Moving on again by bus from Dambulla, I went to Polonnaruwa, the capital from the late tenth to late 13th centuries, after the destruction of Anuradhapura, the place I’ll be covering in the next post.
The archaeological remains to be seen in Polonnaruwa date from the ‘golden age’ of the city, under the twelfth century king Parakramabahu the Great and his immediate successor Nissankamalla (who left a lot of self-glorifying inscriptions around the place). The former is particularly know for his irrigation works, still in use for the storage and management of water for the paddy fields, and most visible in the huge man-made lake alongside which the site sits.
There are also a number of lovely bathing pools dotted around the site, which despite the colour of the water, were still very tempting on a hot day.
This was once a great city, full of temples (both Buddhist and Hindu) and monasteries, gardens and palaces. Most of the remains are just the bases of walls, but some more complete structures, including the walls of a circular Temple of the Tooth (yes, the same tooth that is now at Kandy) called the Vatadage, give an idea of how it would have looked. The reputed seven stories of the royal palace are still hard to picture though, despite a speculative model in the museum.
As with many Sri Lankan historic sites, the stupas and ruined temples are still regarded as holy so you must take off shoes and hats at the thresholds. So I spent a fair bit of the day wincing on hot sand and stone whilst squinting in the sun. In fact I didn’t have the stamina to walk all the way around the biggest stupa on the site – my soles protested so much that I had to scamper (“ouch, ouch, bugger”) back to my sandals and retire to a plastic chair under a tree with a fresh coconut to drink.
The visitable sites are spread in an approximately linear arrangement around 5km long, which perhaps foolishly I elected to visit on foot (bikes can be hired). By the end of the day, when I was feeling a trifle jaded, I was delighted to be offered a lift back from the farthest point by a Sri Lankan family in their air-conditioned car.
The site was reclaimed by the jungle when it fell into disuse after a century of invasions and ineffective rulers led to yet another change of location for the capital.
I settled on this structure for the Lego model, the royal council chamber, which would originally have had a wooden roof.
I had to compromise on the columns, please ignore the fact that they are not in reality joined up at the top.