Polonnaruwa Vatadage


The Polonnaruwa Vatadage is an old structure located in a quadrangular region, Dalada Maluva in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka. The Vatadage holds most of southwestern Dalada Maluva and is prominent among other oldest and most sacred shrines. The Vatadge has a similar design to the structures relating to the Anuradhapura period, particularly Thuparamaya and Lankaramaya.
The Polonnaruwa Vatadage has two stone platforms enriched with elaborate stone carvings. The lower one is accessed through a single entry facing the north, while the second is entered by four doorways facing the four cardinal features. This floor houses the stupa, which is enclosed by brick walls. The Buddha statues are built around the wall facing the four cardinal features.

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Construction and Design of the Polonnaruwa Vatadage

The vatadage comprises two stone platforms adorned with intricate stone carvings that showcase the remarkable craftsmanship of the period. The lower platform, accessible through a single entrance facing north, is the foundation for the upper platform. The upper platform, encircled by a brick wall, houses a small stupa at its centre, flanked by four Buddha statues facing one of the four cardinal points.

While the existence of three concentric rows of stone columns supporting a wooden roof is debated among archaeologists, the overall design and layout of the Polonnaruwa Vatadage suggest the presence of such a structure. This arrangement would have provided an awe-inspiring setting for religious rituals and ceremonies.

Abandonment and Rediscovery

Following the decline of the Polonnaruwa Kingdom in the 13th century, the vatadage was abandoned and left in ruins for several centuries. However, it wasn't until 1903 that the site received attention when the renowned archaeologist Harry Charles Purvis Bell initiated excavation. Thanks to Bell's efforts and subsequent restoration, the Polonnaruwa Vatadage is today the best-preserved example of a vatadage in Sri Lanka, captivating visitors with its architectural splendour.

Historical Significance and Relics

The exact origins of the Polonnaruwa Vatadage continue to be a subject of debate among historians and archaeologists. Some attribute its construction to Parakramabahu I, while others argue that it was built or renovated by Nissanka Malla. However, regardless of its origins, the vatadage holds immense historical significance due to its association with the veneration of the Buddha and the relics it may have enshrined.

The Polonnaruwa Vatadage, located within the sacred area known as Dalada Maluva, played a crucial role in religious practices during the Polonnaruwa period. Its architectural grandeur and religious significance made it a focal point for devotees and pilgrims seeking spiritual solace.

Location and Features

Situated in the heart of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, the Polonnaruwa Vatadage commands attention within the Dalada Maluva quadrangular area, surrounded by other sacred monuments. Its prominent position and distinct circular design make it a captivating sight for visitors, immersing them in the rich history and cultural heritage of Sri Lanka.

Architectural and Artistic Features

The Polonnaruwa Vatadage boasts extraordinary architectural and artistic features that showcase the skills and ingenuity of ancient artisans. The intricate stone carvings, including the renowned sandakada pahanas (moonstone) and muragalas (guard stones) found at the entrances, testify to the detail and craftsmanship employed in its construction.

The stone columns, reminiscent of those seen in buildings from the Anuradhapura period, add grandeur to the vatadage. Though the presence of a wooden roof remains a subject of debate, the columns would have provided structural support and added to the overall splendour of the building. Additionally, the protective brick wall surrounding the vatadage protected the stupa, shielding it from external elements.

The Polonnaruwa Vatadage is an invaluable archaeological and cultural treasure in Sri Lanka. Its historical significance, stunning architectural features, and religious associations continue to captivate visitors and researchers alike. As a testament to the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa and its spiritual practices, the Polonnaruwa Vatadage allows us to delve into the rich history and architectural brilliance of Sri Lanka.


  1. What is the Polonnaruwa Vatadage?
    • The Polonnaruwa Vatadage is an ancient structure in Sri Lanka built during the Polonnaruwa Kingdom to enshrine sacred relics, possibly belonging to the Buddha.
  2. Who built the Polonnaruwa Vatadage?
    • The exact builders of the Polonnaruwa Vatadage are still debated, with theories attributing its construction to either Parakramabahu I or Nissanka Malla.
  3. What relics were enshrined in the vatadage?
    • The Polonnaruwa Vatadage was built to enshrine either the Relic of the tooth of the Buddha or the alms bowl used by the Buddha, making it a highly revered site.
  4. How was the vatadage rediscovered?
    • The Polonnaruwa Vatadage remained in ruins for several centuries until excavation work began in 1903 under the supervision of archaeologist Harry Charles Purvis Bell.
  5. Why is the Polonnaruwa Vatadage important today?
    • The Polonnaruwa Vatadage holds significant historical and cultural importance, providing insights into the ancient kingdom of Polonnaruwa and attracting visitors and researchers interested in Sri Lankan history and architecture.



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