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.
"Cyril was absolutly Fantastic,Veryhelpful, Patient and extremly knowledgable. Wouldn't hesitate to recommend and travel with him again. Whole tour was well organized and perfectly done. Kate Williams and family from UK 04th January 2015" Kate Williams UK
"I want to thank Mr. Cyril for this 17 days long tour. He is an excellent chauffeur guide, always on time with a car more than the clean. He knows all the places in the Island and organized very well. Most of all, he is very kind person, always with a smile and ready to help. I want to reccommond him to all my friends. Ria Deleu Belgium Travel period 25 Jan 2020 - 10 Feb 2020 ( 17 days)" Mrs. Ria Deleu from Belgium
"Dear Cyril, Thanks for taking care of the Dr.Sethukavalar and his wife very well. They were indeed very happy for all the care you have shown during your tour. They were very impressed of your patience and kindness. I look forward to see you soon and maintain this good relationship we have developed in a short period of time. We will not hesitate a second to recommend you to all our friends who would like to visit Sri Lanka. Taking this opportunity of wishing you all the best. Thanks fo..." HARIDAS KANDASAMY
"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
"Thank you so much for your great service and making our honeymoon in Sri Lanka, so special and joyful. Best regards from Yuffa and Elad Abbo – Israel- 10 July 2008 " Yuffa and Elad Abbo - Israel
"CyrilWe are now back at home after the lovely time with you in Sri Lanka, andvisiting Hong Kong.Thank you for driving for us while we were in Sri Lanka.In particular, we appreciated - your smooth, calm and efficient driving through varied traffic conditions - your calmness when things did not go quite as expected - your being available at all times of day - I'm remembering our late arrival at the airport, and our late departure - your information about all sorts of ..." Cliff Hooker and Jean from Australia
"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 found Cyril on-line and after checking with lots of other guides we decided he is the one for us, that decision was the best one we did for our trip From the beginning, in our emails, Cyril listen to us and was very helpful, he gave us information and helped us to create the best trip for us.We had 10 days trip, for our honeymoon, to many parts of Sri-Lanka. the country is amazing, green, nice people and good food.Cyril was a great driver and even greater guide, he has so much knowledge and e..." Coral and Oded from Israel
"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, Thank you for truly amazing oneweek tour your beautiful country.We have seen so many amazing sites in such a short space of time. From Sigiriya to beautiful temples, Scenic tea gardens of Nuwaraeliya the colonial land ark hotel Mount Lavinia. We have seen so much more. You have made this an utterly memorable holiday with your expert knowledge, amazing, facinating stories, patience, careful+safe drivingand your unforgetable smile. We will cetainly recommonding your tours to all of fr..." Sara Kitson - UK