Polonnaruwa was a great city in Sri Lanka which came in to prominence during its’ brief period of 2 Centuries of Sri Lankan history, being second only to the ancient city of Anuradhapura in ancient cultural heritage.
Polonnaruwa is 216 kMs from Colombo and 122 kMs from Kurunegala. Most common way to reach Polonnaruwa is to come to Habarana and then turning off along A11 Road [Maradankadawala-Tikkandimadu] and to proceed about 45 kMs to come to Polonnaruwa.
Polonnaruwa today is a showcase of the great ancient Sri Lankan architecture dating back to 12th Century AD ,which was interwoven with many Buddhist monasteries and monuments which were built by the King Parakramabahu I. Later King Nissankamalla (1187-1196 AD ) from Kalinga dynasty also had contributed to the development of many buildings and monuments at Polonnaruwa.
During the Anuradhapura period around 1st to 6th Century AD, , there has been agricultural developments with irrigation work and constructions such as Elahera canal,Minneriya tank, Kaudulla tank, Giritale tank etc. at Polonnaruwa area. The Anuradhapura kingdom’s ruling King’s army units were also stationed at Polonnaruwa . It had not been a major city at that time. King Aggabodhi IV ( 667-685 AD) was the First King who lived in Polonnaruwa and ruled the Anuradhapura Kingdom. In the earlier times this city was called as Pulatthinagara, after a famous sage, Pulasti which gives an indication of the Hindu influence existed.
King Parakramabahu I , was the greatest King who ruled Polonnaruwa during the Polonnaruwa era for 33 years from 1153-86 AD and it had been a prosperous time for the entire island nation. It was a time with numerous architectural activities which one can still see even in the present time. He developed the city with architects and technicians brought down from India and the influence of the Indian architecture can be seen from many well preserved sites existing today.Polonnaruwa Architecture, Art and Sculpture is well displayed at Gal Viharaya,Thuparamaya Image House and Lankatilaka Image House and many other sites scattered through out Polonnaruwa ancient city.
Due to invasions from the Cholas of South India, the Polonnaruwa kingdom was under the rule of Cholas for about 73 years. Polonnaruwa kingdom was abandoned by Sinhala kings in the latter part of the 12th century.
Famous places like Sigiriya,Medirigiriya, Somawathie, Dimbulagala and Buduruwayaya are not far away from Polonnaruwa so can be reached without much difficulty.