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The Sacred Quadrangle


Located to the North of the Parakramabahu Palace Complex there is a raised stone banked site on which numerous significant sacred monuments which displays the most grandeur architecture of the Polonnaruwa period. These are the Thuparama image house, VatadageStupa shrine, Atadage and Hatadage (shrines of the Tooth and Bowl Relics), NissankaLathaMandapa, Galpotha (Stone Book) and the SathmahalPrasadaStupa (Seven story edifices).



As you enter the terrace on to your left is a circular building, the Vatadage. At the upper level in the middle of this shrine, it once held the tooth of Lord Buddha and was built during King Parakramabahu’s time. It is surrounded by four Buddha statues that are seated around it. At the entrance the foot of the second stairwell has the most perfect moonstone that depicts the Polonnaruwa era.



The Tooth Relic Temple of Nissankamalla, the Hatadage is known to be the house that was built in sixty days. On the wall of the porch, the outer wall and the first chamber one can find inscriptions by Nissankamalla himself. A staircase can still be seen however there are no remains of the upper floor.


The first Tooth Relic Temple of Polonnaruwa was the Atadage. Built by Vijayabahu in the 11th Century the name Atadage means the House of eight relics. What remains today are 54 stone pillars which once supported the upper floor where the relic was placed.

There are inscriptions carved on many of the pillars. There is also an inscription in Tamil which was meant for the Tamil Guards of South India asking them to protect the relic just like the Swiss guards who protect the pope. A Buddha statue, almost 3m high, stands near the end of the temple.

One of the more interesting structures within the quadrangle is the LathaMandapaya that represents flamboyant designs in ancient Sri Lankan architecture. Unlike the straight pillars one would come across in other ancient sites here you would find wobbling columns. Built by King Nissankamalla in the 12th Century the LathaMandapaya which means “Flower Scroll Hall” had a timber roof that housed a small Sthupaya.

The swaying columns are representations of the lotus stems with the flower at the capital. LataMandapa represents a “Baroque” or “Rococo” period in Sinhalese art in which the austere style yields to heavy ornamentation.

This building is one of a kind. It adopts a design that belongs to a very ancient form of architecture which one could see in Egypt, Cambodia or Siam. Its pyramid shaped and seven stories in height. It is thought to have been built for the Cambodian soldiers who were working under the king as place of worship. The building has four entrances on each side and there is a staircase to reach the upper levels. It is still a mystery as to who built it. Since the building is solid it believed that there was a sort of a dagaba.


Gal Potha(Quadrangle)

Bearing an inscription of King Nissankamalla this stone slab known as Gal Potha or Book of stone was carried from Mihinthale, Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa. Measuring to about 8m in length and 1.2m in width this stone describes the work of King Nissankamalla and the ties he had with the rest of the world. On the side of the stone book there are two elephants showering the goddess Lakshmi with water carved on to the rock.


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