Sinhala (Sri Lanka)Tamil (Sri Lanka)
Oil lamp
Sutigara Chetiya, Dedigama
12 th century
Bronze: cast in several hollow and solid parts
Height: 28.5 cm

The oil lamp was discovered in 1951 in a relic chamber of a Buddhist stupa, the foundation of which is attributed to King Parakramabahu I (1153-86), one of the great personages in Sri Lanka history. Since it was excavated from s sealed context, it is safe to assign it to the reign of this king, or to a slightly earlier date.
The lamp is unique, mainly because it has a hydrostatically controlled oil-container. The main part of the lamp, which forms the oil container is designed in the shape of an elephant, carrying two persons seated one behind the other. In what may be an expression of ritual humour, the oil from the body of the elephant is fed into the lamp through its penis. The elephant holds a stick of sugar-cane in his trunk. The elephant and the riders are surmounted by a beautifully designed makarathorana. The lamp was originally hung by a chain fixed at the top of the makarrathorana. The chain is relieved at intervals by three human figures, a dancer, a cymbal player and a drummer.
The masterly realized by Sri Lankan artists, architects and engineers in the time of King Parakramabahu, and especially the high degree of skills displayed in hydrolic engineering is well displayed in this unique artifact.