Sep 6, 2007

The Paranirvana of Buddha, Gal Vihara, Polonnaruva, Ceylon

The Paranirvana of Buddha, Gal Vihara, Polonnaruva, Ceylon


Joseph Lawton

(British, d. 1874)

Albumen print

Image: 21.4 x 28.2 cm (8 7/16 x 11 1/8 in.); Matted: 35.6 x 45.7 cm (14 x 18 in.)

Gift of Louise S. Richards 1976.156



During the British colonial period in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), a 12th-century monastic establishment with a colossal stone sculpture of the reclining Buddha had fallen into ruins. The photographer’s intentional inclusion of a Sri Lankan man, leaning against a pillar at the front of the composition, and a colonial Englishman, clambering over Buddha’s body, underscores how differently they interact with the site. The Sri Lankan visitor views the ruins with devotional reverence; the Englishman treats it as a place of adventurous entertainment.

See also
Type of artwork: 
Albumen print

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.