Story and pictures by Kishanie S. Fernando.
The Nelum pokuna of Pollonnaruwa is considered the jewel of the pokuna architecture of ancient Lanka. It was in fact the inspiration of one of Sri Lanka’s post modern architectural feats the colossal and visually stunning state-of-the-art venue - the National Performing Arts Theatre in Colombo.
The Nelum pokuna or the Lotus bath is a small stone bath of unique design, built in tiers of a eight petalled lotus in descending order.
The fine cut granite is in excellent formation and an absolute delight. The present atmosphere of garden-like surroundings with flowering trees enhance its magnificence.
The chronicle speaks of a lotus bath attributing it to the 12th century among the many ponds constructed by Parakramabahu the Great. It is believed to be the bath provided by the King for the monks belonging to the Jetavana Vihara.
A one time Archaeological Commissioner describing this granite marvel in his Annual Report for 1990 says that “the artistic conception of the stone bath is worthy of all praise”. He requests the reader to imagine a gigantic lotus flower of granite in full bloom 24 ft. 9 in. diameter, with five concentric lamina of eight petals, gradually diminishing to a stamen 5 ft. 4 inches across. Then decide to reverse nature’s order and instead of the convex shape depress the petal rings into concavity 4ft. 6 inches in depth and we have the granite lotus bath as it exits in all its shapeliness to this day.
The Nelum pokuna lies apart and isolated from other ruins in Pollonnaruwa. It lies along the some what lonely road to the northern city, away from Pollonnaruwa’s more famous quadrangle which is packed with ruins. Most tourist miss this site. But if you are lucky to visit it on a quiet evening or early morning it is a spot of great romance which will beckon you every time you visit Pollonnaruwa.