The Architecture of the Polonnaruwa period
It can be categorize the architecture of Polonnaruwa in to palaces, stages, shrine rooms, pirivenas, hospitals, watadage, ponds, stupa, and kovil. It can be under the styles of foundation into round and square shape.
It is also can be categorized in order to the shapes such as square and round shaped architectural constructions. The chambers with stages hetadage, atadage, saraswathi mandapa are in square shape.
Architecture of the Pothgul vehera and vatadageya are in round shapes.
Lankathilaka and Thuparama can be identified as “gijjika wasthu” buildings as the roof of the buildings consist of arches similar to a “gedige”. No.1 and 2 Shiva devalas are can be named as kovils. Kumara pond (pond of prince) and Nelum pond (pond of lotus) can be identified as great creations.
The Palaces of the Polonnaruwa
Vijayothpaya (Vaijyantha Prasadaya)
This is the palace of the King Parakkramabahu the great. It has been revealed by chronological literature that this palace consisted with seven floors. The Cholas have destroyed and have set fire in to the building and now the remaining parts reflect the ruins of three stories. The foundation in square shape and there is an assembly hall at the center of the building.
The walls are built with bricks and plaster and the roof is believed to be constructed with timber. There are several numbers of rooms on the both sides of the assembly hall. The walls of the center hall are thick nearly 3 feet. There is a line of residential buildings around the palace which are to be believed used by the chieftains and servants. There are also ruins of a septic tank.
The Palace of the King Nissankamalla
This is situated closer to the Parakrama Samudra (parakkrama reservoir) and has several numbers of ponds. There is a throne at the edge of the stage. The lion figure over there is in a posture with an open mouth in a majestic look. It can be identified the plan of the royal chamber easily.
This is similar to the Vijayothpaya and situated at the small island in Thopa Wewa. This is also called as “Seetha Maligawa” (cool palace). This has been constructed on a square shaped foundation with bricks. It is believed that there was also a secret tunnel in to this. It can be believed that this was a storied building where the remains of stairways and the walls decorated with panel and “boradam”.
4.The Royal Mandapa
It is situated closer to Vijayothpaya and it is named as “Saraswathi Mandapa”. This is a creation by King Parakkramabahu the great and this stage has been used for dancing rituals. It is about 11 feet high from the ground level and there would have been three stages. The roof of the building is supported with the help of engraved granite pillars. The lowest curtain of the foundation is decorated with elephants in different actions. Above that there are dwarfs and lion figures. The both sides of the entrance there are two seated statues of bulls above both guard stones.
It is very much clear that the influence of Hindu culture and the religion has been introduced slowly in to the local culture prevailed in Sri Lanka. There is a moonstone with beautiful engravings at the door step.
5.Nishsanka Latha Mandapa
This is a Mandapa constructed on a rectangular foundation with a fence of granite which has only one entrance. There is a Stupa inside the stage. There is an “anjali hastha mudra” engraving at the bottom. There is a throne on the stage and it is believed that the king was listing to the chanting of “pirith” here. There is a special feature in these granite pillars where they have carved them in to a rhythmical pattern. This type of pillars cannot be seen in any other place in Sri Lanka. Height of the pillar is about 7 feet. The base of the pillar is square shape and it is tapering up to the top. In side of the curve of the pillars consist of carving of leaves of lotus. The top of the pillars are in octagonal shape of a bloomed flower. There is only one entrance to the building.
6.Thuparama Image House of Polonnaruwa
This is an image house constructed to place the Buddha statues. There are thick walls constructed with bricks and plaster. Outside of the wall consist of “wimana”,”boradam”, “paneela” (panel, squares, strips,) that the nature of the Hindu Kovil culture. The remains of statue built inside the shrine room indicates that it has been built with bricks. The seated Buddha statue reflects the “Amarawathi” School. It is treated as the style of “gijjika wasthu” as the roof of the buildings consists of arches similar to a “gedige”. The outer look of the building is similar to a Shiva kovil. They have constructed “thibanga” posture (bent at three places namely the shoulder, hip and the knee) deva images on the panels of the outer wall. The water drops on to the roof are flows down and comes out from a mouth of Makara (dragon).
Lankathilaka Image Shrine of Polonnaruwa
It is the biggest shrine room built by the King Parakkramabahu the great and the standing Buddha statue is dilapidated. It is a style of “gijja wasthu’ and the roof constructed with bricks has been dilapidated. It is about 54 feet high. The halls of the walls indicate that the roof has been built with timber. When we observe the balustrade it is believed to be that there should be 5 steps at the entrance to the shrine room, however there are only 3 steps remain at the present. The carvings of balustrade are similar to the school of Anuradhapura.
Outside of the walls contain panels with paintings. It is observed that there were paintings of decorative veins and “Kiduru” (mermaid) figures. The pictures of deva and Brahma reflect the style of Hindu culture. There is a feature of a female feature guard stone over there. This building is another evidence to prove that a well developed style of architecture using bricks has been utilized in the period of Polonnaruwa.
Picture -of the female feature of guard stone
Thivanka Shine room
This shrine is constructed by the King Parakkramabahu the great which similar to the Lankathilaka. This is a shine room built with bricks and consists of “gedidey” freatures. (Roof of the building consists of arches similar to gedigey). Outer wall consist of “wimana”, “boradam” and fake pillars and different types of sculptures due to the influence of Hindu culture. The creations of half engraved dwarfs have been created to give a mockery feeling to the viewers. The Buddha statue on the “thribanga” posture (bent at three places namely the shoulder, hip and the knee) has been dilapidated. There are two lines for worshippers in front of the Buddha statue as in Hindu Kovil. Intersole and the chamber of the shrine room contain valuable unique murals.
Gal Vihala of Pollonnaruwa
This is also called as Uththararama. Although it is said to be a shrine room consist of four Buddha statues. The shrine room is not to be seen at now. A Buddha statue has been carved in to a cave in “Vidyadhara- Guhawa” and on the back ground of the statue consists of arch of dragon with images of Deva and Brahma and these features reflects the influence of Mahayana culture.
Atadageya (Octaganal Shrine Room)
This has been built by the King Vijayabahu (i). This is the oldest building in Polonnaruwa and the architecture reflects of the Anuradhapura school of art. It is a rectangular shrine for tooth relic. There is a liyawel engraving reflecting “mithuna” features. There is “kalpa-latha” veins engraved around the six pillars. In addition to above, dwarfs pictures in dancing posture, image of seated Bodhisathwa, female dancers, an image of worshipping lady are seen.
There are three Buddha statues similar to Avukana Budhha statue. It is said to be a Daladha Mandira (Tooth Relic Shrine) constructed within a short period of eight days.
This is similar to the octagonal shrine room and said to be a Daladha Mandira (Tooth Relic Shrine). It is surrounded by a granite wall and consists of two stories and having three Buddha statues with “Abhya mudra”. There are engravings of flowers, liya- wel and engravings of swans protruding outside. There is a lime- tone engraving at the entrance of the shrine room with drummers and dancers. There are signs of stairway to the upstairs, however no signs of existing stairway at the moment to be seen.
Watadageya (Stupa Shrine) of Polonnaruwa
It is believed to be constructed before the King Nishsankamalla and it has been renovated by the King Nishsankamalla. It is in a circular shape construction with bricks and granite. There are four entrances with beautiful moonstones, guard stones and balustrades. There are two lines of pavements for worshippers. It is similar to the design of Thuparama Stupa Shrine.
There is a small sthupa and small four statues of Buddha are kept at the four sides of corners. Buddha statues are in Samadi style but heads have been shaven. There are granite pillars along with the brick walls around the shrine room which is believed to be a part of the supporting roof. There are signs of paintings, lines of dwarfs and lions on the bottom part of the outer wall. The moonstones and the guard stones of this building are the most creative and beautiful items found in the period of Polonnaruwa.
