Sri Lanka’s royal medieval capital in 1073, the well-preserved ruins of Polonnaruwa are one of the country’s most prominent cultural sites. First a military base for invading South Indian Chola tribes until King Vijayabahu overthrew them in 1070, Polonnaruwa was subsequently developed into a city by King Parakramabahu I and it became the country’s capital city until the late 13th century.
The ancient city is in remarkably good nick and is a fascinating cultural site to visit, home to ruins of a palace, an enormous dagoba, stunning statues and a striking building which has such unusual architecture that it is still unexplained by historians today. Some of the most impressive ruins are the sculptures at the Gal Viahara, which were cut into granite stone in the middle of the 12th century. The entire sculpture consists of four colossal statues of Buddha - a samadhi image in meditation posture; a seated Buddha image inside a cave; a standing Buddha image which is 23ft in height, and recumbent Buddha image measuring 46ft which depicts the passing away.