Buddhas of Sri Lanka

Buddha at the entrance to the Kandy museum

I had thought that Sri Lanka is a Hindu country, but no, it turned out that the majority of the population is Buddhists (69%). And even if you have not read the statistics on this subject beforehand, that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country is not difficult to guess just after arriving there - impressive size sculpture of seated Buddha greets you at the airport, and numerous figures of smaller size, enclosed in glass boxes , flash with the regularity at roadsides and crossroads. I've never seen so many images of Buddha: in different sizes - from huge to small, in various poses - sitting, standing, reclining, with different facial expressions and hand positions, made of different materials.
One of the Buddhas in the streets of Kandy

Buddha at the Sacred Tooth Temple

Buddha at the Dambulla museum

Buddha at the Sasseruwa cave

I do not know, why they need so much sculptures. Take for example one of the most visited places in Sri Lanka - The Golden Temple in Dambulla. The five caves of this complex have nearly 120 images of Buddha. Plus a huge "golden" sculpture at the entrance, plus a dozen figures in the attached museum. Your head just starts spinning from all these numerous Buddhas in one place.

Row of Buddhas at the Dambulla temple

One of the Dambulla caves

Golden Buddha at the entrance to Dambulla Rock Temple

Of all the many Buddhas of Sri Lanka personally I would single out three. First, it is Aukana Buddha. The word "aukana" means "devourer of the sun". It is unclear where such a name came from. It is said that the statue looks its most beautiful in the rising sun, but I do not think the name is associated with it. The statue is 13 meters tall and dates to 5-6 centuries (the opinions of experts differ).

Aukana Buddha

Aukana Buddha (and me)

Not far from this place, about 11 km away, but aside from the main roads and in the middle of the jungle, there is a second remarkable sculpture of the Buddha, it is Sasseruwa. It is slightly shorter than the previous one (although some sources claim that on the contrary 10 cm higher) but also very impressive and is very much alike Aukana. Carved into the rock it looks as if it was always there and is creation of nature but not of man. Perhaps incomleteness of this sculpture also plays its role here: one ear and the folds of the cloth are unfinished, and the pedestal is just a raw stone. About the similarity of the two statues and incomleteness of one of them there are two versions. One says that the cracks that appeared on the torso of the statue during the construction made the craftsman to abandon it and create a new statue at Aukana. The other one narrates about competition between the master and his apprentice. Two great statues were being crafted at the same time. The master's more detailed Aukana Buddha was completed first and the apprentice being cast down by his master's superiority, abandoned his work of art.

Sasseruwa Buddha

Monks on their way to Sasseruwa Buddha

You will seldom see tourists here, because as I've mentioned, the road is bad and goes through the jungle. We got lost a bit there. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the ride and views of the village houses peeping through the bushes.
The third on my list is the Gal Vihara. This composition of three sculptures carved in granite rock is in the territory of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. The oldest sculptures (11c) is of standing Buddha with his eyes closed, the other two - of sitting and reclining Buddha date back to 12c.



Gal Vihara Buddha

The greatest impression makes the reclining Buddha, not so much by its size - 14 meters long, but by skill and craftsmanship of the ancient master: the patterns on the pillow, the Buddha's face, the folds of his clothes - you can't believe that all this is carved out of granite, so delicate and elegant work it is.

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