King Parakramabahu I, is believed to be the creator of Gal Viharaya built in the 12th century. Four statues of the Buddha are displayed here, which are carved into a huge granite rock. A large seated figure, a smaller seated figure carved inside a cave shaped feature, a standing figure and a reclining figure are the four various statues displayed here. The name Gal Viharaya stands for “Rock Temple”.
The standing figure was subject to debate by many historians and archaeologists who believe that it is not of the Buddha but of the monk Ananda. As it is placed next to the reclining figure of Buddha and has sorrowful expressions, a theory was also brought that it could be monk Ananda who is saddened at the Buddha’s demise. Some say that it is Buddha himself, Who spent a week’s time after his enlightenment, gazing at the Bodhi tree as a way of paying gratitude for its shelter. However the carvings, design, style of expression in the Polonnaruwa era vary vastly from that of the Anuradapura’s.
The size of the figures seemed to have been decided based upon the height of the rock, so that the maximum use of the rock can be made for the creations. Gal Viharaya is one of the best examples in Sri Lanka that speaks for the talent and creativity of that time’s people and also the rich Buddhist culture the country owns.