This is a second Sinhalese kingdom after Anuradhapura. It is considered as medieval capital of Sri Lanka. Mostly because of the Alahana Pirivena Monastery Complex. UNESCO declared this ancient city also as a world Heritage Site. The South Indian Chola Empire conquered Anuradhapura kingdom, and established its capital in Polonnaruwa in 1017AD and ran for 53 years until 1070AD. After the Cholas were expelled, the Sinhalese kings too selected Pollonnaruwa as their capital & ran the kingdom for nearly two centuries until 1215AD. Once again a South Indian invader called Magha conquered Pollonnaruwa in 1215AD, and with his atrocious rule, the Sinhala nobility drifted to the South West and established Kingdoms in Damadeniya and Yapahuwa.
ALAHANA PIRIVENA MONASTERY COMPLEX
This Monastery complex is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO. Alahana means Adahana, which is similar word for cremation. Pirivena means an education Centre, since it was established on a crematory ground, this name was given. King Parakramabahu of Pollonnaruwa, one of the most prominent kings in 800 years before built this Monastery to uplift the knowledge of the monks at that time. The most prominent feature in this site is Lankathilake Image House and two stupas Kiri Vehera and Pabalu Vehera and Baddasema Prasada the Chapter house.
LANKATHILAKE IMAGE HOUSE
The name Lankathilake means beauty spot of Sri Lanka, such a beautiful image house. This is probably the tallest image house. According to the chronicles, this was a five story building. A colossal 55 feet standing Buddha statue made out of bricks is found here. The posture of Buddha statue here is called “Thribanga” bended in three places.
This was built by King Parakramabahu to the honor of his queen Subadra. It is the only ancient stupa where you can see the intact plaster and it was intact nearly for 800 years. It is known of Kirivehera because of its white color. Kiri in Sinhala means milk, milk is white.
BADDASEMA PRASADA (CHAPTER HOUSE)
This is the chapter house of Alahana Pirivena Monastery complex, and it is the largest Chapter House in Sri Lanka. As per the chronicles it was a12 story building. “ Sima” in Sinhala means limits. There are two rows of nicely decorated stone pillars have been placed in the entrance to demarcate the entry limits. Even the king cannot enter there without permission from Chief Monk, when the disciplinary matters are being discussed in the Chapter House. This is built on the highest place in ancient Pollonnaruwa city.
GAL VIHARAYA (ROCK MONASTERY)
This is also known as Uththararamaya which means northerly Monastery. This was also built by great king Parakramabahu 800 years ago. Here you can see Four Buddha Images nicely carved out from a single natural rock. To the most left is a statue of seated Buddha in deep meditation, both postures. The next statue is inside the rock cut cave ,both the pillars of the entrance of the rock cut cave and the Buddha Image are carved in to the rock which is not an easy task. The next one is the standing image of Buddha. It’s very rare posture. The cross hand depicts Universal Kindness. The last but not least is the reclining or recumbent image of Buddha. As a whole, the rock temple is a masterpiece of work by Sri Lankan ancient artists.
This is a circular shape Tooth Relic Temple built by king Parakramabhu in 12th century AD. This is beautiful round shape building with chronicle roof placed on granite pillars, and it is not easy to construct a round shaped building. There are beautifully decorated fully fledged multi -layer entrances. Four rare Buddha statues have been placed in four cardinal directions, in the second level of the Chamber. All the inside wall of the Relic Chamber have been plastered and painted.
GALPOTHA (STONE BOOK)
Galpotha means the stone book. King Nissankamalla gets this done in 12th century AD. There are 3 pages demarcated, altogether 4200 letters in 72 rows .These letters are 12th century Sinhalese language. This huge stone was carried over 70kms to bring here.
“Sathmahal” means seven storied and “Prasadaya” means a massive building. This is very unusual style of stupa found in Sri Lanka. This style of stupas is found in Thailand, which indicates that we had foreign relationships even in 12th century AD.
This is a Hindu Shrine built at the entrance of Pollonnaruwa ancient city, by Cholas the South Indian invaders in 11th century AD. This is fully granite building with vaulted roof.
PARAKRAMABAHU STATUE IN POTHGUL VEHERA, MONASTERY COMPLEX
The Pothgul Vehera or library monastery takes its name from the circular library building situated in the Monastery complex. It is believed to be the oldest library in Sri Lanka, built in 12th century AD. A well -planed building and a well- planed landscaping is a new concept of architecture.
