Gal Vihara Polonnaruwa


The Gal Vihara or Gal Viharaya temple is called so because of the Granite/Rock.
(Sinhala = Gal) face used to carve out the four icons. It held a part of "Uttararama", also known as the north monastery in the town of Polonnaruwa. The models/sculptures represented at Uttarrama show some crucial exceptions, possibly following an entirely different method from the previous Anuradhapura era. The broader forehead in the Gal Vihara is one of the notable instances of this, the carving of robes with two identical lines, instead of using a single line as standard in the Anuradhapura period inspired by the Amaravati school of art.
Furthermore, the description of the standing statue has been a subject of contention amongst archaeologists and excavators.
Interestingly, all of the photos have been shaped to get used to the height possible area of the rock, with the height of the rock deciding for the size of carvings. The remains of brick walls at Gal Vihara indicate that each statue used to have its own image house.

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Historical Background of Polonnaruwa Gal Vihara

Polonnaruwa, once the capital of Sri Lanka, flourished under the reign of King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 CE) during the Polonnaruwa period. It was during this time that the Gal Vihara was constructed. The temple complex was designed to serve as a place of worship and meditation for Buddhist monks.

Description of the Rock Temple

The Rock Temple consists of four main statues carved into a large granite rock. Each statue represents a different pose of the Buddha and is housed within its shrine. The four figures are:

The Standing Buddha Statue

The standing Buddha statue is the most giant and most impressive at the Gal Vihara. It stands approximately 23 feet (7 meters) tall and exudes a sense of serenity and grace. The intricate carvings on the robe showcase the skill and craftsmanship of the ancient artisans.

The Reclining Buddha Statue

Adjacent to the standing Buddha statue is the reclining Buddha statue. This sculpture measures approximately 46 feet (14 meters) and depicts the Buddha's last moments before attaining Parinirvana (enlightenment). The facial expression's attention to detail and the reclining pose's naturalism make this statue genuinely remarkable.

The Seated Buddha Statue

Another impressive statue is the seated Buddha statue. It portrays the Buddha in a meditative posture, emanating tranquillity and wisdom. The delicate carvings on the seat and the robe's folds add a sense of realism and depth to the sculpture.

The Recumbent Image House

The fourth shrine within the Rock Temple complex is the Recumbent Image House. It houses a small reclining Buddha statue and other smaller statues and ancient artifacts. The intricately carved walls and ceiling of the image house exhibit the artistic finesse of the ancient artisans.

Significance of Polonnaruwa Gal Vihara

The Gal Vihara holds immense cultural, historical, and religious significance for Sri Lanka.

Cultural and Historical Importance

The temple stands as a testament to the advanced architectural skills of the ancient Sri Lankan civilization. The rock-cut sculptures are considered masterpieces of Sinhalese art and reflect the cultural sophistication of the time. The Gal Vihara is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, attracting visitors from around the globe.

Religious Significance

Buddhists revere the statues at the Gal Vihara as sacred objects of worship. They serve as reminders of the Buddha's teachings, inspiring devotees to follow the path of enlightenment. The temple complex is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists and offers a serene atmosphere for meditation and reflection.

Architectural and Artistic Features
The architectural and artistic features of the Gal Vihara showcase the ingenuity of the ancient Sri Lankan artisans.

Stone Carvings and Detailing

The intricate stone carvings on the statues and the surrounding structures are a testament to the skill and artistry of the artisans. The attention to detail, from the flowing robes to the facial expressions, demonstrates the mastery of stone carving techniques.

Influence of South Indian Dravidian Architecture

The architectural style of the Gal Vihara exhibits influences from South Indian Dravidian architecture. The gopuram-like entrances and the elaborate decorative motifs reflect the cultural exchanges between Sri Lanka and South India during ancient times.

Conservation and Preservation Efforts

To ensure the preservation of this historical and cultural treasure, the Sri Lankan government and local authorities have taken measures to conserve the Gal Vihara. Conservation efforts include regular maintenance, restoration of damaged sections, and implementing visitor guidelines to prevent damage to the sculptures and the site.

Visiting Polonnaruwa Gal Vihara

If you're planning to visit the Gal Vihara, here are some valuable tips and information:

Travel Information
  • The Gal Vihara is in Polonnaruwa, in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka.
  • The nearest major city is Colombo, approximately 140 miles (225 kilometres) away.
  • The easiest way to reach Polonnaruwa is by road. Buses and taxis are available from Colombo and other major cities in Sri Lanka.
  • The nearest airport is Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo.
Tips for Visitors
  • Wear modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees as a sign of respect.
  • Remove your footwear before entering the shrines.
  • Maintain a peaceful and quiet demeanour within the temple complex.
  • Please do not touch or climb on the statues; they are fragile and require protection.
  • Follow the temple authorities' instructions and respect others' religious practices.

Impact on Tourism and Local Economy

The Gal Vihara has become a significant tourist attraction in Sri Lanka, contributing to the growth of the local economy. The influx of visitors has led to infrastructure development, including accommodations, restaurants, and souvenir shops. The revenue generated from tourism helps support the local community and encourages the preservation of the site for future generations.


What is the best time to visit Polonnaruwa Gal Vihara?

The best time to visit the Gal Vihara is during the dry season, which typically runs from May to September. During this period, the weather is pleasant, with lower chances of rainfall, allowing for a more enjoyable visit.

Are there any entry fees for visiting the temple?

Yes, there is an entry fee to visit the Gal Vihara. The fees contribute to the maintenance and preservation of the temple complex. Please check the latest information on entry fees before your visit.

Can you take photographs inside the temple?

Yes, you can take phottypicallyal Vihara. However, be mindful of the guidelines and restrictions regarding photography, such as avoiding the use of flash to protect the delicate artwork.

Is there any accommodation available near the temple?

Yes, there are several accommodations available near the Gal Vihara, ranging from budget guesthouses to luxury hotels. It is advisable to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.

Are there any nearby attractions to explore after visiting Polonnaruwa Gal Vihara?

Yes, there are several other attractions to explore in Polonnaruwa. Some usingtes include the Poaruwa Archaeological Museum, Rankoth Vehera (a stupa), and the Royal Palace rseveral accommodations arerther insights into the rich history and cultural heritage of the region.



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