Panduwasnuwara is an ancient city in the Kurunegala area which functioned as the capital of Sri Lanka for a very brief period. King Parakramabahu set up his temporary capital in this city during the 12th century.
During this period, Panduwasnuwara was the city housing the sacred tooth relic which was brought back to Sri Lanka from India by King Parakramabahu. In our article on Yapahuwa, you would have read how the relic was captured from Yapahuwa by the invading Indian armies and how it was retrieved and brought back by this king.
Although Panduwasnuwara is not as spectacular a sight as the capital cities Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa, it is still worth exploring, if one gets the opportunity.
Some of the stone carvings
The site which contains the ruins of ancient buildings is spread over an area of 20 hectares, of which some sections have still not been excavated.
The first thing that you will see as you enter the site is the six-metre wide moat (ditch usually filled with water which ran around a castle, protecting it) and the huge wall of the citadel (fort). The compound contains remnants of many dagobas, image houses (pilimage), meeting halls, accommodation quarters for monks and even ancient latrines.
Dagobas near the entrance to Panduwasnuwara - Pix: Serendib
One of the primary features of the site is the restored temple of the tooth with a bo tree, which is outside the fortified walls. Its original foundation can still be seen, although the elaborately designed roof was restored around the 1970s.
Even though the temple is one of the most important features of the ancient city, the highlight is the round-shaped palace situated inside the circular moat. It is believed to have had several storeys during its heyday and is still a sight to behold. Many legends have been woven around this palace and about the people who are said to have lived there. Some believe that it imprisoned a princess, the then king's daughter, who had to be shielded from the eyes of men. [h]
The ruins in the compound
It was said that if she married and bore a son, he would kill his seven uncles (the princess' brothers) and ascend the throne.
Another story said that the palace housed the king's wives and that there once was a secret tunnel between this palace and the the king's palace, which ran right underneath the moat. Although these are some of the many stories built around the palace, no one knows for sure who built it or who lived there.
The Panduwasnuwara city has a small museum too.