Polonnaruwa Vatadage

Belonging to the cultural triangle of the island that houses the most amount of cultural and ancient imperial sites of Sri Lanka, the Polonnaruwa Vatadage which means 'the circular house of relic in Polonnaruwa' is located in the Hall of Relic known as the Dalada Maluwa in Polonnaruwa.  While there are a number of muses housed within the premises, the Polonnaruwa Vatadage stands apart owing to the reason that this one of the most unique constructions in the architecture of ancient Sri Lanka.

A vatadage is an illustrious edifice built around a stupa that is constructed to either mark the location as hallowed ground or for the purpose of enshrining a relic of importance in the Buddhist culture.  Established in the acclaimed cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, the Polonnaruwa Vatadage is one of the best examples for such structures in Sri Lanka.

Dating back to the era of the Polonnaruwa Kingdom, the Polonnaruwa Vatadage is believed to have been constructed to protect the stupa which enshrined either the relic of the tooth of the Buddha during the period of King Parakramabahu the Great or the alms bowl used by the Buddha during King Nissanka Mallas time.   As both these relics were an integral aspect of the Sinhalese society and culture during this period, this is deduced to have been a place of immense importance and significance.

This glorified stone structure that reflects the superior skill and craftsmanship is exquisitely detailed with intricate stone carvings, statues and imperial columns.  The stupa at the centre of the vatadage is guarded by four Buddha statues carved from stone facing the four cardinal directions.  Each statue marks its own entrance to the central point. 

As those interested in architecture and archaeology will find out, the Polonnaruwa Vatadage boasts of beautifully carved moonstones known as the Sandakada Pahana.  Laid out at the entrance of the vatadage, this carving seems like an intricately detailed welcome mat to those venturing out to explore this remarkable construction.  The guard stones called the ‘mura gala’ in the vernacular that stands on either side of the Sandakada Pahana are also a noteworthy example of the craftsmanship of ancient Sri Lanka. 

The Polonnaruwa Vatadage stands as a monumental testimony to an enriched Sri Lanka in days bygone.  As experience will confirm, one could still step into the astounding world of the ancient monarchs, immersing themselves in the echoing whispers that tells of tales of battles and victories, devotion and beliefs.

Title image by: Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau
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