Polonnaruwa Galviharaya-The Stone Temple

Galviharaya, also known as “Uththararamaya” (The Northern Temple) is one of the main attractions in Polonnaruwa. And this was crafted during the reign of King Parakamabahu (1153 -1186 A.C) in Polonnaruwa Kingdom time.

Galviharaya has two seating Buddha statues, one Standing statue and one statue in a “Parinirvana Manchakaya” (Reclining statue). All these statues are made using a single huge granite rock.

These sculptors of Galviharaya show greater skill and expertise in the art of stone sculptures in Sri Lanka. With respect to Buddhist art in Sri Lanka, the images at Galvihara have brought about a higher level of awakening in the observers.

Caves of Galviharaya
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Galviharaya consists of four cave shrines with sculptures. These sculptures are hallowed out of a granite rock. Caves from left to right are

(a) Cave of Vidyadharas (Vidyadhara Guhawa)
(b) Excavated Cave
(c) Cave of Standing Image
(d) Cave of Reclining Image

There is an inscription between the Excavated Cave and the Cave of Standing Image. And also there are remains of a pavilion in front of the Excavated Cave.

Cave of Vidyadharas (Vidyadhara Guhawa)

This statue is located in a man-made cave called “Vidyadara Guhawa”. This cave consists of a main image of Buddha, with four small relief carvings of Buddha on either side, above the head of the main Buddha image.

The main image depicts the chief of meditative Buddha. But the other four small images of the Buddha in Dhayani Mudra (Mediative attitude) represent the four directions of the universe.

According to the archeological facts, this had some frescos. And still, you can see some faded images.

The Excavated Cave

The Excavated cave consists of an image of Buddha in dhyana mudra (Meditative attitude) sculpted out of the rock boulder. However, this image is smaller than the main image at Vidyadhara Cave. And this Buddha statue is around 16 feet in height. You can see some decorations on the back wall. According to archaeological facts, there was a brick house around this, but you can’t see that here.

The Cave of Standing Image
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This standing Buddha statue is different from other standing Buddha statues found in other parts of Sri Lanka. In this statue, we can see the folded arms and closed eyes. The Buddha statue is about 7 meters in height and stands on a lotus pedestal or stage called “Padmasana”. ” Padmasana” indicates that Buddha is a transcendental being.

The early archeologists believed that this statue was that of Ananda Thero and believed that the sorrow pose is due to the Buddha’s Parinirwanaya. However, since this was done on a lotus pedestal, this is really a statue of Buddha and not of his disciple Ananda thero. 

This statue is 14 meters long. This statue carries supreme grace and serenity, in spite of the colossal propotion.

Some argue that this Buddha statue represents the Buddha’s posture of passing away and not the posture of reclining. But here, the Buddha statue with lotus symbol is sculptured in the posture called “Sinhaseyya”, which is the pose of a sleeping lion resting its head on its right paw. But in Sri Lankan art, we cannot see the theme of Buddha’s passing away as a popular feature in Buddhist art. There are also some images like, images of disciples, sal flowers and trees which usually use to accompany the Buddha’s passing away are not present in this statue. Therefore, this Buddha statue represents the Buddha’s posture of reclining, and not the posture of passing away.

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A photograph of Galviharaya at 1970

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