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MOONSTONE - POLNNARUWA

MOONSTONE - POLNNARUWA

The high quality of Sinhalese architecture and sculpture continued when Polonnaruwa became the capital of Sri Lanka after Anuradhapura. In fact, some of the religious monuments were more impressive than those in Anuradhapura.

The Sandakada pahana or the moonstone is a unique feature in Sinhalese architecture. Though described as the moonstone because of its shape and design, it is really a semi-circular stone doorstep set up at the entrance to a stupa or vihara. The best examples are the ones preserved in Anuradhapura. Altogether six have been identified. The ones in Polonnaruwa (one pictured on this page) are not so exquisite though basically, the same features can be seen.

Describing the moonstones found in Anuradhapura as “masterpieces in the sculptor’s art”, renowned archaeologist Professor Senerath Paranavitana describes the general characteristics in the design ornamenting a moonstone thus: “A conventional half-lotus in the centre enclosed by concentric bands which, proceeding outwards, are decorated respectively with a procession of geese, an intricate foliage design, a procession of the four beasts – elephant, lion, horse and bull, racing each other – and an outermost band of stylized flames. The various elements of the design are skillfully integrated into a very effective whole. The motifs which constitute the design are symbolic.”

He sees a difference in the moonstones in Polonnaruwa. Instead of a single band of the four beasts, each animal, except the bull, has its own row in the ones at Polonnaruwa. The absence of the bull is because of Hindu influence. The bull is held in veneration by the Hindus and would not want to be trampled each time one went over the moonstone. The best example in Polonnaruwa is the moonstone at the northern entrance to the upper terrace of the Vatadage. It is finely executed, says Professor Paranavitana.

As for the animals depicted on the moonstone, each is of symbolic significance to denote four aspects of life. The elephant represents birth while the bull is indicative of decay. The lion represents disease and the horse is a symbol of death. The geese have been interpreted as representing the distinction between good and bad. Some interpret the moonstone as being symbolic of surpassing worldly temptations and reaching the ultimate goal of ‘nibbana’.

The lotus petal also forms a key feature in most moonstones. The lotus is regarded as a sacred flower by the Buddhists. The lotus figures prominently in Buddhist art and architecture. It is also mentioned at important events in the life of the Buddha. Seven lotuses sprang into bloom at the feet of Prince Siddartha, no sooner he was born and took the first steps of his life.

The ‘mura gala’ or guard stone is another major feature at the entrance to stupas and other religious buildings. Elaborate carvings are a feature of these guard stones. Generally, two guard stones have been erected on either side of the entrance, just beyond the moonstone.

Polonnaruwa is the most important of Sri Lanka’s early capitals. The shifting of the capital was mainly due to Tamil invasions. Being of a much later date, the ruins are better preserved there. Polonnaruwa is closely associated with the famous king, Parakramabahu the Great, who ascended the throne in 1153 A.D.

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    "We would like to say thank you very much Mr. Cyril for the excellent 7 night tour of Sri Lanka you provided us. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Sri Lanka and the itinerary you arranged. The four hotels (Earls Regency, Amaya Lake, Heritance Kandalama and the Colombo Hilton) were excellent and thoroughly deserved their 5 stars. Your driving skills was excellent. Also very friendly, calm, helpful, and courteous and always prompts. Sri Lanka is a lovely country and the people were very friendly. ..." Suresh and Prashanth

    "Dear Cyril, We would like to thank youthat you have arrange ourholiday which we have enjoyed so much, that we can call them the best holiday we have ever had. You are avery helpful guide- because you know about your beautiful country very much. We also appriciate your advices that you gave us during our two weeks long journey and your  perfect trip arrangement we have enjoyed every single day. All the best to you and your family. Hope to see you again. Martha & Jarda   08 No..." Martha & Jaroslav Jirout

    "Dear Cyril, We just got back to Singapore today...I am will be back to work tomorrow.. :) Sad but true ha ha……. We were very lucky to have you as our guide. I don’t think there will be anyone else who could have done an excellent job that you have done. We will spread the word around and will surely sell your services...do keep in touch so we can work something out. Thanks for the photos they are great Will visit your website soon and put in some good words for you.. Ti..." Shuhanth Haridas from Singapore

    "Traveled in April 2013 with Cyril . Family with three young children. Cyril match the trip plan problem on his part. Familiar with every corner of this beautiful island and we have managed to produce a great 17 days. Prices respect as well - we tested three competing proposals and was the cheapest. The fact that he was working independently and not through an agency that collects coupon trips generally significantly reduces the price of the package. A modern and spacious vehicle (van with seven ..." Maozd

    "If you ever plan to visit Sri Lanka (and I think you should) this is your guide!!! Martha Iordanidou  - Thesoloneki - Greece  " Martha Iordanidou

    "Dear Cyril, We want to thank you so much for making our trip so unforgetable and delightful. We received your name from our friends lives in Geneva who travelled with you in January 2009 and they gave you such a high recommendation that we decided to conbtact you for our two weeks trip this year. Although we have been to Sri Lanka a few times already. We have never found such an excellent driver and guide. It has been a great pleasure to visit Colombo with you and then to Koggala for two day tr..." Mr.Gabor Kato & Mrs.Ann Kato

    "We had a great time on last 10 days in on our honeymoon in beautiful Sri Lanka. Thank you very much for the stories, the explanations, driving, tips, care and always with a smile. Big thanks for you Cyril. We had an amazing honeymoon in this beautiful island! and you are the best guide and friend that we could have here!!! We will sure tell our friends and family about the trip and you!!! We will stay in touch and may be one day meet you again. Oded & Carol Israel 10 Oct 2014" Naim & Coral Fisher from Israel

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