A treasure trove of stone artistry
The only place to see the largest collection of paintings belonging to Polonnaruwa kingdom is the Thivanka Pilimage which had been built as part of the Jethavanarama Complex by King Parakramabahu (1153-1186). “Pilimage” means image house and this historical attraction is situated in Nissankamallapura, Polonnaruwa. The image house has been named “Thivanka” which literally means three curves since there is a large image of Buddha which has been curved in three places.
The Thivanka Pilimage and the standing Buddha statue had been built entirely with bricks. The Image House is approximately 133 feet long and 67.6” feet wide. The thickness of the walls are more than 7 feet. The Image House consists of four parts. Namely. the Garbhagrha, the Antarala, the Mandapa and entrance porch. The steps at the entrance are decorated with two guard stones and two “Korawak Gala”. Only fragments of the original roof remain today. Thivanka Pilimage is an archeological haven which boasts of intricate carvings, murals, and paintings and as one of the places that house a unique statue of Lord Buddha. This intricately carved standing Buddha statue is about 8 meters in height, and it is attached to a screen wall. This statue which was carved during the 12th century now stands with a partially damaged head and hands. Since this statue is bend at the shoulder, waist and knees it is referred as a thribhanga or thivanka statue meaning three curves.
The interior walls of the building have been adorned with frescoes showing the Jataka Stories. The frescoes are believed to belong to the 12th century. At present most of the colorful drawings can be seen on the areas where masonry is intact. Anyone who observes these unique drawings will be amazed at the talent of the artist. The exterior walls of Thivanka PIlimage are decorated with sculptures depicting miniature edifices, Bodhisathvas, deitis, lions, swans and dwarf figures in various positions. Unfortunately, the walls of the image house of Thivanka Pilimage are partially ruined. The exterior restorations are been carried out for many years and the remaining is protected by a roof covering over the image house.
Thivanka Pilimage is most noteworthy for its paintings of the Polonnaruwa period. Art lovers would fall in love with this place for it is the only image house in Polonnaruwa city that retains most of the original paintings that exhibit the rich heritage of ancient Sri Lankan art.