The brick colour ruins of the Lankathilake Image House
Ruins of the Lankathilake Image House

Interested in exploring the ancient grandeur of Sri Lanka? If so, the Lankathilaka Image House, which has an archeological value as well as a unique history, is one of the must-see places on this splendid island. Among the number of ancient sites in the north-central province, it remains a significant highlight, and the bond it has with a Buddhist culture makes it more special. Hence, we thought of sharing with you the delight of this wonderful attraction. Continue reading, and enlighten yourself.

History of the Lankathilaka Image House

As you might already know, religious and cultural values in Sri Lanka have had a strong association with each other, since ancient times. Besides, the Great King Parakramabahu played a major role in reviving ancient Sri Lanka, following various foreign invasions. Lankathilaka Image House is a key part of his reconstruction plan.

As a result of these foreign invasions, the culture of our country got shades of different foreign cultures. This attraction is a fine example that proves this fact.

The Indian tradition of the “Gedige” that came to this country is well visible in this complex. This is a part of the Alahana Pirivena as well. The tallest remaining tower is 58 feet high. Archaeological evidence suggests that it may have been twice as tall as it was before. It had fallen into disrepair for some time, and King Vijayabahu IV renovated it during the reign of Dambadeniya (1270 – 1272 A.D.).

Likewise, if you go through the Chula Vamsa and the Maha Vamsa, you will come across the name of the Lankathilaka several times for sure, which simply means many rulers have renovated it during their reigns. So, this proves to us well that the Lankathilaka Image House has a long history, making it a significant highlight in Sri Lanka’s past.

Significance of Lankathilaka Image House

Lankathilaka means ‘Beauty of Sri Lanka’. Built-in Polonnaruwa, a powerful capital of the Hela Diva, this is a great art gallery. Its location is to the south of Kirivehera.

Its walls and roof are all made of the same bricks. The exterior walls look amazing with eye-catching carvings and sculptures. This is a masterpiece because it does not only hold the significant features of the culture of the kingdom of Polonnaruwa but also South Indian culture and later kingdoms. Other buildings of similar design are the Thuparama Image House and the Thivanka Image House.

Architectural Significance

The structure here is in three parts: the Sanctum, the vestibule, and the entrance porch. The entrance here faces east. And the interesting fact is that laying the gate to the east is still an architectural legacy of modern civilization.

The Sanctum bears a large Buddha statue. Only the body of this statue is visible at present. Besides, both the hands of this statue are also separated from it. The height of this is more than forty feet. This is a masterpiece by a skilled sculptor. The statue is mounted on a screen wall. At the end of the robe, which fell to the left, was a statue of a lion seated on a lotus leaf, which is no longer visible. All these sculptures and carvings have meanings inherent in Sinhala culture. However, as per history, during the Chola invasions, the enemy forces may have destroyed the statue intending to ruin the culture.

Moreover, the Lankathilake Image House does not take the form of a mere sacrificial shrine. Besides, the best proof that shows off the royal glory of this place is its entrance. The ruins of this giant entrance are only 55 feet high, and it stands on a platform a few feet above ground level.

Here are the ruins of seventeen towers built to support the upper floor. The shape of the whole building is rectangular. With geometrically finished sharp edges, this building is like a museum where you can study ancient architecture. As per the Department of Archeology, previously there had been a large roof with wooden beams. However, currently, this is a roofless open space. There are also ruins of a wooden balcony. So, all these remains prove to us again and again how wonderful this attraction had been in the past!

Archeological Value

Korawakgala and Muragala are two of the many amazing masterpieces found here. The image engraved on the Muragala suggests that he is Lord Dasharashtra, who is famous as the ruler of the east. Some say that the female figure engraved on the inside of the Muragala is his wife. The woman in this image is carrying a bunch of flowers in her left hand and leaning slightly as if to emphasize her feminine elegance. Behind this woman figure, you can find two images of escort ladies as well.

If you have an idea about the Sri Lankan artistic traditions, you may know that normally the image of a seven-headed cobra is engraved on the Muragala. Still, this is the only place in Sri Lanka where we can see a Nagini. Nagini is the female form of the snake.

Besides, the carvings of a female at an entrance are a very unusual and unique event. Also, another special feature of this place is that there is no moonstone at the entrance like in other temples.

However, the paintings and carvings on the walls are of the finest quality. There are dancers, gods, kings, and Brahmins in this view. In addition, the events related to Indo-Sri Lankan legends are also among the paintings on these walls. All these features make Lankathilaka Image House, one of the most sought-after archeological sites in Ceylon.


Several ruins of sculptures have been found at the site and are currently on public display at the National Museum of Colombo. The discovery of similar sculptures in the Thivanka statue reveals that they depict the characteristics of the Polonnaruwa period sculpture. The heads of these clay statues express different kinds of emotions. Among the embossments are humorous faces and dwarfish faces. They also have common hairstyles, broad lips, and large open eyes that can be seen in Polonnaruwa era sculpture. These heads are some of the primitive clay sculptures created in the 12th century. 


Apart from bibliographical sources such as the Mahavamsa and the Dipavamsa, other sources of information on the history of Ceylon are inscriptions (Tamlipi, Puwarulipi, Sannasa) and Sandesha Kavya. The Muragala inscription at the Lankathilaka Image House is present at the entrance.

H.C.P. Bell discovered this inscription. He first published it in the article on the annual tour report of the Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. You can find seventeen lines in Pali here. The text is slightly blurry due to bad weather, yet it is still readable. The whole scripture consists of two Pali Gathas. The first Gatha tells of King Parakramabahubahu who created it and the second stanza of King Vijayabahu IV who restored it. It is unknown at this time what he meant by this inscription.

How to Reach the Lankathilaka Image House

Reaching the Lankathilake Image House is not hard. If you are traveling from Colombo, you can reach Kurunegala, and take the Ambepussa-Trincomalee A6 highway and enter the Minneriya-Hingurakgoda Road (B287). Then you can easily reach Lankathilake image house by taking Polonnaruwa-Hingurakgoda B 552 road. Alternatively, you can reach the destination from Minneriya via Giritale. The journey usually takes about seven hours.

However, if you use the railway line, you should start from Colombo Fort Railway Station and reach Polonnaruwa Railway Station via Mahawa Junction Railway Station. From there you can reach the A11 Maradankadawala-Habarana-Thirukondaidu Expressway. You can also get a taxi service or a local tuk-tuk service for short-distance transportation within the city.

In addition, let us mention that the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, which houses many places such as Parakum Uyana, Nissankamallapura, Nelum Pokuna, Sacred Quadrangle, and Thivanka Pilima Geya, cannot be explored completed in a day. So, plan your trip accordingly, and witness the delight of these ancient wonders at your heart’s core.

The Bottom Line

You might love to explore the ancient grandeur of this splendid island. If so, you should surely make visiting Lankathilaka Image House a mandatory part of your Polonnaruwa exploration. This place is so rich in works of art that you can see something new every day. So, visit it yourself and witness the delight. Happy and Safe Travelling!