Monday, 21 March 2022

Ancient Hospital Complex, Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa Ancient Hospital Complex
The ruins of an Ancient Hospital Complex have been identified from the premises of Polonnaruwa Old City in Polonnaruwa District, Sri Lanka. 
Cultural Triangle excavations carried out in 1982/3 confirmed that these ruins situated in the Alahana Pirivena premises are the remains of an ancient hospital complex of the 12th century (Kannangara, 2016; Mueller-Dietz, 1996; Prematileke, 1990). The construction of this hospital is generally attributed to King Parakramabahu I [(1153-1186 A.D.) Kannangara, 2016].
Excavations carried out in this site have unearthed some surgical and medical instruments such as probes, forceps, scissors, scalpels, lancets, herb grinding stones, a micro-balance, a spoon, and storage jars of Chinese celedon used at the time (Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004). Some of these artefacts are presently on the display in Colombo National Museum.

The hospital building
The rectangular hospital building (25.75 m x 16.65 m) more or less follows the Mihintale Hospital (9th century) prototype in having two distinct units built together, namely living quarters and treatment sections (Jayasuriya, 2016; Prematileke, 1990). The living quarters are formed of cells built around an open courtyard at the centre. At the northern side of the courtyard is a cluster of short stone stumps probably the remains of a shrine built on pillars (Prematileke, 1990). The treatment section is located south of the living area and it also contains a central courtyard (Prematileke, 1990).

The medicinal trough (Beheth Oruwa)
A stone medicinal trough similar to a sarcophagus is found in one of the rooms of this building. Hewn from a monolith, it has a cut-out shape of a man measuring 1.95 m in length (Prematileke, 1990). It has been used for treating patients by immersing in medicinal oil (Jayasuriya, 2016).

1) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. pp.80-81. 
2) Kannangara, A.P., 2016. The history of dermatology, venereology, and dermatopathology in different countries-Sri Lanka. Global Dermatology, 2(7).
3) Mueller-Dietz, H.E., 1996. Stone „Sarcophagi” and Ancient Hospitals in Sri Lanka. Medizinhistorisches Journal, (H. 1/2), pp.49-65.
4) Prematileke, L., 1990. The architecture of the Polonnaruwa period 800-1200 A.D. Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief). Archaeological Department centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series: Volume III: Architecture. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). p.54.
5) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.218-219.

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This page was last updated on 21 March 2022
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