Polonnaruwa is the second most ancient of Sri Lanka's kingdoms, and was established as the Capital of Sri Lanka in the 11th Century. King Vijayabahu the 1st was the first king and he ruled that Polonnaruwa be made the Capital in the year 1073, after he defeated the Chola invaders from South India in 1070 and he united the country. However, records show that it was King Parakramabahu I that developed trade and agriculture. He declared that not a single drop of water from the heavens should be wasted without being used for the land. This is why the irrigation systems in Polonnaruwa are extremely superior to those of other cities and are still being used for paddy cultivation during the dry seasons of the East. The principal project in this system was the huge lake called “Parakrama Samudraya” meaning, Parakrama Ocean. King Parakramabahu ruled from 1153 to 1186 and this period was called the golden age of Polonnaruwa and was completely self-sufficient at this time. Polonnaruwa was Sri Lanka’s capital until the late 13th century.
Gal Vihara is a rock temple of the Buddha situated in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. It was fashioned in the 12th century by Parakramabahu I. The ruins of Polonnaruwa are awe-inspiring with sculptures of Lord Buddha cut into the granite stone in the Gal Vihara. One long slab of granite has been sculpted into four separate images. The sculpture of the standing Buddha is 7 meters tall and is the finest. Then there is the 14m long reclining Buddha which is impressive with a pillow under the head and a wheel symbol on the pillow end.
Don’t fail to visit the Archaeological Museum, the ruins of the Royal Palace, the famous 4m Statue said to be that of King Parakramabahu, Lankathilaka,Tivanka Image House, Thuparama Gedige, Rankot Vihara, etc.