Gal Potha (Stone Book) Inscription at Polonnaruwa (පොලොන්නරුව ගල් පොත ශිලා පුවරුව)

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Gal Potha (Stone Book) is one of the famous works of King Nissanka Malla (1187-1196) which lies on the side of the Dalada Maligawa (Temple of Tooth) of King Nissanka Malla inside the Dalada Maluwa in the ancient Polonnaruwa Kingdom.

This massive inscription describes himself, his rule and his eligibility for being a king of Sri Lanka. This massive slab which is 26’10” feet (8.2 meters) long and 4’7” feet (1.4 meters) in breadth has been brought from the Mahiyangana area by the worriers of King Nissanka Malla (1187-1196) as per the inscription. The text is written in 3 columns and contains over 4300 characters in 72 lines. This inscription is considered the largest inscription ever discovered in Sri Lanka.

There are signs that liquidized metal has been poured onto the carved characters to bring out the letters much clearer.

Beautiful carvings of two rows of geese (Hamsa) form the border of the side of the rock. Between this design at the centre is a carved seated figure of Goddess Lakshmi holding two flowers and two elephants poring water on her from a container.

Complete Content of the Gal-Pota Inscription

Column A

[Line 1.] Hail! This Dharma, which gives happiness and which alone deserves to be honoured by the whole world, should always be preserved. Vira-Nissanka-Malla makes this appeal over and over again to the rulers of the earth in the name of [their] good fame

[Lines 2-7] King Vijaya, descended from the family of Kalinga Cakravartin who had the power of travelling through the air 2, and who belonged to the royal line of the Okkaka dynasty, exalted by [the possession of] an assemblage of auspicious and infinitely sublime qualities:-When one thousand seven hundred years had elapsed since this king, protected by the gods in accordance with the behest of the Buddha, arrived in the· Island of Lanka, and destroying the yaksas made it an abode for mankind 3, there was born the great king Siri-Sangabo Kalinga Parikrama-Bahu Viraraja Nissanka-Malla Aprati-Malla in Simhapura in the country of Kalinga in noble Dambadiva, the birth-place of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Universal monarchs [he was born] of the womb of the great queen Pirvati unto king Sri-Jayagopa who was like unto a tilaka ornament to this royal line [of the Okkaka dynasty. He grew up in the midst of royal splendour and being invited by the great king of the Island of Lanka, his senior kinsman, to rule over the Island of Lanka which is his by right of lineal succession of kings, he landed in Lanka in great state. Enjoying (thereafter) the regal dignities of the governor and sub-king, and being proficient in the science of arms, in religion, and in all arts and sciences, he is due order of regal succession received the sacred unction and wearing the crown assumed supreme sovereignty.

[Lines 7-12] His commanding personality is made dazzling to the eyes of the world through· the fact that at his coronation festival he by a mere frown dispersed the clouds that gathered filling the vault of the firmament. His great majestic power is such that when hunting in the forest a fierce savage she-bear sprang before him with a sharp growl, he laid her and her whelps dead at his feet. He possesses the powers of a lion-king, which [can] extract water from any spot he likes, for [on one occasion] when [travelling] in a water-less desert, the moment he entertained the thought ‘it would be well if there were water’, [there fell a shower of rain] from an out-of-season cloud [and] produced an abundant stream. His power of command is such that it is not transgressible, for instance, when [once] on going to Bana to enjoy sea sports, a huge polonga appeared in front of him, he said to it ‘thy approach is unwelcome, be off and thyself prescribe what [punishment] is meet for thee’, The serpent then stung itself and sacrificed its life. He is endowed with a majestic personality, for the moment his state elephant saw him, the elephant was so delighted that he roared the shout of triumph and offered of his own accord his back [to ride on].

