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History of Sri Lankan Art

Updated on May 16, 2012

Dorawaka rock caves are located near Warakapola in the Kegalle district. It is an ancient cave with archeological findings dating back to 6300 BC that was initially discovered in the 1940's. Archaeologists believe that Dorawaka Rock caves at Warakapola reveal information of the Mesolithic Era, the third phase of the Stone Age. Therefore we can assume that the Sri Lankan visual art history was there in the Mesolithic era also. Inside the Dorawaka caves we can find scribbles of animal-like shapes, which are named as elephant and its calf.

According to Mahawansa in 3BCE there was a hall with frescos which was located near the Thuparama pagoda. In addition to that mahawansa reveals that King Dutugemunu had drawn the special occasions of the life of Lord Buddha around the base of Ruwanweliseya pagoda which was located in Anuradhapura district. Archaeologists believe that those paintings were about the Thusitha heaven, Wessanthara story, Parinirwanaya and Sathsathiya. According to the Pahian records they reveal that they found some paintings near the Abayagiriya pagoda also.

Most of the historical articles state that there were number of ancient buildings around the Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa area, but most of the buildings were fully destroyed or damaged with the paintings and the frescos due to various reasons.

According to Mr. Senaka Bandaranaike and N. Somathilaka following places were protected at the moment, Anuradapura era- Karabagala, Sigiriya, Mihinthalaya, Pulligoda, Mahiyanganaya. Polonnaruwa era- Thiwanka pilima geya and Galwiharaya.

Sigiriya is a large stone and ancient rock fortress and palace ruin in the central Matale District. The paintings in Sigiriya rock belongs to the Anuradapura era. John Still, an English explorer in 1907 had observed that, "The whole face of the hill appears to have been a gigantic picture gallery, the largest picture in the world perhaps”. The paintings would have covered most of the western face of the rock, covering an area 140 metres long and 40 metres high. Although the frescoes are classified as in the Anuradhapura period, the painting style is considered unique, the line and style of application of the paintings differing from Anuradhapura paintings. The lines are painted in a form which enhances the sense of voluminousness of figures. Some interpreted the paintings as celestial maidens going to worship Pindurangala. Some as the images of 500 wives King Kassapa had. Whatever the interpretation is all the women in paintings are different and the fact is they are facing Pidurangala.


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    • dbuddhika profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Hi Keith DuBarry, Thanks for your kind comments.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Outstanding information. History like this should be taught more at school :) Definitely a great source to learn other cultures and other countries' histories.

      Voted up and pinned!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Dbuddhika,

      Beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

      Take care :)

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Amazing information - wall paintings covering such a huge area is fascinating!

      Thank you, voted up

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this

    • Ancillotti profile image


      6 years ago from Brasil, Vitoria - ES



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