Bellanwila Murals- a synthesis of spirituality and aesthetics


By Randima Attygalle

Sri Lankan tradition of temple paintings dates back to the era of King Dutugemunu (101-77 BC) where an elaborate series of Buddha’s life in pictorial form inside the relic chamber of Ruwanweliseya was commissioned by the monarch. Mahavamsa further offers a detailed description of this artistic labour. The thematic content manifested in the temple painting tradition since the Anuradhapura era has been kept alive through Polonnaruwa era to the 18th and 19th centuries’ Buddhist revival championed by Ven. Weliwita Saranankara thera and Ven. Mohottivatte Gunananda thera.

Lack of superior sense of aesthetic sensibilities and crude imitations of western realism was a blow taken by temple art in early 20th century. The execution of Kelaniya murals by Solias Mendis in such a backdrop was the good fortune of an entire nation.

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