Polonnaruwa – Medieval Capital of Ceylon

Polonnaruwa, the medieval capital of Lanka, from the eleventh to the end of the first quarter of the thirteenth century A D occupies an eastern location in the dry zone of the North Central Province.  The ancient rulers built vast irrigation reservoirs. With the development of irrigation works and agricultural activities Polonnaruwa became a flourishing city with an agrarian economy.

Irrigation canal

The famous Kings who ruled Polonnaruwa include Vijayabahu 1, Parakramabahu and Nissankamalla.  Polonnaruwa  considered one of the best preserved historic cities in the world has its share of Buddhist sites, stupas, monasteries, an impressive array of ruined palaces and courtyards, pleasure gardens, intricate network of bathing tanks as well as carvings and sculptures and a rich display of artistry.

Excavation work has been carried out to identify ancient sites and objects. Surgical instruments used during the ancient times have been found during excavation. These include probes, scalpels, scissors, forceps and lancets and also medicinal troughs. These medical and surgical  artefacts are important for the studies of the hospital and health care systems of ancient Lanka. It also implies that the ancient Kings made sure that medical and surgical facilities were made available for the people in the area.

Forceps with long handle
Scissors with thick metal handle
Scalpel with wooden handle
A well-preserved spoon

For centuries, the District remained neglected with an abundance of forest and wild animals. The restoration of the reservoirs, dams and irrigation canals built by the Kings saw the dawn of a new era. The Minneriya colonisation scheme was the first to be inaugurated in 1933, leading to the settlement of farmers for cultivation.

The District had a population of 261,563 in 1981, the majority of them being farmers.

Farmer / Parakrama samudra

My first posting as a consultant surgeon in Sri Lanka was to this ancient city of Polonnaruwa to serve the farming population in this rural District. No doubt I had to work under tremendous pressure in an underprivileged area. However it was a great privilege and pleasure to serve this rural population for over six years. Many memorable experiences that I have had not only in my chosen specialty of surgery but also many life experiences will form the basis of the stories that I will be describing. They were lessons of a life time.

Polonnaruwa has been designated a World Heritage Centre by UNESCO

Ancient City of Polonnaruwa (Sri Lanka)


  1.  Ancient city of Polonnaruwa–UNESCO World Heritage,Centre https://lankatourexperience.com/tour/Polonnaruwa/
  2. www.britannica.com/place/polonnaruwa
  3. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/polonnaruwa
  4. www.lonelyplanet.com/…/polonnaruwa
  5. Polonnaruwa Archeological Museum – ww.discover.lk/destinations/polonnaruwa/
  6. Surgery in the ancient kingdom/ Sri Lanka. archeology.lk

Dear reader, Glad you are here on my first post and if you like to read more about my web stories, you might want to read our next story, which gives more about Polonnaruwa and ‘My First posting’ which is during the period of 1982-1988 : ‘Reminiscence of Six exciting years as a Surgeon’

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0 thoughts on “Polonnaruwa

  1. You have taken us to an unforgettable past. Definitely a good read and spending a little time was worth it!

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