Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka’s splendid medieval capital was established as the first city of the land in the 11th Century, A.D. It replaced Anuradhapura, which was plundered, made desolate and laid hopelessly bare to the invading armies from South India.
Three Kings dominate the chronicles of the city and the period. The city reached a dazzling but pitifully brief zenith in the 12th century and though ravaged by invasion in the centuries that followed, much evidence remains of the old grandeur and glory.The ruins of the ancient city stand on the east shore of a large artificial lake, the Topa Wewa Lake, or Parakrama Samudraya (the Sea of Parakrama), built by King Parakramabahu I (1153-86), whose reign wasPolonnaruwa‘s golden age. Within a rectangle of city walls stand palace buildings and clusters of dozens of dagobas, temples and various other religious buildings.A scattering of other historic buildings can be found to the north of the main complex, outside the city walls and close to the main road to Habarana and Dambulla.
To see many of the relics excavated from the site such as the stone lion which once guarded the palace of King Nissanka Malla, or the fine Hindu bronzes unearthed from the ruins of the Siva Devale Temple – you may have to visit the National Museum in Colombo, where they are kept. However, with the opening of the new Polonnaruwa Visitor Information Centre and its museum in 1998/9 some of the key exhibits were scheduled to return to the place where they were discovered.
Polonnaruwa has been in the limelight recently with the release of the Disney documentary movie “Monkey Kingdom” in over 12,000 US Cinemas in April 2015. The film documents the life of a troop of wild toque-macaque monkeys locally known as “Rilaw” while the entire set was based around the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa.
According to our current minister of Tourism, the documentary movie portrays the island as an exotic destination that is filled with natural beauty and highlighted by heritage sites such as Polonnaruwa. The film also gives proper attention to these types of monkeys and it shows their association with Polonnaruwa and their behavioural patterns which is a perfect way to educate locals and tourists alike about conserving these animals.
The kingdom’s grandeur and structural masterpieces are a true treasure to the country while the amalgamation of nature and animals adds the fine touch to the boosting tourism industry that the country has always hoped for.
Filmed around Polonnaruwa the movie “Monkey Kingdom” was directed by Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill who were also well known for their blockbusters such as “Earth” which grossed more than 100 million dollars at the box office and their wildlife documentary “Chimpanzee” which grossed almost 35 million. The documentary portrays these monkeys as a fascinating species that also requires conservation. Most locals however, don’t pay much attention since they are seen quite commonly roaming around. The main aim of the film is to create awareness among locals and promote these monkeys as animals that we should safeguard.
It was said that a part of box office receipts will be donated to Conservation International which is an American non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protect nature. Dr. Wolfgang Dittus who is a scientific consultant has been studying these macaque monkeys of Sri Lanka for nearly half a century. His studies are considered as one of the longest running studies which is connected to wild primates. When creating the documentary, Dr. Dittus had assisted in selecting the monkey characters and interpreting their behavioural patterns. The film is narrated by the Emmy award winning actress Tina Fey while it was released internationally to coincide with Earth Day.
With the popularity of the documentary, we believe that Sri Lanka, especially Polonnaruwa will be a well known tourist destination that will attract many tourists from around the world, especially from the US.
Parakrama Samudraya in Polonnaruwa
Parakrama Samudraya (Sinhala: Sea of Parakrama) built by King Parakramabahu the great, is the largest ancient man-made rainwater reservoir in Sri Lanka while it dominates the western flank of the Polonnaruwa district. The great reservoir spreading over an area of 2500 hectares and having a capacity of 134 million cubic meters of water is the lifeline to the agricultural district of Polonnaruwa and its surroundings. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa, 122 hectares in extent, spreading out to a distance of 5km from north to south and 3km from east to west, is also the beneficiary of cooling breezes of the Parakrama Samudraya.
Within proximity of the Parakrama Samudraya are the ruins of the Kings (King Nissanka Malla) Council Chamber on whose pillars are inscribed the status and titles of various officials of the kingdom.
Parakrama Samudraya in Polonnaruwa – Statue of King Parakramabahu in Polonnaruwa
On the Southern side of the Parakrama Samudraya and South of picturesque lakeside Rest house is another well known Polonnaruwa monument: a striking rock carved statue of a man of noble disposition holding a stack of manuscripts.
The statue has generated speculations and arguments concerning its identification. The archaeologists haven’t arrived at a concrete conclusion.The sculpture that rises at a height of 3.5m is believed to be that of King Parakramabahu the great.It could also very well be a representation of the sage Pulasti, after whom the city was named Pulastinagara. Pulastinagara (Sinhala: City of Pulasti) is the pali version of the Sinhala name Polonnaruwa.