Gal Vihara - History and Facts | History Hit

Gal Vihara

26th Mile Post, North Central Province, Sri Lanka

Gal Vihara is a set of twelfth century stone statues of Buddha in the city of Polonnaruwa.

Image Credit: Khoroshunova Olga /

About Gal Vihara

Gal Vihara, also known as Gal Viharaya, are a series of stone sculptures of Buddha which were created during the reign of Sinhalese king Parakrama Bahu I (1153–1186) in the city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka.

History of Gal Vihara

The site is located in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in North Central Province, Sri Lanka. It was created during the 12th century by the king Parakrama Bahu I.

Originally part of the king’s Northern Monastery, the Gal Vihara is comprised of four such carvings, each with an individual pose – thought to each represent a different stage in Buddha’s life – and of different sizes. Carved into the face of a large granite gneiss rock, the images are considered to be some of the best examples of ancient Sinhalese sculpting and carving arts, and make the monument the most visited at Polonnaruwa.

The largest one is 46 feet high and depicts a reclining Buddha, while the oldest of the group, which shows Buddha standing, is 23 feet high.

The site was also where Parakramabahu I gathered a congregation of monks in order to purify the Buddhist priesthood, and later drew up a code of conduct for them. This code of conduct is recorded in an inscription on the same rock face containing the images of the Buddha.

Gal Vihara Today

Today, the large site is hugely popular with tourists and Buddhist worshippers alike. The Gal Vihara statues are contained within an unsightly metal structure, but are still well worth seeing due to their historical importance and detailed craftsmanship.

It is also recommended that you take a guide around the whole site of Polonnaruwa, as there are many stunning sites to see which require detailed explanation.

Appropriate clothing is expected, and no shoes are allowed to be worn at the site.

Getting to Gal Vihara

From the centre of Polonnaruwa, the site is reachable in around 10 minutes via the A11 road. There are also a number of buses – the 48-1, 48-3, 48-13, 48-16, and 48/218-1 – which depart from Jayanthi Film Hall every 15 minutes or so and take around 50 minutes. It is possible to walk – though it might be a long and hot journey, although the routes are mainly flat – and takes around 50 minutes via the Gallambarawa Road.