The rest of the Quadrangle

The rest of the Quadrangle

A couple of hundred metres north of the Royal Palace Group stands the Quadrangle — originally, and more properly, known as the Dalada Maluwa (“Terrace of the Tooth Relic”), since the famous relic was housed in various shrines here during its stay in the city including the Vatadage. This rectangular walled enclosure, built on a raised terrace, was the religious heart of the city, conveniently close to the royal palace of Parakramabahu.

The remainder of the Quadrangle is packed with a dense assortment of buildings of enormous variety and interest (though none approaches the flamboyance of the Vatadage). Opposite the Vatadage stand the rather plain remains of the Hatadage, originally a two-storeyed building, though the upper storey, which was perhaps made of brick, has long since crumbled away, as is the case with so many other structures at Polonnaruwa.

Thought to have been built by Nissankamalla, the Hatadage is also referred to as the Temple of the Tooth, since the relic may have been placed here for a time, probably on the upper floor. It now houses three Buddha statues, the central one positioned to line up through the shrine’s doorway with the Buddha directly opposite in the Vatadage. The entrance is marked by a fine moonstone and two nagarajas, whilst carvings of lions and geese run along the top and bottom of tin-exterior walls, which bear the very faint traces of further decorative carving. Two long Sinhala inscriptions can be found on the right of the outer and inner entrances.


Sathmahal PrasadayaNeither of these inscriptions, however, prepares one for the Gal Pota (“Book of Stone”), immediately east of the Hatadage, an enormous slab of granite, some nine metres long, covered in a densely inscribed panegyric praising the-works of Nissankamalla, including records of his (in truth, extremely modest) conquests in India — an astonishing display of self-publicity which would pin even a politician to shame. The stone itself, according to the inscription, weighs, 25 tons and was brought over 90km from Mihintale, though exactly why this particular rock was considered remarkable enough to be transported from so far away remains unclear.

Next to the Gal Pota stands the strange Satmahal Prasada (the name means ‘Seven-storey temple”, though only six survive). Its unique design perhaps the work of the (Cambodian) craftsmen, although no one really knows. The heavily eroded stucco figures of a few deities in high relief decorate its walls.


Behind he Satmahal Prasada are the slight remains of a seventh-century Chapter louse — just a tiny brick outline and a few pillars, including one in the Unusual “thrice-bent” style of the Lotus Mandapa. On the other side of the Hatadage, the Atadage is one of the oldest structures in the city, having been constructed by Vijayabahu to house the Tooth Relic; you can still see the building’s brick base and the remains of finely carved pillars and door frames; a blackened Buddha statue stands in the centre next to the Atadage are the remains of an image house – the brick base inside would have supported a now vanished reclining Buddha. Continuing anti-clockwise, the next building is the small but exquisite Lotus Mandapa (also known as the Latha Mandapaya or Nissankalata), built by Nissankamalla and featuring an unusual latticed stone fence (rather like the famous Buddhist Railing at Anuradhapura;) and a small pavilion surrounded by stone pillars shaped as thrice-bent lotus buds on stalks, a beautiful and very unusual design whose sinuous organic lines look positively Art Nouveau. Inside the pavilion are the remains of a tiny dagoba which was, according to different interpretations, either used to hold relics or which served as a seat for Nissankamalla during religious ceremonies (though not, presumably, both).


Finally, in the southwest corner stands one of the oldestbut also one of the most intact of the Quadrangle’s structures, the Thuparama, an exceptionally large and well-preserved gedige (stone image house) thought to date back to the reign of Vijayabahu I.The inner shrine preserves its vaulted brick roof, the only such structure to have survived at Polonnaruwa, as well as exceptionally thick, plaster-covered brick walls whose massive dimensions keep the interior pleasantly cool — the walls are so thick that the architects were actually able to construct a staircase inside them (it’s just through the door on the left), though it’s usually locked. The shrine contains eight beautiful old standing and seated crystalline limestone Buddhas, which sparkle magically when illuminated. The exterior walls are decorated with the South Indian-style niches, and the heavily recessed and elaborately decorated window frames which can be found on a number of buildings across the city. The buildings original name is unknown; it was confusingly christened the Thuparama (“The Stupa”) by the pioneering British archeologist H.C.P. Bell, though it isn’t a dagoba at all.


Gal Potha

Satmahal Prasada

Lotus Mandapa


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