“Makara”- The Sri Lankan Dragon

“’The makara has the trunk of an elephant, the feet of a lion, the ears of a pig, the body of a fish living in water, the teeth turned outwards, eyes like Hanuman’s, and a splendid tail’

-‘Mediaeval Sinhalese art’ by Ananda KCoomaraswamy (1908) (translated as found in the Rupavaliya)

A prominent figure from the mythical realm of Sri Lankan traditional art, Makara stand out as one of the most widely used motifs and one bearing great meaning in every line it’s made up of.

Described in dept in the Sri Lankan Sanskrit book Rupavaliya, a manifestation of the imagination of the artist, this majestic creature has roamed the Sri Lankan art scene for as long back as history goes. 

Each feature of this animal represents celebrated human qualities in a very subtle way which has made him take a center stage in Buddhist art in Sri Lanka. 

  •      The Elephants tusk- represents Dexterity
  •      Paws of a Lion- strength
  •      Ears of a Boar- acute hearing
  •     Body of a Fish- movement 
  •     Teeth and Jaws of a crocodile – Demand for respect
  •     Eyes of a monkey- Vision
  •     Tail of a bird- Splendid beauty 

The makara is found widely as a part of the “Makara thorana”, the arch way of the entry to Buddhist temples and as a decorative art piece around many of the Buddha statues found on this tiny island.

Korawakgala/makaragala(dragon Stone) an stone sculptured art piece that goes on ether sides of a staircase of an entry way ta a Buddhist building is another instance where this majestic creature makes its appearance.  

Aspects of this mystical creature finds it way in to more day to day objects as well, such as temple jewelry, door knobs and medieval traditional military equipment’s such as swords.


Hidden in the background behind a clash of shapes and color this mystic creature has made the Sri Lankan traditional art his home in very subtle ways that not many actually notice its presence, And therefor faces a great threat of extinction.

Until next time,

Safe travels.  

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