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"Polonnaruwa The Medieval capital of Sri Lanka"

The history of early Sri Lanka was very carefully recorded and written down by monks.

The Mahavamsa (Great Chronicle) records the earlier period of the Sri Lankan, and Chulavamsa (lesser Chronicle), gives an accurate picture of the 'Polonnaruwa' period.

King Aggabodhi IV

PolonnaruwaFrom this chronicle we learn that Aggabodhi IV (667 - 685) AD was the first Sri Lankan King who lived in Polonnaruwa, and the town came gradually to become the 'Country Residence' of royalty. Anuradhapura, the formal and administrative capital, was already a thousand years old, and kings increasingly favoured the new city of Polonnaruwa, and developed it. However it was the Cholas of South India who made Polonnaruwa the capital after looting and burning Anuradhapura in 993 AD.

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King Vijayabahu I

In 1070 AD the Sinhala King Vijayabahu I liberated the country by defeating the Cholas, and kept Polonnaruwa as his capital. Vijayabahu succeeded in repairing much of the irrigation system in the island, encouraged trade and brought some prosperity back to the country.

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King Parakramabahu I

PolonnaruwaKing Parakramabahu I (1153-86) raised Polonnaruwa to its heights. He erected huge buildings, drained swamps and planted vast areas with crops, planned beautiful parks, created wildlife sanctuaries, restored earlier monuments & even undertook military expeditions against Burma and India.

However his crowning achievements were the creation of the 2400 hectare tank (about 15 Km2), so large it was named the Parakrama Samudra (Sea of Parakrama); and the unification of the three orders of monks, the Maha vihara, Jetavana and Abhayagiri into one Sangha or 'Supreme Order of Monks'. The greatness of his achievement was to ensure the survival of Buddhism in the dark centuries ahead.

Parakramabahu was the last great king of Sri Lanka.

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King Nissankamalla

PolonnaruwaKing Nissankamalla (1187 - 96), although claimed himself to be a great builder, was not. And squandered most of the country's wealth trying to match his predecessor's deeds.

The decline of Polonnaruwa

After Nissankamalla's death, Polonnaruwa went to decline, civil war, lawlessness and constant invasions from the South Indian Chola Empire, and Malay barbarians who sacked the city several times, virtually destroyed the social structure and religious order of the country. A whole century after this were the 'Dark Ages' of Sri Lanka, a century from which few historical records survive.

The capital was shifted to Kurunegala, and Polonnaruwa returned to the jungle; it's great reservoirs survived as a series of swampy lakes, and its large brick buildings became lost under thick tropical forest. The Portuguese are said to have raided and looted Polonnaruwa, but by the early nineteenth century the site was completely lost.

In the early years of this century the main monuments of the ancient city were uncovered. Today, conservation and excavations continue, as part of the work of the Cultural Triangle.

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