At the entrance of the Monastery we find one of the rare Lay Statue. Some scholars say it is a figure of Sage, while others say it is a statue of great king Parakramabahu.
KING PARAKRAMABAHU PALACE
It is the kings’ palace built inside the Royal Palace complex. King Vijayabahu the great, built first palace in the citadel, later it was torched. At this same site you can see the other ruins of seven storied palace built by king Parakramabahu the great. According to the inscriptions it has taken 7 years and 7 months to build this massive building with 1000 chambers. It had been built in 12th century nearly 800 years ago, still some parts remains after the mass destruction of the South Indian Invaders.
PARAKRAMABAHU AUDIENCE HALL
This is the audience hall of king Parakramabahu of 12th century AD. This building was purposely elevated from the ground to show the majesty. It is 100% granite structure fixed with interlock system without using any Mortar. There are freeze of lions, elephants and gnomes carved out on the stone blocks, which is an interesting feature to see here.
The Parakrama Samudraya or “Sea of Parakrama” gigantic reservoir constructed by king Parakramabahu in 12th century by combining three earlier reservoirs . It is an amazing piece of construction that impresses the vast skill of ancient engineers.
DIMBULAGALA RAJA MAHA VIHARAYA
There is an elegant range of mountain adjacent to Mahaweli River called Dimbulagala situated 16kms away from Pollonnaruwa. The premises were earlier a settlement of Vadda people. There are hundreds of caves cut into the rock with Brahmi inscriptions below their drip ledges. The stupa is on top of the rock and visitors can explore most of these caves on their way to the stupa. Once climb and visit the stupa, you can get a fantastic panoramic view of the surrounding penny plains.
Medirigiriya Watadage is the most popular circular Relic Chamber in Sri Lanka. This watadage is on a high circular stage on top of a small hill. It has three circles of concentric pillars. Around the outer most circles of stone pillars is a decorated stone wall. All stone pillars in this watadage are still standing. Four large seated Buddha statues are built facing the four directions. This is a flight of granite steps to climb up to the watadage,
Recent excavations made in this premises have revealed many important ruins, Buddha statues rock carvings, stupas and hospital with medicine baths which are worth seeing.
SOMAWATHI CHETHIYA (STUPA)
This is very important religious and historical place for Buddhists, mostly because of its stupa built in 2nd century BC enshrining the Right Tooth Relic of Buddha. It is situated inside the Somawathi National park, by the bank of the Mahaweli River. The “Flood Plains” at Mahaweli River have been inhibited by a large number of wild animals.
It is believed that one of the only two Tooth Relic of Buddha is existing in the world is at Somawathi and other one is at Kandy Daladha Maligawa. Archeologists have found many ruins and artifacts during their excavations here.
Habarana is a great location for history lovers and nature lovers. It is a unique location; it is very near to many world heritage sites. Anuradhapura & Pollonnaruwa ancient cities, Sigiriya rock Fortress, and Dambulla Rock Cave temple. It is also closer to National Wildlife Parks such as Minnariya, Kaudulla and Hurulu Weva Eco Park, which have a huge population of elephants. This area has luxurious nature friendly hotels as well. Obviously it is well famous among tourists and locals.
There are many places which organize Elephant Safaris and Village Tours including traditional authentic foods. They also organize camping too. There are many indigenous medical centers, which provide unique indigenous medical treatments and therapies. Ballooning is a recently added adventures activity here.
Ritigala is an isolated sudden range of mountains in the penny plains situated 11 kms away from Habarana. It has long history dated back to 177 BC. It is the highest mountain in North Central Province (2514) feet. Ruins of an underground tunnel which led to Anuradhapura can be seen in the vicinity. There are number of caves granite Buddha statues and ancient inscriptions. The “Bandha Pokuna” built by king Pandukabhaya in 307 BC lies at the entrance. It is said that the king had been hiding from his uncles who were trying to kill him. During this period, he built his palace here and carried the battle against his uncles. The king donated the palace to the Buddhist monks after he won the battle. Ritigala has a connection to the epic of Ramayana as well.
Ritigala range of mountains is rich with bio- diversity. There are about 20 species of mammals, 100 species of birds, and 25 species of reptiles living in the forest. It has a rare species of herbal plants, hence declared as a strict frost reserve.
The range of mountains here has different environment conditions due to its varying height. Therefore climate conditions from dry to wet weather. Hence the flora & fauna here bear very special characteristics. It has been recorded over 400 species of plants.