Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum

Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum

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The Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum exhibits finds excavated from the medieval city of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO-listed site.

This is a great place to start a trip to Polonnaruwa, particularly as its models of the city’s buildings allow visitors to imagine how it would have appeared hundreds of years ago.

Moving through the museum, visitors can learn about this former capital by theme, with a highlight including a series of Chola bronzes.

History of Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum

The Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum provides an overview of what visitors can expect at the Polonnaruwa Archaeological Site through a display of artefacts and replica models of some of the archaeological sites.

One of these replica models includes a model of a dagoba (a monument to display a statue of Buddha), which is now only made up of pillars, but would have originally had a roof.

Highlights on display include a bronze chest, ancient medical tools, and bronze statues of Parvarti and Shiva Nataraja (the Hindu god, who is a divine dancer, and is depicted here standing on a baby), their baby Ganesh, and Sivakamasundari.

The exhibition goes into detail about three great kings of Sri Lanka and the civilisation, education, and religion that they brought to the people in the area of Polonnaruwa.

Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum Today

Today, visitors can enjoy the museum as an accompaniment to the entire Archaeological Site, which includes hundreds of thousand-year-old monuments – tombs and temples, stupas and statues – in amongst a sprawling forested area.

It is worth hiring a local guide for a more through level of detail and knowledge of the whole area, and taking a map of the whole World Heritage Site from the front desk of the museum to help guide you through the whole Archaeological Site is also recommended.

It is fascinating to consider that barely 5% of the old city has been excavated, and yet, between the Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum and the Archaeological Sites themselves, there is still a huge amount to see.

Getting to Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum

From the capital city Colombo, Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum is reachable in around 4 and a half hours by car, via the Ambepussa – Kurunegala – Trincomalee Hwy/Ambepussa – Trincomalee Hwy/Colombo Rd/Kandy Rd/A6 roads.

From within Polonnaruwa itself, the museum is a 30 minute walk via Maradankadawala-Habarana-Thirukkondaiadimadu Hwy/A11, or around 5 minutes by car via the A11.

For those who wish to deepen their knowledge of this historical period and its monuments, a particular highlight is Lankatilaka Vihara, an ancient and sacred Buddhist temple, which is a 5 minute drive and 45 minute walk from Polonnaruwa.

Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. It comprises, besides the Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, the monumental ruins of the fabulous garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Cité historique de Polonnaruwa

Seconde capitale de Sri Lanka après la destruction d'Anuradhapura en 993, Polonnaruwa comprend, à côté des monuments brahmaniques élevés par les Cholas, les restes monumentaux de la fabuleuse cité-jardin créée au XII e siècle par Parakramabahu le Grand.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

مدينة بولوناروا التاريخية

تحتضن بولوناروا التي اصبحت العاصمة الثانية لسريلانكا بعد الدمار الذي لحق بأنوردابورا عام 399 أنقاضاً ضخمة للمدينة الجنائزية الخلابة التي أسسها الكبير في القرن الثاني عشر، الى جانب نصب برهمانية شيدتها سلالة "الكولا".

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Древний город Полоннарува

Полоннарува стала второй столицей Шри-Ланки после разрушения в 993 г. Анурадхапуры. Помимо памятников брахманизма, построенных государством Чола, здесь находятся внушительные руины удивительного города-сада, созданного в XII в. при правлении Паракрамабаху I.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Antigua ciudad de Polonnaruwa

Segunda capital de Sri Lanka después de la destrucción de Anuradhapura en el año 993, la ciudad de Polonnaruwa posee una serie de monumentos brahmánicos edificados por la dinastía de los cholas, así los vestigios monumentales de la fabulosa ciudad-jardín creada en el siglo XII por Parakramabahu el Grande.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Oude stad van Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa werd de tweede hoofdstad van Sri Lanka, na de vernietiging van Anuradhapura in 993. In de immense stad zijn brahmaanse monumenten (gebouwd door de Chola’s, leerlingen van het brahmanisme) te vinden en ruïnes van de indrukwekkende tuinstad ontworpen door Parakramabahu I. De stad is bijzonder vanwege de ongewone afmetingen en de zeer bijzondere relatie tussen de gebouwen en de natuurlijke omgeving. De oude stad gold ook als een heiligdom van het boeddhisme en de Singalese geschiedenis vanwege de aanwezigheid van de tand van de Boeddha – talisman van de Singalese monarchie. De verwijdering van het relikwie bevestigde de ondergang van Polonnaruwa.

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About Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa is vast, huge and extremely impressive. It is also a well-planned city and site. Despite the turbulence back then with regard to the ruling king, it’s amazing how the city is so well-planned. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is divided into three main parts:

  • Inner city: This part is meant for the stay of the royal family and the highest officials of the kingdom. It comprised of an elaborate palace and council hall.
  • Outer city: It is in this part where the tooth relic of Buddha was once kept.
  • The outermost or Northern city: This part was meant for the monks and the general public. The monks were asked to live away from the kings but were close to the common people that would essentially feed them on a daily basis.

At the southernmost end of the city, there is a library and a statue of the last ruler, Parakramabahu.

History of Polonnaruwa

The best place to get information on history of Polonnaruwa and it's worth visiting. Recommended for both locals and foreigners.

You have to go to the museum to buy entrance tickets to the site. It is worth spending some time looking at the exhibits as they have models of whet the ruins must have looked like in their heyday.

A beautiful museum which houses an amazing bronze of Nataraja, and Parvati (in Tara Style) - Dont ever miss it. If you are from SAARC nation, show your passport and you get a 50% discount on the entry fee. (Like Sigriya)

History . (need to pay) but it's worth . The Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum exhibits finds excavated from the medieval city of Polonnaruwa, a UNESCO-listed site.

This is a great place to start a trip to Polonnaruwa, particularly as its models of the city’s buildings allow visitors to see what they would have looked like.

Moving through the museum, visitors can learn about this former capital by theme and the highlights include a series of Chola bronzes.

A vast network of National Museums and Archeological museums maintained by the government are scattered across the country and provides a fascinating glimpse into Sri Lanka’s deep rooted cultural heritage, natural history, and traditional folklore.

Polonnaruwa Museum

The Polonnaruwa Museum, which showcases historical artefacts excavated by the archaeological department of Sri Lanka over the past 100 years, offers insight into the history of Sri Lanka. A visit to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa is more meaningful if you visit the museum beforehand.

Polonnaruwa Museum located in the world heritage site of Polonnaruwa exhibits a fine collection of artefacts discovered at the site of Polonnaruwa. It is a part of most trips to Sri Lanka cultural triangle such as 5 days Sri Lanka cultural tour. The Polonnaruwa museum is relatively new and housed in a newly constructed building near Parakrama Samudra reservoir, built nearly 1000 years ago. Unlike Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa historical museum is the only museum to visit in the city.

Tucked within the borders of the Polonnaruwa UNESCO world heritage site, the location of the Polonnaruwa museum itself is a fantastic journey through the bygone era of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lankan religious order, engineering skills, and artistic capabilities of ancient artisans.

“This was buried under the soil,” said one of the museum caretakers at the Polonnaruwa museum, as he was standing near some of the precious artefacts, and overlooking the granite stone cistern nearby. “Some of the artefacts found in the site are yet to be identified,” told the caretaker while looking carefully around. He started to walk slowly, I was behind him until he came to the third part of the building, where the visitors can see a model of a building.

Seems to be a hostel with a large number of rooms, I murmured myself. “This was a hospital in the old city during the heyday of Polonnaruwa Kingdom (1056 to 1236 AD) “ broke the silence by my guide, simultaneously my curiosity vanished.

This room- now containing many stones and iron implements used in the hospital, he showed me several miniature knives like tools, some of them look like scissors presumably they had been used for operations. These implements must have been used for grinding, I asked him, by directing his eyesight into a granite stone with a hollow in the middle. “Yes, this had been used for grinding mixing and chopping plant-based ingredients need to make medicine”.

The restoration and conservation are still underway in many places of the old city and all, activities carried out under the purview of archaeological departments of Sri Lanka. After a multi-year extensive exploration, the archaeologists have been able to unearth a labyrinth- built by Sri Lankan kings during the medieval period.

Polonnaruwa the second capital of Ancient Sri Lanka tells not only the history of Sri Lanka but also the story of waves of invasions resulted due to the Indian power-hungry Indian kings. Most parts of the city were badly damaged during the invasions and palaces, houses, parks, temples, hospitals and temples were vandalized by the invaders.

