WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka

Galvihara - a unique display of rock art


What is generally regarded as some of the finest collections of Buddhist sculpture can be seen at Galvihara (Rock Monastery) in Polonnaruwa, the capital of ancient Sri Lanka from the 11th century. This most celebrated site in Polonnaruwa is known for its large rock cut images, which have been preserved perfectly over the many centuries.

The Samadhi image on the left hand corner is a masterpiece of Sri Lankan Buddhist sculpture. The Buddha is in deep meditation sitting on a seat adorned with lions and thunderbolts. There is a halo round his head. Next to the statue is another housed in an artificial cave cut out of the rock. Various deities surround the image of the seated Buddha.

The standing Buddha with hands placed across the chest - a rather rare pose - is believed to be portraying how He spent the second week after Enlightenment, contemplating in front of the Bodhi under which he reached that state. The statue is 23 feet high.

The 46 foot long reclining Buddha is a perfect piece of art showing Him in the state of ‘parinirvana’ indicated by the slight drawing back of the upper foot.
Devotees pay homage to this unique set of statues cut out from a singe granite wall with utmost veneration.

The Quadrangle in Polonnaruwa houses a group of 12 magnificent buildings. Among them are several fine pieces of Buddhist architecture like the Vatadage- the circular relic house with a beautifully decorated stone screen wall.

A well-preserved moonstone, guardstones and decorative steps are features of the Vatadage. Directly opposite is the Hatadage - the Temple of the Tooth built by King Nissankamalla (1187-1196 A D), alongside of which is his inscribed Gal Pota - stone book, Sri Lanka’s longest stone inscription containing various edicts issued by the King. Nissanka-lata-mandapaya is a pavilion with stone columns of ‘tivanka’ (thrice best) lotus stalks.

It has been identified as the place from where the King listened to the chanting of Buddhist texts. The entire pavilion is surrounded by a simple railing and gateway of squared stone. The Thuparama has thick brick walls and forms a ‘gedige’.

Outside the Quadrangle are many other buildings. The Potgul Vehera is a ‘Library Monastery’ where the buildings are grouped on terraces around a central square terrace. King Parakrama Bahu’s palace with its 10 foot thick walls is an impressive building. The palace is supposed to have had a thousand rooms. The stone pillars in the council chamber indicate that they once supported a wide timber roof.

Also impressive is the Lankatilaka image house, which was originally a brick vaulted structure. Among big dagabas are the Kirivehera and Rankot Vehera. There are also at lease two ponds - the lotus pond, an ornamented bath and the Kumara Pokuna or royal bath, along with a pavilion and a toilet. Almost all the Polonnaruwa buildings belong to the 12th century.

WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka