The main attractions within the archaeological park of Polonnaruwa are oriented along a north-south line. This citadel with the royal palace is in the south, the former tooth temple are called Quadrangle in the centre and the main monastery Alahena Parivena further north. Just north of it is the group of rock-hewn Buddhas called Gal Vihara. Ist original name was Uttara Vihara, which translates to „northern monastery“.
However, there are two famous structures even further north, viz. the Tivanka statue house and the nearby charming lotus-shaped pond Nelum Pokuna. The Tivanka at the northern end of the road within the archaeological park is one of the three large-scale monuments of this type that is typical of the Polonnaruwa period, the other two being Thuparama in the Quadrangle and Lankatilaka in the Alahena Pirivene. Tivanka is remarkable for at least three reasons. The venerated main Buddha image is depicted in the Thribanga posture, which is called Tivanka in Sri Lanka. It’s the South Asian version of the contrapposto pose. It’s very common in India, but usually Hindu deities and not Buddhas are depicted in this posture. The Tribhanga is more often used in the art of Mahayana Buddhism than for Theravada sculptures, but the Theravada school otherwise became prevalent in Sri Lanka just during the Polonnaruwa period. The second main feature of the Tivanka tatue house is the existence of paintings. Actually, the murals are the largest and best-preserved from the Polonnaruwa period. They depict scenes from the Holy scruptures and demons in particular. A third remarkable featur of the Tivanka statue house in a frieze of funny Gana dwarfs at the outer wall. Ganas are known from the art of the earlier Anuradhapura period, but the Ganas at the Tivanka statue house are more three-dimensional and vivid and serve as the classical example of this sujet in Sri Lanka.
The nearby lotus-shaped pond is the only one of this kind that survived in South Asia. It’s small in size but of charming beauty. Don’t miss to see it when visiting Polonnaruwa.
The third building is less worth visiting, although it’s extraordinary. The small scrub-covered hill you will pass when travelling to the Tivanka temple and the Nelum bath is not natural. Originally it was a stupa of a specific wide and flat type that is typical of the Polonnaruwa period. This one, known as Demala stupa, was actually the largest stupa at all ever built in the world. But to be honest, what can be seen today is not impressive any more, as mentioned.
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka