About Polonnaruwa Royal Palace
The Polonnaruwa Royal Palace was the once grand residence of King Parakramabahu (1153-1186).
At its peak, the Polonnaruwa Royal Palace would have been a complex of buildings, some as high as seven storeys. What remains now are a pretty set of ruins, with some walls still standing.
Just south of the main palace, one can see the remains of the king’s audience hall and his bathing pools.
History of Polonnaruwa Royal Palace
The Royal Palace, also known as the Vijayotpaya, is situated in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. It was built by King Parakramabahu the Great in the late 1100s, and would have been seven stories high, which would be as tall as the 7-story Equitable Life Building in New York, which was built in 1870.
This grandeur is reflected in its name, as the palace was originally called the ‘Palace of God Sakra’, which perhaps indicates that there was a need at the time to equate the King’s status with that of a god.
The basic floor plan of the Palace is similar to that of the 12th century Vijayabahu palace at Anuradhapura and the palaces at Panduvasnuvara and Yapahuwa. Today, there are three levels of bricks that remain with holes dotted an equidistance around, which would have likely been used for wooden beams that would have delineated the different floors.
The Mahavamsa – a epic poem and historical chronicle written in 5 AD in the Pali language – records that the palace had 1000 rooms. This seems unlikely. However, there is evidence that both rooms in the palace and buildings in the complex that surrounded it would have been used for rituals, entertainment, and storage, as well as lodgings for aides. There is evidence that the palace may have been destroyed by fire.
Polonnaruwa Royal Palace Today
Today, visitors can enjoy the ruins of the Royal Palace, and imagine what it would have been like at the height of its grandeur.
It is recommended that visitors arrive at the palace early to avoid large crowds. It’s also advised that you don’t take pictures with your back turned to Buddha in order to avoid causing offence.
It’s a good idea to check out Polonnaruwa Archaeological Museum before you visit any of the sites, as it displays artefacts and provides detailed context to the whole ancient city, which includes a scale model of the Polonnaruwa Council Chamber.
Getting to Polonnaruwa Royal Palace
From the capital city Colombo, Polonnaruwa Royal Palace 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.
The Palace itself is reachable from the centre of Polonnaruwa in around half an hour by foot, or around 5 minutes by car – though you won’t be allowed too close, as cars are banned at the site. It’s a good idea to rent a bicycle to quickly travel between the different sites, which you can do from the site itself.