The 23ft (7m) standing Buddha that towers over Gal Vihara is an outstanding testament to the skills of Sri Lanka’s ancient stone-masons, and a must-see for any visitor to the ruins of Polonnaruwa.
Carved from the living rock, the figure dominates a group of Buddha statues that were built by King Parakramabahu (1153–1186) as part of the Uthararama Complex.
Legend has it that the statues were covered with pure gold, and that thieves burnt logs on them to melt and steal the precious metal.
The 80ft (25m) reclining figure is said to represent the death of Lord Buddha, signified by the fact that one foot slightly behind the other, and the toes are not positioned equally on the feet.
Be that as it may, these magnificent carvings are an integral part of the history of Polonnaruwa, and no trip to Polonnaruwa would be complete without a first-hand appreciation of their beauty.