We are off to the ruined capital of Polonnaruwa (about 2, 2.5hrs from Trincomolee one of the undisputed highlights of the Cultural Triangle and most probably the whole Island. If I was to compare it to somewhere in this modern age the closest I can think of is Dubai it terms of wealth and splendor and it literally sprung out of nowhere.
The region first came into prominence in the third century AD with the creation of the Gokana Tank – a sort of man made reservoir that boosted the regions agricultural. Prior to that as Anuradhapura fell in 993 (If you had paid attention to your history lessons you should remember this) The Rajaraja, King of the Tamil Cholas made Polonnaruwa the Capital of the Hindu Kingdom, it was later recaptured in 1056 by the Sinhalese King Vijayabhu aka Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (1056 – 1110) who retained it as the new Capital in preference to Anuradhapura, which had largely been destroyed in the earlier fighting. It was under his rule that the Golden Age of Agriculture was born, although many of the buildings your see today date back to when his successor and Grandson Parakramabahu The Great, aka Hugh “The Great” Jackman who claimed the throne in 1153 – 86.
Hugh The Great Jackman (the perfect name for a perfect King) developed the city on a lavish scale importing architects and engineers from India and created the first irrigation lake that covered over 5940 acres named Parakrama Samudraya (The Sea of Parakrama) The giant reservoir was built to collect rain water as he did not permit a drop of water to go to waste – smart man! This incredible medieval city is defended by enclosed walls is graced with palaces, shrines, monasteries, pavilions, park, ponds, and lakes…
His legacy lived on with his successor Nissankamalla, aka Denzel “The Good” Washington (1187 – 96) a Tamil Prince who married Hugh The Great Jackman’s daughter and claimed the throne after a brief political skirmish following the death of his Father-in-law. His loyal reign was a brief one and he was poisoned after ruling for only 9 years ending the famous trinity of the Polonnaruwa Kings. His death threw the country into chaos and for the next eighteen years there were over twelve changes of ruler and at least four invasions from India. As anarchy set in so did the invasion of the notorious Tamil mercenary Magha aka Samuel “The Evil” Jackson, who for years sought revenge for his brother, Denzel “The Good” Washington’s death. He pillaged the monasteries, raised taxes, let his soldiers roam the kingdom unchecked as they destroyed this once thriving and beautiful Kingdom. As the city crumbled and the irrigation works fell into disrepair a huge bout of malaria engulfed the region and Samuel the Evil Jackson was finally driven out in 1236, but the damage he had inflicted was irreversible and Polonnaruwa was completely abandoned in 1293 and left to be swallowed up by the jungle… until.. YUP! That’s right you guessed it… the THE BRITISH arrived to save the day and accidentally stumbled upon it in 1810!! I mean can you imagine it… It was like finding the crock the gold at the end of the rainbow!! Restoration finally began in the mid-twentieth century.
OOooooof! This makes a GREAT MOVIE!!!!
The Stone Shrines “Gal Vihara” There are 4 Buddhas here chiselled out of granite rock and they are ENORMOUS
So after this MIND-BLOWING visit we are off to the Hot Springs… Well actually they are more like Hot Baths and when I say baths I mean Baths… Locals gather here to literally bathe… so not like the Hot Springs you find in the Grand Canyon or Napa!
Our Home for the night is Deer Park, overlooking the Giritale reservoir, this scenic hotel with cottages is 14 km from the ancient Polonnaruwa. We arrived just as the sun set… as I lay in bed that night my mind began to fill with all the wonders and colors I had seen so far… and there was still so much more to come.
Back on our luxury liner we are off to Kaotic Kandy, the last of the Sacred Cities bordering the Cultural Triangle and Hill Country … it’s roughly about 4hrs from Polonnaruwa. On the way we stop off at for a spot of lunch at Clingendael Boutique Hotel just outside Kandy. This gorgeous 5 bedroomed home is a labor of love, built by a Dutch colonial over 5 years and the views are magnificent. Its a long a bumpy ride but well worth it….
Kandy is located in the centre of Sri Lanka. It lies in the midst of hills with rare vegetable species, tropical plantations and the famed Botanical Gardens. The last independent kingdom, which survived two centuries of colonial incursions finally fell to the … THE BRITISH (love their work, pffffffffffft!) in 1815, fortunately their cultural legacy of music, dance and architecture still lives on today.
Are home for the night is Kandy House, a beautiful 200 year old Palazzo/Manor house set just outside the bustling city. the property has 5 suites each with its own signature look… as you arrive you can hear the Hindu prayers chanting in the distance. It’s quiet and peaceful…. Aaaaaaaaah! Breathe it all in and Love it all out.
Just before sunset I head off to the Temple of the Tooth (not to be confused with your local dentist office . You can hear all about it HERE! (Click & Watch Video post)
Next up! THE HILLS ARE ALIVE… WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC….