The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is one of the oldest cities of recorded history. It has always been a centre of great dynasties, diverse culture, history, art and religion. Its records date back to the 1st century B.C. It was one of the great capitals of Sri Lanka from the eleventh to the thirteenth century B.C.
The various statues, frescoes and other works of art that came out of this era have been known for its workmanship. The great kings’ of the time were very invested in developing the culture of the village folk as well as developing local agriculture. They pioneered in building a series of large lakes or “Wevas” that stand even to this date, providing water to the many generations of villagers who followed. Parakrama Samudraya or the Sea of Parakrama so named for its massive size is one such example. It was built under the patronage of King Parakramabahu, who ruled Polonnaruwa during its golden age. The lake was named so because people had not seen how big the sea really was, and so named this mammoth of a lake as the sea.
A historian would really love Polonnaruwa. Many of the hotels and guest houses of the area will be able to organize guided tours to visit all the important historical landmarks. Most of the tours span over a few days, giving all the participants a lot of time to really wander around the area and really soak up all the sights and the history lessons that follow.
Another interesting place to visit would be the Minneriya national park. The wildlife and beautiful nature trails would be a good change of pace as opposed to the tar roads and skyscrapers everyone is used to. A guided tour inside the national park can be easily arranged with the hotel you are staying at.
While in Polonnaruwa, there are so many more historical places to visit. With history, there is also an art that is intertwined into it. During the many invasions the city faced over the years, the foreign invaders introduced their own spin to an already existing palette. One example would be the moonstone carving passed down from the Anuradhapura era. When this carving reached the Polonnaruwa era, it was missing certain elements, mainly the cow image from its semicircular carving. This is because the South Indian invaders at the time believed that the cow was a sacred animal and they removed it out of respect. Such has been the history of this great civilization.