The excavation in the old city began during the British colonial era (1796 to 1948 AD). A large number of excavations was carried out so far and discovered hundreds of valuable artefacts and tons of information about one of the greatest civilization existed on earth.

Some of the most popular places of Polonnaruwa are Audience hall of Nissankamalla, Palace of King Parakramabahu, Thuparama, Hetadage, Lankathilaka, quadrangle, Kirivehera, Galvihara and here is the sprawling Buddhist monastery complex, which is functioning as a popular pilgrimage site for around 100 of years.

‘” Archeological excavations are very important to understand how people lived we need archaeology to understand how things happened in the past and to understand our tradition,” Said my guide. “Visitors and local people need to see them.”

But until the Polonnaruwa museum was opened, it was not easy. A large number of artefacts discovered at the site was stored in the Colombo Museum and many other places elsewhere. Most of them were not available to the public, especially what was not stored in the museum.

One striking fact about the Polonnaruwa museum is that they try to show how exactly been the important structures such as the palace of King Parakramnabahu, Watadage, Hospital. “These models help us to figure out how the building looked like”, said one of the local visitors of the museum. “For instance the original structure of this Watadage, you can see only a few Buddha statues, the base of the building, parts of the circular wall and few granite pillars that were holding the roof”, said the visitor, pointing my attention to the nearby standing model.

A large number of buildings in Polonnaruwa historical city is in a very dilapidated condition because they were vandalized by the invaders, and after the downfall of Polonnaruwa kingdom, the city was neglected and encroached by the jungle.

Making these historical evidenced open to the public at the Polonnaruwa museum was a hailed by many local as well as foreign travellers. Same times many other archaeological museums were opened in other historical places such as Anuradhapura. These changes taking place on the island like Sri Lanka experiencing a surge in the tourism industry, with around 2 million visitors in 2018, unprecedented growth, according to the experts.

Archaeological Museum

The ancient capital city of Polonnaruwa is an important Buddhist archaeological site dating back to the 12th century. This brief introduction offers a visual idea of the architectural landscape when planning a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Be inspired by more Buddhist content at our main website, Buddhistdoor:

Narrative Text:
Throughout history in Sri Lanka, emperors of each dynasty deeply venerated Buddhism. We find in Polonnaruwa that different emperors built ornate palaces to enshrine the Buddha, Bodhisattvas and even housed the most precious Buddhist relics in one of the palaces. If you make a walk around the area, you will notice and appreciate that this is like an outdoor museum of Buddhist architecture.

Produced by Buddhistdoor (2010, 2013)

Hosted by Walter Ngai (on short-term monastic retreat)

Filmed on location in Sri Lanka by Scott Chan
Voiceover narration: Andrew Lau
Video editing: Herbert Ip
Graphic design: Dick Choi

Ravanhatta player in Jaisalmer (Rajastan, India) HD (worldstreetmusic.com)
Resignation by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Anuradhapura Archaeological Museum

Historical Inheritance Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka

Ancient City Polonnaruwa

Ancient City of Polonnaruwa (UNESCO/NHK)

Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993. It comprises, besides the Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas, the monumental ruins of the fabulous garden-city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century.

Source: UNESCO TV / © NHK Nippon Hoso Kyokai

Anuradhapura archeological museum

Polonnaruwa Museum

Best Attractions and Places to See in Polonnaruwa, Sir Lanka

Polonnaruwa Travel Guide. MUST WATCH. Top things you have to do in Polonnaruwa. We have sorted Tourist Attractions in Polonnaruwa for You. Discover Polonnaruwa as per the Traveler Resources given by our Travel Specialists. You will not miss any fun thing to do in Polonnaruwa.

This Video has covered Best Attractions and Things to do in Polonnaruwa.

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List of Best Things to do in Polonnaruwa

Gal Vihara
Polonnaruwa Vatadage
Polonnaruwa Archaeological Ruins
Sandakada Pahana
Weijantha Prasada
Somawathiya Chaitya
Archaeological Museum
King’s Council Chamber
Gal-potha Stone Book

Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum - History

In addition to educating the public on targets and aims of the Department, the need arose to exhibit antiquities collected by the Department of Archaeology to the public who visited the archeological sites. When the head office of the Department was shifted from Anradhapura in 1930, ancient coins which were in possession of the Department were handed over to the Colombo Museum, Certain stone carvings in possession of the Department were exhibited in the stone carvings section of the museum.