[Lines 12-18] His Majesty drove away his enemies and gladdened the faces of the people just as the sun rising on the Orient Mount dispels darkness and expands the lotus blooms. Equalling Sakra, the Lord of the gods, in boundless regal splendour, the full moon in gentleness, Mount Meru in firmness, the ocean in depth [of character], and the solid earth in patience, and flourishing like a ‘wishconferring’ tree that has sprung up as a result of the merits of the world, [he thus thought to himself]:- Many people in this Island of Lanka, which is the heritage of our dynasty, have through the unjust acts of some kings lost their family
privileges and their wealth.’ Then, [filled] with great compassion, he restored to them their family privileges 6. He remitted taxes for five years and enacted a law that in collecting revenue from lands and fields, the excessive taxes imposed by former kings should not be taken, that taxes should not exceed one
amuna and three pala and six mandaran for an amuna [sowing extent of land] of the utte (upper) tract, one amuna and two pala and four mandaran for an amuna of the mande (middle) tract, and one amuna and one pala and three mandaran for an amuna of the passe (lower) tract 1, and that for all times no tax should be collected from chena cultivation 2 which is carried on with difficulty.

[Lines 18-24] He quenched the fire of indigence with plenteous showers of wealth consisting of kahavanu coins, copper, bell-metal, gold, silver, pearls, precious stones, clothes, and jewellery. He appointed ministers and other (officials) and provided them with ‘livings’, serfs, cattle, permanent grants and inheritances, gold and silver vessels, domestic utensils, and other riches in abundance. He repaired the great tanks, (irrigation) canals, and embankments that had been Jong disused in the three kingdoms, and thus brought prosperity to every province, and security to the inhabitants thereof. He abolished the visamburu-vata. With the aid of administrators of justice, he put an end to injustice in various provinces. And thinking that robbers commit robbery on account of their desire for wealth, he gave them whatever things they liked and in this way he removed the fear of thieves. Everywhere amongst the dwellers in forests and dwellers in huts he established order and cleansed [the country] of thorns [of disorder]. In accordance with the disciplinary rules he rid the Buddhist Church also of the thorns of irreligiousness, and thus rendered both the Church and the State free from evil. He provided the members of the Great Community who led pure lives with the four requisites, caused ordination ceremonies to be held every year, bestowed kathina gifts, and re-established offerings to gods, daru-kusalan and manga-kusalan as existed in the past. He rendered [in this way] great service to the cause of religion. He promoted [the interests of] religion and science by providing suitable means of subsistence for those versed in the Dharma and in the [various] branches of knowledge.

Column B

Realizing that the long permanency of this kind of welfare of the world and of the religion [B, lines 1-5] depends on the royal dynasty, he sent [emissaries] to the country of Kalinga and caused many princesses of the Lunar and Solar dynasties to be brought over. And for his own son, the sub-king Vira-Bahu Mahapa, he secured royal maidens and increased the royal family. Wearing the crown and other royal insignia, together with his chief queen Kaliliga Subhadra Mahadevi and Kalyana Mahadevi of the Gangavamsa, as well as his own son the sub-king and his daughter [the princess] Sarvanga Sundari, His Majesty mounted the scale-pan and giving away every year wealth equal in weight to the five [royal personages], caused showers of navaratna to fall, and afforded relief to the helpless and the distressed-such as monks, brahmans, the blind, the crippled, dwarfs, and hunchbacks, who had come from various quarters.

[Lines 5-10] In this manner he conciliated the world and the church by the exercise of the ‘ four cardinal virtues’ and reached the very summit of popularity, so much so that the people whose hearts he won protested their readiness to give their lives for him as a proof of the love and loyalty each entertained for him. Performing day after day the ten meritorious acts, he took his residence in the Kalinga city of Pulastipura. Though he constantly viewed with the eyes of spies his own kingdom and those of others as well, he thought that it would be well if he were to see with his own eyes how he had brought peace and order to the Island of Lanka (Ceylon). Accordingly escorted by his fourfold army, he went on a tour of inspection through the three kingdoms of Ceylon ( Tri-Sinhala), visiting the villages, towns, cities, and places difficult of access through water, hills, forests, and marshes, as if he were promenading in a house of amusements. He gladdened the dwellers in the borderlands with great showers of gifts. In all the old viharas in the three kingdoms which he visited such as Miyagunu Maha-Vehera, Mahagama, [Devunuvara ?] and Kalani he effected repairs.

