We spend the afternoon visiting Polonnaruwa, one of the highlights of the Cultural Triangle. The City functioned as the capital from 10 AD – 12 AD and ruined temples, palaces, Buddha Statues as well as various tanks built for irrigation dot the landscape.
There are a number of cultural practices that must be observed while taking in the sites. Besides removing shoes and any headgear, one is also required to walk clockwise around any temple and not turn your back to the Budda Statue if possible. I don’t think this practice is strictly observed as there seems to be a statue at the head of every staircase.
One of the highlights of a visit to Polonnaruwa is the visit to Gal Vihare. There are 4 statues of the Buddha from various stages of his life. The first statue represents the time he gave up his life of luxury as a Prince at 29, the second statue represents his enlightenment at age 35 after 6 years of life as an ascetic. The third statue is one of the Buddha standing and is very impressive. It represents his selfless love for the people and the period he spent teaching the doctrines of Buddhism. The fourth statue is that of a reclining Buddha and represents his death.
We have learnt lots in this city of incredible architecture, religious fervour and tradition. Here’s one example - the moonstone at the entrance to most religious temples. This photograph was taken at the quadrangle in Pollonaruwa, a place that reminded us of the Roman Forum.
Originally from India and carved in concentric half circles it’s purpose is to concentrate the mind of the worshipper when entering a temple. The half circles represent the spiritual journey from the endless succession of death and re-birth to Nirvana.
On the outside are the flames of desire. Next come the geese which represent discernment because of their ability to distinguish between milk and water followed by various Buddhist animals. The elephant symbolising birth, the horse representing old age, the lion illness and the bull death and decay. These are the endless cycles of death and re-birth and in the centre is a lotus flower that represents enlightenment.