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Polonnaruwa is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, it was a thriving commercial and religious center 800 years ago, meaning it has a lot of temples and religious buildings. In 1982 the ancient city of Polonnaruwa was inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list.
It all started in the 10th Century when the South Indian Dynasty, The Cholas, conquered Sri Lanka. They chose Polonnaruwa to be their new capital, they did so believing that it would be a strategically better place to be protected from attacks by the Sinhalese kingdom than the old capital Anuradhapura. Both Sinhalese and Chola Kingdoms ruled Sri Lanka for three centuries with the Royal Capital being in Polonnaruwa.
When talking about Polonnaruwa it is simply wrong to not talk about King Vijayabahu the first, it was under his rule that Polonnaruwa reached its highest glory. In 1070 the Indian Chola dynasty was overthrown by the Sinhalese Kingdom led by King Vijayabahu, who chose to keep Polonnaruwa as his capital. His successor to the throne was King Parakramabahu the first, he too ruled Polonnaruwa and made it flourish by building many beautiful parks, large buildings and a huge tank of water which stood at 25 Square Kilometers. The Third King of Polonnaruwa was King Nisanka Malla, despite his attempts to match his predecessor's achievements he ended up bankrupting the kingdom.
The Beautiful Cities glory faded in the early 13th Century and it was abandoned as the capital of Sri Lanka, it was then moved to the western side of Sri Lanka where Colombo stands today.
DEFINITE PLACES TO VISIT IN THE ANCIENT CITY OF POLONNARUWA:
The Archaeological Museum
The Royal Palace
The Swimming Pool
The Audience Hall
Dagaba Kiri Vihara
The Sacred Quadrangle
The Buddha Statue at Lankatilaka
The Buddha Figures at Gal Vihara
The Ruins of Polonnaruwa are quite easy to get around as it is in quite a compact area. They are a very interesting location to explore.