Parakamabahu’s Palace

Parakamabahu's Palace originally stood seven stories tall and boasted a thousand rooms, although this was probably an exaggeration (an interesting model in the museum shows a speculative impression of how this seven-story palace might have looked). The remains of three brick stories have survived (any further levels would have been built of wood and have long since disappeared), although they don't give much idea of how the building would originally have appeared - the ruin now looks more like a Norman castle than a Sinhalese royal palace. The holes in the walls were for floor beams, while the vertical grooves up to the first floor would have held stone reinforcements. The entire structure stands on a raised plinth and was originally enclosed in a rectangle of modest one-storey buildings which housed palace staff and officials; parts of these buildings' walls and foundations can still be seen, some of them rather fussily restored using modern bricks.

Background

Built. Under ruler Parakramabahu I (1153-1186). The palace was originally named Vijayanta Prasada after the Hindu god Indra’s palace in heaven.
Location. The center of the citadel, located on the southern end of the old city. (Toggle Map above)

 

Layout

Although the powerful ruler’s palace is largely in ruins, its basic layout is still discernible.

Entrance. Entering the rectangular enclosure from the east, visitors proceed across an open courtyard — which likely functioned as a waiting area — to an elevated platform that holds the
palace itself.
Palace structure. The palace structure is anchored by the royal chamber, which is fronted by an audience hall with rows of wooden columns (now lost). The whole is surrounded by a series of small cells that might have served as living quarters for support staff.
Stairway. The original stone (granite) stairway is preserved on the south side of the palace platform, attesting to the presence of upper floors.

 

The Royal Chamber

The remains of the palace are dominated by the tall thick brick walls of the royal chamber.

Seven original floors. While the Culavamsa historical chronicle (sequel to the Mahavamsa) indicates that the palace originally had seven floors (and, perhaps exaggerating, a thousand rooms), there is only evidence of two floors and part of a third. Unfortunately, as throughout Polonnaruwa, since the others were likely made entirely of wood, they have not survived.

Holes held beams. The holes in the brick facade originally held wooden beams that supported the upper floors.

 

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