Nissankamalla Palace

King Nissankamalla was not a local ruler. Instead he was from Kalinga, in modern-day Orissa in Eastern India. He only ruled for nine years, from 1187 to 1196. Thus his position on the throne was always rather insecure. Due to his insecurity on the throne of Polonnaruwa, he spent most of his time touring the country and installing a number of inscriptions wherever he went. However none of these inscriptions can actually be taken very seriously since we have a large number of embellishments and exaggerations in them. One of the most famous of them is the great Galpotha inscription which strangely enough, prevents the farming caste from claiming the throne. He also embarked on a very large building scheme. Among the beautiful monuments he created was the Nissanka Raja Sabha Mandapa.

The only thing that remains of this hall is an impressive example of stonework. The remains of this structure are made of granite so wonderfully carved that it is almost impossible to know how it really occurred. The building’s front is guarded by incredibly detailed lions which sit at the head of the stairway, looking out onto the plain. It is a royal audience-hall, constructed as a separate building and as part of the palace complex itself. It is a considerably large structure. At least whatever remains of it is incredible. It is a layered structure made of platforms and the lion theme quite runs through the building. His throne itself is a granite lion, very well carved with impressive detail. It also has exceptional makara balustrades on either side of the staircase. The mass of columns have a “waist” in the middle of their bodies. They are not as unique as those in his other building, the Nissanka Latha Mandapa but they are quite amazing to look at.

It is ironic that while Nissankamalla wanted to reduce taxes in the country, his building projects almost bankrupted Polonnaruwa in the process.

Written by Vasika Udurawane for

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