The Gal Vihara, also known as Gal Viharaya and originally as the Uttararama, is a rock temple of the Buddha situated in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. It was fashioned in the 12th century by Parakramabahu I. The central feature of the temple is four rock relief statues of the Buddha, which have been carved into the face of large granite rock. The images consist of a large seated figure, another smaller seated figure inside an artificial cavern, a standing figure, and a reclining figure. These are considered to be some of the best examples of ancient Sinhalese sculpting and carving arts and have made the Gal Vihara the most visited monument at Polonnaruwa.
The large seated image is 15 feet 2.5 inches (4.636 m) tall and depicts the dhyana mudra. The seat was carved in the shape of a lotus flower, it's base decorated with carvings of flowers and lions. The statue sits on a carved throne, decorated with makara images, with four small images of the Buddha (identical to the larger image) carved inside small chambers. This is an unusual feature in ancient Sinhalese sculpture and is presumably the result of Mahayana influence.
A small statue only 4 feet 7 inches (1.40 m) in height, but similar in appearance to its larger neighbor, is located inside the artificial cave named the Vidyhadhara Guha. The cave was created by carving 4.5 feet (1.4 m) into the rock, leaving four square shafted stone columns at the sides of the 26-foot (7.9 m) wide and 12-foot-9-inch (3.89 m) high opening. The base of the lotus-shaped seat of the Buddha image here is also decorated with designs of lions. A throne and a parasol are carved behind it, more elaborate in design than the larger image.
The standing image is the focus of much discussion among historians and archaeologists since there is a general belief that it is not a statue of the Buddha. The image is 22 feet 9 inches (6.93 m) tall and stands on a low pedestal shaped like a lotus. It leans back in a relaxed manner, its arms folded across its chest. The statue's face carries a sorrowful expression and the reclining image.
At 46 feet 4 inches (14.12 m) in length, the reclining image is the largest statue in Gal Vihara, and also one of the largest sculptures in Southeast Asia. It depicts the parinirvana of the Buddha, who is lying on his right side with the right arm supporting the head on a bolster, while the left arm lies along the body and thigh. The palm of the right hand and the soles of the feet have a single lotus flower carved on them.
Nissankamallapura, Sri Lanka
December 3, 2023 7:24 pm local time