There are similar Stupa shrines at Thiriyaya and Medirigiriya.
Pothgul Vehera of Pollonnaruwa
It is a building consists of four stories near Topa Tank. The roof the building is half circular and in to the shrine style of “gedigey”. There are signs of paintings and statues and there are four stupas in the four corners. This considers as a library. The plaster on inner wall is still remaining where there are signs of paintings. There are granite carved groves in four corners allowing the water to flow down. It is said to be constructed by the second queen of king Parakkramabahu which is carved in a granite inscription.
Baddaseema Prasada, is a part of Alahana piriwena. It is an Uposathagara used by the ordained bikkhus. It is constructed on the order of the King Parakkramabahu the great. This is a “pohoya geya” (chapter house) used for disciplinary activities of buddhist monks.
It is of the opinion that; this building was in 12 stories made out of bricks and lime plaster. The special feature in this is that it has triangular shape of windows. There is a carved granite pedestal and a Buddha statue.
This is a building in piramedical shape of seven stories. The floors are descending in sizes from bottom to top. This is a very different style of construction which is similar to the buildings found in Thailand.
Stupas of Pollonaruwa
Stupas found in Pollonaruwa are similar to the Anuradhapura culture. Mainly bricks and clay have been used in these constructions. Pabalu Vehera, Demala Mahaseeya, Rankoth Vehera, Kota Vehera are the remarkable stupas in Pollonaruwa period.
It is a stupa in smaller size which has been constructed on the order of the Queen Roopawathi of King Parakkramabahu (I). There are eight shrine rooms constructed around the stupa with bricks and granite. Archeologists have discovered two pebble necklaces and therefore the stupa has been named accordingly.
Demala Maha Seya
This is a stupa constructed on the order of the king Parakkramabahu (I) which have been deployed the Tamil labors where the Stupa is constructed on a higher elevation. This is said to be similar to the Kota Vehera.
It is in the shape of a bubble. Circumference of this stupa is about 550 feet. It is considered as the largest stupa of Polonnaruwa compare to others. There are four entrances. It has been found a statue of recumbent Buddha reflecting the style of “piriniwan manchaka”. The bottom part of the outer wall is consisting of petals of lotus and “boradam”. The pinnacle of the stupa is still remaining safely.
This is a degaba constructed in Dedigama area. It is constructed in to the style of lotus which is about 50 feet in height.
These are the kovils constructed in to the style of South Indian architecture by the Chola rulers. It can be considered as the oldest buildings in Polonnaruwa. The Hindu kovils and their other buildings which are constructed in the name of deities Shiva and Vishnu.
Shiva kovils are in smaller sizes and they consist of shine room, outer room, and inner chamber.
The inner chamber is in square shape and outer walls are decorated with “wimana” (panels). It is remarkable to note that they have only a limited number of entrances and the decorating and carvings are limited on them. The building is in a style of descending from bottom to top and the top part is in octagonal shape. This reflects the architectural style of Thanjor of India. The granite slabs are placed in such a way without using plaster. There are images of leopard placed on the panel in the outer frame of the entrance.
Shiva Kovil No. 1
It is constructed closer to the Thuparama of Polonnaruwa and belongs to the era of 13th century. The roof is constructed with the granite slabs and the walls are granite but the frame of the entrance is constructed with bricks.
The roof is supported by the pillars where they are not connected to the roof specially. The entrance frame of the “Devinuwara Devala” is also similar to this structure. There is a Shiva lingam well polished inside the Kovil and they have discovered a granite statue of god Shiva, Gnesha, and a statue of a bull. The statues reflect well developed skills of Pandayans in India.
Shiva Kovil No. 2
This is the oldest kovil of Shiva in Polonnaruwa. It is said to be constructed in the name of the mother queen of Chola ruler Rajendra (i). This is a two storied building constructed with granite. Interior part is in square shape and the outer wall are with “boradam” and “wimana”(panels) carved with images of deities in South Indian style. There is a Shiva lingam in the center of the building which is still remain safely. There is an opening into a round shape at the top of the roof. There are Tamil inscriptions carved on the granite slabs of the wall.
Shiva Kovil No. 3
This building is in ruins in now. It has been discovered a male lingam and female yoni inside the kovil and the statues of Shiva Nataraja and goddess Parvati made out of metal. This is very special feature in South Indian Hindu culture where they have worship the “Shiva lingam” very much. There is a pit and a grove which helps the bathing of Shiva lingam to flow down.
Pond of Princess
The ponds constructed during this period are having aesthetical sense and architectural skills. It can be considered that these ponds are meant for the bikkhus and the members of royal family. The pond of prince is in square shape. It is in three stages descending down to the bottom. The bottom layer of the pond has been carved with the polished granite slabs. There is a round granite pillar at the center of the bottom. There is a flight of steps to enter the pond. Water has been facilitated with help of the underground pipes and there is a granite pipe which would have been enable to remove the excess water. There is a place for them to bath with the water escaping along with the tubes. It is believed that this pond has been constructed for the use of the members of royal family.
There are eight stages of petals in a shape of lotus where the layers are descending down to the bottom. Therefore it can be visualize as a lotus spreaded out. This pond is completely made out of granite. There is a parapet wall erected about 2 feet from the ground level of the pond. This is a construction on the order of the King Parakkramabahu the great. It can be believed that this pond has been constructed for the use of bikkhus of Jethawana monastery.
Alahana Piriwena covers a huge area of land which is constructed on the order of the king Parakkramabahu the great, which considers as a complex of monasteries. It is believed that cremation of bikkhus also was done in the same locality and it is believed to be that the name of “Adahana” has become “Alahana”. It has been discovered by the archeologists that Baddaseema Prasa, Chapter house, Lankathilaka, Kiri Wehera stupa, Subadra stupa, monasteries for Buddhist monks, sanitary chambers, ponds, hospital, have constructed within the limits of Alahana piriwena.
Baddaseema Prasada is a ritual chamber for Buddhist monks which are considered as a skillful specimen of architecture, constructed by the king Parakkramabahu the great. There is a Buddha statue carved in granite and 100 of pillars constructed with bricks and plasters are remaining as ruins at present.
Moonstone of Polonnaruwa
The moonstone of Polonaruwa era has a significant fracture. The best moonstone is found at the entrance of Watadageya (Circular stupa house) of Polonnaruwa. There are several changes in the pattern of this moonstone when compare to Anuradhapura era. One of the significant features is that the image of bull has been removed from the moonstone. This is because that Hindus treat the bull as the vehicle of God Shiva. Another special fracture is that the different animals lined up in to a half circle separately. They have used the geometrical conventional Sinhalese designs like “gal binduwa” to separate each line of the animals of the moonstone. However the moonstone of “Atadageya” of Polonnaruwa is similar to Anuradhapura school where the image of bull has been included. However the features of moonstone Anuradhapura have been changed in to a comprehensive piece of art in Polonnaruwa era.
Guard Stone of Polonnaruwa
Guard stone of Polonnaruwa era is similar to Anuradhapura school. The best guard stone found in Polonnaruwa is the one find at the entrance of “Watadageya” (Circular stupa house) of Polonnaruwa. The body of the guard, Na raja (king cobra) is carved in to the posture called “thibanga” (meaning bent at three places namely the shoulder, hip, and the knee) and carrying a “punkalasa” (pot of plenty) in one hand and an item of floral decorations in other hand. The school of “Pallawa” architectural style can be seen in these constructions.
Balustrade of Polonnaruwa
It has been involved in to different shapes during Polonnaruwa period. The size of the balustrade has been varied in terms of the place where they have been placed. The patterns of veins, “gaja singha” (an image of lion with a head of an elephant), makara (mythical Dragon), liyapath carvings, are used for the decorations. Some of the balustrades are highly decorative and some are medium and very simple and some of them are roughly made.