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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"2nd to 15th November 2016 Dear Cyril, Thank you for arranging our first visit to your beautiful country. We had a very enjoyable, comfortable, safe, interesting and memorable holiday. All the accommodations you provided were very clean and comfortable and we will always remember the welcome, we felt when the smiling staff cheerfully looked after us and our every need. The itinerary you arranged was just right for us and made even better with the care you took whilst driving your very c..." Satwant and Doug from Australia
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"Hi Mr.Cyril, Hope you and family and grandchild are doing fine. Hope to come to Sri Lanka again. We really enjoyed our trip especially with your special help and guidance. We will definitely contact you if at all we wish to visit Sri Lanka again. Thanks & Best Regards Mr. & Mrs.Pillai Singapore 29/7/11 " Mr & Mrs.Pillai from Singapore
"Dear Cyril, Yes that's the one that we were calling all the time. Her name is Celia and by now she has a little sister. My dear Cyril, of course we can't forget your companion and we are always telling about you when we are talking about our trip to Sri Lanka. I wish you good luck with your company and I hope that you will have whatever you want. I want to tell also that I was very happy when I learned that you are a grandfather now. Best regards, Chris Greece 26/07/2011" Cristos Pravitas - Greece
"Hello my dear friend Mr. Cyril We are all fine dear, I have visited Sri Lanka and I loved the country, Insha’Allah I will visit again your country, it is amazing place. This is the first day at work , really I enjoy the tour to sri lanka with my family and it was very nice and I wish to go again to sri lanka and of course you were very good and polite and respectable guy -thanks a lot for every thing and I wish you ..." Nasser Mohamed from Oman
"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
"Dear Cyril, Here are some photos for you as we promised, and also little gift to you. Here is some photos of elephant boy which we were took on elephant ride. Please give to them when you go to Habarana again. We are very grateful to you for your services that you have done to make our holiday in this beautiful country. Still we are thinking over our nice trip with you. It was fantastic, really! Here in Holland, life is normal again. Greeting for your wife and daughter too. George and Cala ..." George and Cala
"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