[Lines 10-15.] He caused the reclining, sitting, and standing images in the cave of Dambulla to be gilt, and made great offerings to the value of a lac [of karsapana] He spent thirty-six lacs on making an offering to the Ruvanmali-maha-sa in Anuradhapura, and at the spot where the devas (gods) who were delighted with this offering uttered words of benediction, he caused a stone dagaba to be raised. In all these places he had moral edicts inscribed on stone. Thinking it wicked that the Island of Lanka, the home of the excellent religion of the Buddha, should have been in times gone by ……. and burning [with indignation thereat] he made up his mind to conquer Dambadiva (India).

So he set out in the great royal state, surrounded by his fourfold army, and true to his title Nissanka-Malla (dauntless warrior) he showed no hesitation anywhere, but crossed the great sea which was as calm as a blue sapphire eye [ set on an image of the Buddha] and landed in Dambadiva. There he dispatched heralds and champions to demand single combats and army contests and prepared for war.

[Lines 15-20.] Then the General Lag-Vijayasingu Senevi Tavurunavan, intimating that he himself is going to be [at the battlefield] so as to ·secure the conquest of Dambadiva, set out to wage war. Whereupon the Pandya king and his mother, being filled with fear, made entreaties, saying ‘be pleased to grant us lands enough for our maintenance and let Your Majesty take the kingdom’, and sent [Nissanka-Malla] ‘golden fingers’ 1, royal maidens, [ elephants, horses], and various other gifts. By the copious streams of these and similar gifts from the country of the Colas was quenched the flame of his indignation. He formed friendly alliances with such of the princes of Karnata, Nelluru, Gauda, Kalinga, Tilinga, Gurjara, and diverse other countries as were desirous of his goodwill; but unto those who did not wish such friendship he struck terror by the very superiority of his own valour. He, moreover, exacted from such kingdoms princesses and tributes. Thereafter at Ramesvara he mounted the scale-pans and holding the tulabhara ceremony bestowed boundless wealth on inhabitants of many a land. He also had pillars of victory set up there as lasting monuments and a temple (devalaya) built bearing the name Nissankesvara.

[Lines 20-24.] Since there were no adversaries, he listened to the entreaties of the kings of Dambadiva to relieve them from fear. So (taking captives) he returned to the Island of Lanka escorted by the same (fourfold] army. Then reflecting that, as he had no enemies in this world, he would conquer the enemies of the next world, he caused many alms-houses, including the Nissanka-dana-satra, to be erected at many places in his own country as well as in other lands. He furnished these [houses] as ‘wish-conferring trees’ with various objects for the enjoyment (of repasts, & etc.) such as vessels of gold and silver 7 and the like, and held distributions of alms in abundance. For the purpose of witnessing the great rejoicings of the beggars who had received alms, he erected the pavilion. called Nissanka-dana-mandapaya. To the Tooth and the Bowl relics he offered his son and daughter, and redeemed them by presenting in their stead [a model of] a dagaba in solid gold together with other valuables.

Column C

[Lines 1 -5] He built of stone the Dalada-geya (Tooth-relic house), Vata-geya (the Rotunda), and the Nissanka-lata-mandapaya (Nissanka flower trail hall), [all of them furnished] with gateways and walls so as to delight the hearts of beholders and be to them [as it were] heaven and nirvana. He built also, an upakara-caitya (subsidiary dagaba) adjoining the dagaba at the Maha-Vihara [in Polonnaruva], as well as d.e Ruvanmali Dagaba, eighty cubits [high?] on the north side of the royal residence, with gateways, walls, and monks’ residences surrounding it. [Thus] he ensured the long stability of the State and the religion. Moreover, considering that the Island of Lanka is a noble land because of the establishment of Buddhism there, that the living beings in it have lofty virtues, and that, therefore, they should receive advice and protection, he, out of compassion, proclaimed the [following] maxims of good counsel:

Though kings appear in human form, they are human divinities (nara-devata) and must, therefore, be regarded as gods.

[Lines 5-10.] The appearance of an impartial king should be welcomed as the appearance of the Buddha. When kings inflict punishment commensurate with the offence [committed], they do so with good intentions, just as a physician applies a remedy for a bodily ailment. They restrain [their subjects] from evil
and thus save them from falling into hell. They lead them to do good, thereby securing for them the [bliss of] heaven and release from re-births (moksa). If the wishes of kings were not observed, the human world would be like hell; but if the wishes were respected, it would be like heaven. The trouble which one undergoes on behalf of kings is [like unto J the sowing of the seed of happiness. One must examine each ……… and keep oneself aloof from all [such] evil ways. He who takes care of the wealth he has acquired should observe the duties incumbent on his family. Like sugar-cane [crushed in the press] one should [though …. ] pour out the sweetness of loyalty. Though one has fallen from· office, one should be [loyal] to kings like a fruit fallen from the peduncle.

[Lines 11-18] A subject should [so conduct] himself that when he is told that he has been summoned [to the presence of the king], he might go without fear, saying, ‘Seeing I have done no wrong, what does it matter to me?’ Talking about the secrets of kings is like invoking [the god of] Death by the repetition of charms. He who gives his life for the king will live long in the frame of glory. The real feeling is the feeling of gratefulness. The best occupation is the cultivation of land. The highest treasure is the Dharma. All these things …… , which should be cherished, exist through kings. Therefore one should not be remitting in the protection of the king. Kings do not like those who are puffed up with pride. So when one has received titles, offices, and wealth from them (i. e. kings), he should not become proud. If any one ….. belonging to the Govi caste, regardless of the titles and offices he has already received, were to think of . . . . . . . . the people should not associate themselves with him. Were he to entertain such an idea, he would be held by the public as an object of scorn-as crows, jackals, &c., that try to emulate the mien of swans, lions, and the like-and he himself would be wiped out with his worldly possessions. Therefore the people should unite and remove him …… .

[Lines 18-24] In accordance with the maxim ‘ ………….. ‘ they should elect for “kingship the sons of . . . . . . . . kings, [namely, the princes holding the offices of] apa mahapa, even though they be minors, for they are the lords of the world, and thus they should maintain family customs ….. . If there are no princes they should maintain [the kingdom] by submitting themselves to the sway of the queens. If there are no queens also, they should be placed in the position of king even a slipper worn on the feet of a great king and protect the kingdom. Just as pouring poison . . . . . . . . or planting poisonous trees where ‘wish-conferring trees’ stood, people should not establish in the Island of Lanka which belongs to the Kalinga dynasty, non-buddhistic kings of Cola, [countries], &c., who are inimical to the religion of the Buddha. Since the time of Prince Vijaya, it is to the princes of the Kalinga dynasty that the Island of Lanka has belonged. Therefore, if there are any of them to be found, then it is the duty [of the people] to place them in the position of supremacy, and thus to protect the State and the religion. It is indeed the Dharma that protects this whole world. So reflecting, cherish love for the acquisition of happiness in both the worlds. Thus are future kings exhorted by King Kalingu Lakindu Nisaka who loves virtue.


This stone for the lithic record [given above] is the one which Adhikara Tota-danavu Mand-navan caused to be brought from Sagiri by the Nissanka warriors maintained by His Majesty the illustrious Kaliinga Cakravartin.

(Wickremasinghe, 1928, pp. 115-123)


  • Wickremasinghe, D.M.D.Z. (1928) Epigraphia Zeylanica: Being Lithic and Other Inscriptions of Ceylon Vol II. London: Humphrey Milford (For the Government of Ceylon).

Also See

Map of Gal Potha (Stone Book)

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Driving Directions to Polonnaruwa Sacred City (Gal Potha – Stone Book)

The modern town of Polonnaruwa is also known as New Town, and the other part of Polonnaruwa remains the royal ancient city of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa.

Route from Colombo to Polonnaruwa Sacred CityRoute from Kandy to Polonnaruwa Sacred City
Through: Central Highway – Kurunegala – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo: 230 km
Travel Time: 4.45 hours
Driving Directions: See on Google map
Through : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance: 103 km
Travel Time: 2 hours
Driving Directions: see on Google map
Route from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa Sacred CityRoute from Batticaloa to Polonnaruwa Sacred City
Through : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance: 103 km
Travel Time: 2 hours
Driving Directions: See on Google map
Through : Maradankadawala – Habarana
Distance: 103 km
Travel Time : 2 hours
Driving Directions: see on Google map


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