Polonnaruwa

  Polonnaruwa - Culture and agriculture
  Admittedly Sri Lanka history is still a bit hazy for us.  What we have kept is that the capital changed place quite a few times, depending on security issues and shifts in economic importance.  Polonnaruwa (a UNESCO world heritage site) was Sri Lanka's capital for about three centuries with the city abandoned in the 13th century.  The city at its heyday housed Buddha's tooth relic in a dedicated temple whose ruins can still be visited.
 
Despite the long ride from Dambulla, the scenic route through alternating vistas of lakes, luscious jungle and laborers in rice fields was justification enough for making the trip.  Even without the pleasant drive, our visit to Polonnaruwa was very rewarding.  First we toured the edge of the 12th century man made lake.  People taking their afternoon bath lined the shore and children played about noisily.
  We purchased tickets (US$ 25 adult, children half price) from the museum and spend about half an hour looking at the exhibits there.  Our driver took us then to the ancient site and surprisingly drove the vehicle past the entrance gate and very near the Royal Palace. 
As the site runs a few kilometers from end to end we appreciated greatly being able to move about in our minivan.  We saw other tourists go around in rented bikes and that's probably a better option than going on foot.  Polonnaruwa is indeed a vary interesting site with what one must have been magnificent structures in magical surroundings.  The Royal Baths are in a condition that one could probably still use them and the range of stone carvings seen all over the place show the excellent skills of the artisans that were employed to make them.  The circular relic temple is an outstanding building and the well preserved Ramkot Vihara is truly a stupendous Stupa.  Monkeys roam the area and their antics proved an entertaining distraction while touring Polonnaruwa.
  
Of course no self respecting Sri Lankan site is not complete without a huge Buddha statue and the most impressive of them all is the reclining one in a state of Nirvana in the North area of the site.  We were quite lucky to see a group of Sri Lankans praying in front of that statue.  It was a reminder that even though for us this was a tourist site, for them this is still a religious site commanding great respect.
  There are a number of other important structures and sights in the Polonnaruwa area but unfortunately it was not possible for us to see them.  Of note are the ceremonial lotus pond, an unfinished mega Stupa and the ruins of another palace.  A minimum of three hours are needed to see Polonnaruwa in not too great a detail.

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