes and small villages before arriving at what was the capital of Sri Lanka during the Polonnaruwa era. Unlike Anuradhapura the remnants of this capital require less imagination to appreciate the size and grandeur of the kingdom that once ruled from here. We explore various sites within the complex, however on arrival you may see children or monitor lizards swimming in the canal as we collect our tickets for the ancient site.
Opposite the ticket office and museum lays an ancient dam, known as the Parakrama Samudraya that stretches for 12km along the edge of Polonnaruwa and continues to provide water and protection to the people of the area, as it did when this area was the heart of the Sri Lankan empire. The cooler breeze off the lake can provide some respite from the heat as we explore the palace of Polonnaruwa’s first King, King Nishshanka Malla.
This complex includes the remains of the audience hall, with a lion carved in a single piece of rock as the throne piece surrounded by 48 pillars that would once have held up a second or third story. If you look closely, each pillar has the designation of who would sit by each pillar when the King would receive an audience. Sri Lanka’s irrigation systems and restored Buddhist temples are partially due to King Nissanka Malla’s investment in the nation during his reign, in an effort to reduce crime.
With each new king, a new palace, audience hall and various other temples were also constructed. The remains of these each tell a different story about the King who ruled and the culture in Sri Lanka during that time. We have the option to explore many of these sites within the Polonnaruwa complex and our knowledgeable guide is happy to explain the history behind each ruin. Regardless of the time of year, these sites can get very hot and recommend a liberal dose of sunscreen and keeping hydrated with plenty of water.
A highlight of the day is the the Polonnaruwa Vatadae complex which was once the home of the relic of the tooth of Buddha and thus is a very sacred and significant site in Sri Lankan history. The stone carvings that decorate the building include some of the best examples of moon stones in Sri Lanka. These moon stones are said to explain the cycle of life in Buddhist culture. This area of the ruins is very popular and can be crowded during peak times, however our guide navigates to quieter areas of the complex to explain the significance of the site and how historians have uncovered the past in various archeological digs.
Another highlight of the Polonnaruwa complex is the Gal Vihara site where four statues of Buddha are carved into the rock face. The 14 meter reclining Buddha is a feature of this area, and the mind boggles as to how this was constructed 900 years ago.
Once we have satisfied our curiosity within the ruins of Polonnaruwa, we make our way to a local home which has turned their love of Sri Lankan cuisine into a small outdoor restaurant. You can mix with other travelers while enjoying some delicious home style cooking while overlooking the rice fields and farmlands on the edge of Polonnaruwa.
Guests have the option of exploring the new city of Polonnaruwa in the afternoon or returning back to Sigiriya and exploring the local village of Sigiriya. Your guide can take you to get some great photographs of Sigiriya rock as the sun sets if you choose to head back to Sigiriya, with the evening sky providing a great backdrop to this stunning part of the landscape.
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