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“Gal Viharaya” is a magnificent rock temple consisting of a group of Buddha Statues built by King Parakramabahu in the 12th Century. It was originally known as “Uttararama”, the northern monastery; it is situated at the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Polonnaruwa.
It is said that once the temple was finished King Parakramabahu had his workers build three caves in the rock. They were “Vijjadhara Guha” The cave of the spirits of knowledge, “Nissina Patimma Lena” The cave of the sitting image and the “Nipanna Patima Guha”The cave of the Sleeping image. Although known as caves only “Vijjadhara Guha” is a cave, the others are image houses with walls connected to the rock face.
The main attraction of the Gal Viharaya is the four statues of Lord Buddha which are carved into the Granite rock. It is said that at early ages these images were coated in Gold. These Statues are some of the most well-preserved examples of ancient Sri Lankan Rock Carvings.
1. The Seated Image: Standing at 15 feet in height, The seated image depicts Lord Buddha in a state of meditation. The Seat on which Lord Buddha is sitting on is shaped in the form of a lotus flower and its base is decorated with carvings of flowers and lions.
2.The Standing Image: This Statue stands at 22 feet 9 inches tall and stands on a pedestal shaped like a lotus. This Statue is quite unique indeed as many people believe that this is not a statue of Lord Buddha but of the Monk Ananda, who is lamenting Lord Buddha’s passing away. It is also believed to be much older than the other three statues.
3. The Reclining Image: This Statue is one of the largest sculptures in South East Asia and stands at 46 feet and 4 inches in length. Unlike the other statues, this one does not have a decorated pedestal as this Statue depicts the “Parinirvana” or the Passing away of Lord Buddha.
4.Vijjadhara Guha: This artificial cave is host to a small statue of Lord Buddha which stands at 4 feet 7 inches height. The base of this statue is decorated with lion designs. A hallo or a “Prabhamandala” is carved behind the head of the Statue and it rests in between two four-armed deities. It is said that the two deities are Gods Brahma and Vishnu.