Stone carvings and clay items which were remaining at Anuradhapura were kept in display in two separate rooms in 1931 but viewers found it difficult to view them as the rooms were in two separate locations. Hence, in 1932 all the exhibits were arranged in one hall. By this time the Department felt that there should be a separate museum in Anuradhapura. The Department could find more and more antiquities very frequently but even by 1950, the Department of Archaeology could not take any attempt to establish a museum.

As stated by Dr. Senarath Paranvithana, during the correspondence made with the then Government Agent of Kurunegala, he had no objection of giving his official quarters to establish a museum. The department had its first public exhibition at Beddagana excavation site from 8th to 12th June 1949.

Establishment of archaeological museums took place in 1940s. Their peak period started in 1950. At the inception, they were known by the term “Puravidu Bhavana” (Archaeological Mansion). From the inception of the department up to 1940, the number of antiquities discovered by the department was very large. Until the establishment of the Archaeological Museum at Anuradhapura more elegant antiquities were handed over to the National Museum and the other antiquities were kept in the archaeological laboratory and stores while some others were haphazardly heaped at the sites where they were found. Hence, in 1947, Dr. Senarth Paranavithana pioneered the establishment of Puravidu Bhavana in Anuradhapura.

The term “Puravidu Bhavana” was in use upto 1952 when it was changed to Archaeological Museum

The Archaeological Museum at Dedigama bears testimony to the justification of exhibiting antiquities in the sites they were found which is the policy currently followed by the Department against the previous policy of exhibiting them in one centre removing them from their orginal sites (which reveal the actual position they held in the ancient culture).

With the inauguration of Archaeological museums the concept of regional archaeological museums evolved. Accordingly in 1962, the Ruwanweli Seya Museum was established under the title Naranwita Sumanasara Museum of stone Carvings. The Polonnaruwa Museum was established in the Public Services Sports Club Hall at Polonnaruwa in 1962. The Jaffna Museum which was maintained by the Department of National Museums was handed over to the Department of Archaeology which maintains it now.

Subsequently, the Kandy Museum was established in 1965, Sigiriya Museum in 1966 where as the Yapahuwa Museum had been initiated in 1966. The establishment of the Archaeological Museum for the Eastern Province took place in 1970. By 1979, archaeological museums were scattered all over Ampara, Isurumuniya, Mahiyangana, Kataragama and Ambalantota. Up to now there has been a rapid increase in the number of museums which are under control of the Department of Archaeology.

The Main objective of this exercise is to provide facilities for the public to gain knowledge and entertainment by following the principles of conservation, preservation, documentation and maintenance of antiquities of cultural value discovered by explorations, excavations and by communicating truly and actively to the public the knowledge, education and entertainment by means of preserving the objects, events and activities of the past.

Royal Palace – Vijayanta Prasada

The first monumental ruin you see when you enter the grounds of the Ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka is the royal palace of King Parakramabahu I. It is said in historical inscriptions that the royal palace with all its surrounding structures was built in the 11th century, when the country was ruled by the famed king and when the capital city of Polonnaruwa was in its prime.

From what is left of the main building of the palace, imagining a skyscraper which existed centuries ago, surrounded by royal court activities gives an accurate picture. Historical chronicles state that it consisted of 1,000 rooms which were spread over seven floors, and if this is accurate, it can be counted as one of the world’s earliest skyscrapers.

The royal palace is a massive brick structure which measures nearly 31m by 13m, with walls as thick as 3 meters. What is left of this colossal piece of architecture are the foundation and the brick walls which supported three floors out of the speculated seven floors.

There are giant holes in these brick walls which archaeologists speculate that horizontal wooden beams were installed to support the upper floors. Even though only a small part of the ancient grandeur still remains, it is truly fascinating how these structures were built during ancient times to a point that they are still standing centuries later.

Archaeological Museum

The museum gives a quick introduction of what to expect from the Polonnaruwa archaeological site. It mainly showcases the 3 great kings of Sri Lanka, and the civilisation, education and religion that they brought to the people.

Unfortunately you can’t take pictures inside the museum.

Near the place where you purchase tickets for the whole City.

There are many tout guides at the doorway and once you leave. You are also not allowed to take any photo even if for the writeups to read more on. The place is not recommended for the lacklustre service and respect for visitors.

Watch the video: Ancient Technology Museum - Polonnaruwa