Shiva Devalaya Temple – Polonnaruwa


Shiva Devalaya Temple in Polonnaruwa, one of the 14 Hindu shrines, is devoted to God Shiva in Polonnaruwa. This shrine was built by Chola intruders who ruled ancient Sri Lanka through the 13th hundred AD. The shrine is found in Polonnaruwa and between the royal palace of the King and the sacred quadrangle. The devalaya is complete stonework and a pandyan design style construction.
Moreover, this is a witness to say that South Indian aggression also influenced the Hinduism and Hindu culture in Sri Lanka. Now, the ruined devalaya is attached to the ruined buildings around the old city of Polonnaruwa. You will find a particular item or a place named Shiva lingam. Both Hindu devotees and pilgrims yet worship it. Devotees believe that women can have babies as a consequence of worshipping Shiva Lingum.The roof built over the shrine is not today, and it was nearly finished with bricks and stones. Sri Lanka has been a multicultural and multinational nation in the past.

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1. The Chola Empire and the Temples of Polonnaruwa

1.1 The Chola Empire's Dominance in Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa thrived under the rule of the South Indian Chola Empire during the late 9th century AD. The Cholas constructed numerous temples dedicated to Lord Shiva in this region, showcasing their cultural and religious influence.

1.2 The Enduring Legacy of the Shiva Devalaya Temple

Despite the passage of time and foreign invasions, the Shiva Devalaya Temple has managed to preserve its historical and architectural significance. This temple exemplifies the fusion of Hinduism and Buddhism, highlighting the cultural interplay between these two faiths.

2. Exploring the Shiva Devalaya Temple

2.1 The Vishnu Temple: Naipena or Cobra Hood Vihara

The Vishnu Temple, also known as Naipena or Cobra Hood Vihara, is near the Shiva Devalaya Temple. While the Vishnu Temple has little remaining, it holds historical value and complements the grandeur of the Shiva Devalaya.

2.2 Siva Devalaya 5: A Marvel of Restoration

Among the temples in Polonnaruwa, Siva Devalaya 5 stands out as an impressive structure that has been meticulously restored. The temple retains much of its original beauty and serves as a testament to the architectural prowess of its creators.

2.3 The Enchanting Porch and the Divine Couple

Upon entering the Siva Devalaya, visitors are greeted by a spacious porch. The main building consists of five chambers, each adorned with a yoni and lingam—a symbolic representation of the divine couple, Parvati and Shiva. The statues within the chambers portray the deities, with Shiva depicted as Nataraja, the multi-armed dancer symbolizing creation and destruction.

2.4 Architectural Influences and Construction

The Siva Devalaya Temple, situated within the city limits, showcases an architectural style reminiscent of the Pandya Dynasty. With its roots in Madurai, South India, the Pandya Dynasty was part of the Chola Empire during that era. The temple's design suggests that a Madurai-based architect may have created it. The precision and craftsmanship of the stone blocks used in construction are remarkable, as no plastering was employed to hold them together.

2.5 The Inner Sanctum and Religious Significance

Visitors will find a slightly weathered-looking lingam inside the inner sanctum of the Siva Devalaya Temple. Despite its worn appearance, this sacred symbol holds great religious significance for the local Hindu population. It represents a connection to the divine and serves as a focal point for worship.

2.6 Siva Devalaya 2: A Pristine Gem

In addition to the main Shiva Devalaya, Polonnaruwa houses another smaller temple, Siva Devalaya 2. This well-preserved structure features intricately carved cuboid stone surfaces and a small dome atop the roof. Accessible through a small door and a staircase leading to the inner sanctum, this temple is a remarkable example of Chola architecture.

2.7 Other Temples in the Vicinity

Nearby, within the northern gateway of Polonnaruwa, lies another Vishnu temple that has partially withstood the test of time. Although only its foundations and part of the inner sanctum remain, along with a statue of Lord Vishnu, the temple provides further insight into the religious and architectural heritage of the region. Additionally, Siva Devalaya 3, built in the Chola art style, can be found nearby.

2.8 The Deterioration of Siva Devalaya 4

Regrettably, Siva Devalaya 4 has suffered significant deterioration over the years. However, remnants of a lingam and a damaged image of Lord Ganesh can still be found within this brick shrine with pillars. Despite its current state, this temple serves as a reminder of the region's historical and cultural connections between Hinduism and Buddhism.

The Shiva Devalaya Temple in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, stands as an awe-inspiring testament to the historical and architectural marvels of the region. With its intricate design, well-preserved structures, and cultural significance, the temple showcases the enduring interplay between Hinduism and Buddhism. Visitors can immerse themselves in the rich heritage of this temple and gain a deeper understanding of the connections between these two faiths.


1. How old is the Shiva Devalaya Temple in Polonnaruwa?

The Shiva Devalaya Temple dates back to the late 9th century AD when the Chola Empire ruled Polonnaruwa.

2. What is the architectural style of the Shiva Devalaya Temple?

The temple exhibits an architectural style influenced by the Pandya Dynasty, which had connections to the Chola Empire.

3. Are there other notable temples in Polonnaruwa?

Yes, Polonnaruwa is home to several other temples, including Siva Devalaya 2, the Vishnu Temple, and Siva Devalaya 3.

4. How has the Shiva Devalaya Temple been preserved over the centuries?

The temple has undergone restoration efforts to maintain its original beauty and preserve its historical value.

5. What religious significance does the lingam hold in the Shiva Devalaya Temple?

The lingam is a sacred symbol representing Lord Shiva and has great religious importance for the local Hindu population.



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