Polonnaruwa is the ancient capital of Sri Lanka from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries and the repository of outstanding ruins, frescoes and enormous statues of reclining Buddhas. The ruins of the old city are on the shores of Lake Topawewa, man-made during the reign of a twelfth century king—a huge task, when one considers it was accomplished with nothing but manual labor. What remains of the ancient city itself is a cluster of palaces and temples contained within a rectangular city wall. The foundations of the royal palace and the king's audience hall are particularly well preserved.
An outstanding site in Polonnaruwa is the Galyhare, also known as the Cave of the Spirits of Knowledge. It is an outdoor rock wall where giant standing and reclining sculptures of the Buddha were carved out of the living rock.
These four pieces of sculpture were commissioned by Parakramabahu. The first is of a seated Buddha in deep meditiation, seated on a throne decorated with lions and thunderbolts. The second is inside of a cave and records in detail Parakramabahu's initiatives to unite the Buddhist order.