Jananathamangalam [Polonnaruwa] has gained its place in UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. It is one of the oldest and great places in Sri Lanka. It was built by the Chola King, Vijayabahu. Later, King Parakramabahu built a giant reservoir, Samudra, across 2500 acres and built the beautiful city around it, a city with a grand palace, several building complexes, parks, places of worship, etc. From Kandy, via Minneriya National Park, it is 140 km to Jananathamangalam.
It is also known as Sri Lanka’s oldest second capital. It is a heaven for people who are interested in gaining historical and cultural knowledge. The major attraction of this place is the royal palace with 1000 rooms. The first thing we see in Jananathamangalam is a large museum. From here, we get an idea about the buildings, palatial edifices as well as the culture of those days.
The museum has a large collection of ornaments, weapons, utensils, etc. that were used in olden days. Photography inside the museum is not permitted. It takes at least 2 days to see the whole of Jananathamangalam. It is better to either take an auto or a cycle for rent or some other small vehicle for sightseeing. From the museum, I went ahead to visit Vijayabahu Palace which was built around A.D. 1153-1186. What is left of the palace today is just the raised floor and some pillars.
Dhyana Buddha Statue
One gets to see the ruins of the large palace everywhere. On one side of the palace, there is a pool with pretty enclosures made of stone blocks. Near this is the council chamber that has balusters. Next is the splendid royal pool, water flows through underground channels and from the mouth of a beautiful dragon, it flows into the pool filling it up.
One cannot help sighing on the sight of utter destruction, like Hampi in Karnataka. Travelling 2 km from palace complex, we reach Gal Vihara, a Buddhist temple.
The main attraction here is 3 Buddha statues carved into the face of a large granite rock. The first one that we see is dhyana Buddha statue, which is 15 feet tall. In a nearby cave, there is a 4-feet tall Buddha statue, this is a temple. Here, we can see followers of Buddhism conducting prayers and offering flowers. Next to the temple is another beautiful Buddha statue which is 43 feet tall and with a serene face.
Then comes a 46-feet-tall carved image of Buddha sleeping on one arm. It is amazing that these statues have been carved on a single, large granite rock face. At a short distance from Gal Vihara is located the Parakramabahu Palace. Only the pillars and floor are seen.
As we go ahead, we can see the monastery complex spread across 35 hectares of land. Rankoth Vehara is the biggest creation in the complex. It is a white-colored stupa that resembles a bell and is as high as a 3-storied building.
Next is a statue of Buddha that stands between 2 huge walls which are 60 feet high and 20 feet wide. The statue is beautiful and creative and is 50 feet high. It is made of bricks. To the front of this lie the ruins of a mandapa with several pillars. In the monastery complex, there are all kinds of amenities like hospital, market, Buddha Temple, pools, etc.
Statue Of Buddha Made Using Bricks
The special feature of Jananathamangalam is that everything is made out of a type of bricks. The only things that survive are some Buddha statues and pools. I saw only the important sites and that took me 3 to 4 hours. Leaving the history and kingdom of Parakramabahu, I started my journey back home.