Parakrama Samudraya (Sinhala: Sea of Parakrama) built by King Parakramabahu the great, is the largest ancient man-made rainwater reservoir in Sri Lanka while it dominates the western flank of the Polonnaruwa district. The great reservoir spreading over an area of 2500 hectares and having a capacity of 134 million cubic meters of water is the lifeline to the agricultural district of Polonnaruwa and its surroundings. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa, 122 hectares in extent, spreading out to a distance of 5km from north to south and 3km from east to west, is also the beneficiary of cooling breezes of the Parakrama Samudraya.
Within proximity of the Parakrama Samudraya are the ruins of the Kings (King Nissanka Malla) Council Chamber on whose pillars are inscribed the status and titles of various officials of the kingdom.
Gal Viharaya or the Rock Temple, which is unparallel among such ancient monastic edifices, takes the form of a group of colossal Buddha statues carved out of a granite boulder. Most prominent is the standing image, 7m (23ft) tall.
Next to it is an enormous 14m (46ft) reclining Buddha. The head rests on the right palm, while the left hand is stretched along the left side of the body. The dent on the pillow caused by the weight of the head and the slightly drawn angle in the left leg adds life to the superb rock carved work of poise and balance.Next to the reclining Buddha statue is the standing figure of Buddha. According to archaeologist Dr. Senerath Paranavitana, the pose and the facial expression of Buddha shows his supreme compassion towards the suffering.
The seated Buddha statue on the southern end with a backrest decorated in an arch is carved in front of the seat.
At the southern end of the city, i.e. 100m south of the statue of King Parakramabahu, outside the Royal Garden of Nandana Uyana is the Potgul Vehera, or the Library Monastery’. A central square terrace houses the principal monument, a circular shrine or library where the sacred books were deposited. It is surrounded four small dagobas.
The superior acoustics of Potgul Vehera leads to the conclusion that the library had doubled up as an auditorium on occasions to read the books, read the tenets of Buddhism and chant the blessings called “Pirith” The buildings called Potgul Vihara or library that was utilized for the same purposes as the shrine at Polonnaruwa, can be seen in some of the Buddhist monuments too.
Nissanka Lata Mandapaya, built by King Nissankamalla, is an innovative work of art depicting the splendour of classical architecture. The pavilion was believed to be used for chanting Buddha’s teaching while the inscription at the pavilion reveals that the king used to listen to the chanting of pirith, which were Buddhist blessings.
The Nissanka Lata Mandapaya pavilion which is surrounded by Buddhist railings, houses a bubble shaped small dagaba, without its upper part, while it is carved out of stone in the centre. It is possible, the stone carved stupa used to hold the relic casket during pirith chanting.
Gal Potha is a massive 26 ft slab of stone that lies by the side of the Hetadage in which King Nissankamalla had his own deeds recorded in stone.
The inscriptions also contain particulars of King Nissankamalla’s genealogy and his wars with Dravidian invaders from South India. The inscription itself says that the slab of stone was brought to the location from Mihintale.The inscription has been of great assistance to the scholars since it also reveals evolution of the Sinhala script. On the side of Gal Potha are two stone carved Elephants sprinkling water on goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of Prosperity.