Buduruvagala at the southern foot of the central highlands, situated about 7 km southeast of Wellawaya, is a group of seven rock-hewn Buddhist statues. Actually, it’s the largest such complex with the tallest rock-cut Buddha sculpture in Sri Lanka (16 m), though Gal Vihara in Pollonaruwa is more artistic and more impressive. The Mahayana inspired statues of Buduruvagala date back to the 9th or 10th century. Despite Sri Lanka’s Buddhist records and self-perception that it has been a Theravada Buddhist country since the introduction of the religion, Mahayana was present on the island during most of ist history, particulary during the second half of the first millennium. The art oft the south of the island from that period is predominantly Mahayanistic.
The tallest statue, which is in the very centre, depicts a Buddha, presumably the Buddha Dipankara, who is the first Buddha known by name. The other six statues are arranged in two groups of three symmetrically. The high crowns signify they are Bodhisattvas.
The central of the three figures to the Dipakara Buddha's right is saviour Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of compassion. He wears a high crown. This is the figure with the best preserved coloured stucco in Buduruvagala.
To the left of this white painted figure is the only female figure of the group, depicting Tara, the embodiment of Avalokiteshvara’s compassion. This is Sri Lankas only ancient rock-cut statue which represents a female.
The third figure to Avolokiteshvara’s right cannot be identified with certainty. It could represent Bhrikuti in such a group of three, but it’s not indicated as female. Another assumption is that this smaller figure represents Prince Sumedha, a traveller searching for wisdom who is the main character of a Mahayanistic sutra.
The crowned figure at the centre of the other group is Bodhisattva Maitreya, who is also venerated as the future Buddha in Theravada Buddhism. His Pali name is Metteya.
Several of the statues hold up their right hands with two fingers bent down to the palm, this beckoning gesture known as Katamukha Mudra is very common in Buddhist art of southern Sri Lanka.
To his left stands Vajrapani, easily identifiable, as he holds a vajra, a thunderbold scepter in the form of an hourglass. This tatnric symbol is very uncommon in Sri Lanka’s art and otherwise never depicted at rock-cut statues on the island.
The other figure, which has the most delicately carved face of all seven statues, is presumably the Bodhisattva Manjushri.
Some of the statues still bear traces of stucco and colour, indicating that the robes were originally stuccoed and painted.
Beside the tall statue in the centre, there is a carved hole in the shape of a flame. The inside wall of this carved shape is said to be wet and to smell like mustard oil. The occurence of the smell is considered to be a miracle, as there is no explainable source of oil at the rock.
The modern name ‚Buduruvagala‘ is derived from the words for Buddha (Budu), image (ruva) and stone (gala). The original name of the temple is unknown.
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Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka