Polonnaruwa was the second kingdom of the ancient kings of Sri Lanka, after the kingdom of Anuradhapura. Following the older tradition of the kings of the first kingdom, the Polonnaruwa kings too saw fit to leave their footprints in the form of stupas built during their times of reign. The stupas were usually different from in design from those of the Anuradhapura kings and followed a style unique to Polonnaruwa, but there were a few exceptions.
Ruwanweli is a stupa built by the king Nissanka Malla who ruled Polonnaruwa (AD 1187 – 1196). It was constructed in the style of the original Anuradhaphura Maha Vihara monastery stupas, bearing a close resemblance to one of the most famous stupas of Sri Lanka – ‘Ruwanwelisaya’. The original name of the stupa indicates that perhaps this resemblance was intentional. However the name was changed later on to ‘Rankoth Vehera’. ‘Ran’ means gold, and ‘koth’ is the word used for the pinnacle of a stupa in the Sinhalese language. Hence Rankoth Vehera approximates in English to ‘Stupa with the Golden pinnacle’. Rankoth Vehera is one of the most well-known and revered stupas of the Polonnaruwa era.
Polonnaruwa, along with Anuradhapura, has a literal treasure trove of well-preserved historical places to visit, such as Rankoth Vehera.