Pulligoda Galge and Painting

Pulligoda Galge paintings
Pulligoda Galge or Pulligoda Archaeological Site is a rock shelter containing a series of paintings depicting the great tradition of the art of the Anuradhapura Period. It is located about 3 km south of the Dimbulagala Raja Maha Viharaya in Polonnaruwa District, Sri Lanka.

An Early Brahmi Cave Inscription belonging to the period between the 3rd century B.C.- 1st century A.D. has been found at the site (Paranavitana, 1970).

Period: 3rd century B.C.-1st century A.D.           Script: Early Brahmi           Language: Old Sinhala
Transcript: (Ba)rata-Silavi(jayaha) lene sodaye Kutahate dhane
Translation: The cave of lord Silavijaya is given by the co-donor Kutahatta
Reference: Paranavitana, 1970. p.23.

Painting fragments
A series of fragmentary remains of old paintings in the Pulligoda cave was first reported in 1897, by H. C. P. Bell (De Silva, 1990; Dhanapala, 1964).

The main painting fragment is about five feet in length and in a fair state of preservation (Wijesekara, 1947). It consists of five haloed male figures seated on a broad seat. The plaster around the figures has fallen, thus the theme of the painting is not clear. The figures probably depict deities engaged in worship and offering (Wijesekara, 1947).

The Pulligoda paintings have been done on a thin layer of lime plaster applied on the cave wall (De Silva, 1990). White, yellow, red, light green and brown are the major pigments used. The background is white and the figures have been emphasized with outline drawings. The figures are drawn with an attitude of veneration (De Silva, 1990). The first four figures from the left are in the act of worship while the right figure holds a garland in both hands (Wijesekara, 1947). The upper bodies are naked but carry ornaments such as necklaces, armlets, bracelets, and breast strings across the shoulder (Wijesekara, 1947). The lower bodies are covered with striped garments. Each figure is sitting on an open lotus resting on a decorated seat.

Few details of similar figures are also found on a separate fragment of the same cave (De Silva, 1990).
Vincent Smith and Coomaraswamy who studied the paintings in the Pulligoda cave have dated the work to the 7th century A.D. (Coomaraswamy, 1927; Wijesekara, 1947). S. Paranavitana in the opinion that these paintings belong to a period earlier than the 12th century (De Silva, 1990). R. N. De Silva thinks that Pulligoda paintings have similarities to those of the early or middle Anuradhapura period and hence has dated them to a period closer to the 7th century A.D. (De Silva, 1990). De Silva has dated these paintings to the 4th century A.D. (De Silva, 1990).


1) Coomaraswamy, A.K., 1927. History of Indian and Indonesian art (p. 1965). New York: Dover publications. p.163.
2) Dhanapala, D.B., 1964. Buddhist paintings from shrines and temples in Ceylon. New American Library of World Literature by arrangement with UNESCO.
3) De Silva, R., 1990. Painting (Early period 247 B.C. to 800 A.D.). Nandadeva W. (Editor in chief), Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative series (Vol. V). Painting. Department of Archaeology (Sri Lanka). pp. 29-30.
4) Paranavitana, S., 1970. Inscription of Ceylon (Vol. I). Department of Archaeology Ceylon. p.23.
5) Wijesekara, N., 1945. Early Sinhalese Paintings. A thesis submitted for the Ph. D. of the Culcutta University. pp.35,117.

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This page was last updated on 14 January 2023

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