The Quadrangle

The Vatadage

The Quadrangle is dominated by the magnificent Vatadage (circular relic house), arguably the most beautiful building in Sri Lanka. Built by Parakramabahu, it was later embellished by the crafty Nissankamalla, who placed an inscription on the upper terrace claiming credit for the whole building. The entire outer structure is a fantastic riot of artistry, with almost every surface carved in a melee of decoration without parallel in the rest of Polonnaruwa, or indeed anywhere else on the island. The outer wall sports friezes of lions and dwarfs, and is topped by an unusually designed stone wall decorated with an abstract lotus design. Four sets of steps lead to the upper  terrace, each one a little masterpiece, decorated with dwarfs, lions and makaras, as well as magnificently carved nagaraja guardstones and some of the finest moonstones in Sri Lanka — the main entrance is particularly ornate. The remains of further pillars and carved capitals which would once have supported the now vanished roof lie scattered about the upper terrace.

From the upper terrace, steps lead through four entrances, aligned to the cardinal points and each presided over by a seated Buddha, to the eroded remains of the central brick dagoba in which the Tooth Relic may have been enshrined – strangely enough, this inner sanctum is virtually unadorned, in striking contrast to the remainder of the building.