eLanka | Buduruwagala Buddha Statue – tallest rock-carved statue By Arundathie Abeysinghe


Ms. Arundathie AbeysingheThe Buddha Statue at Buduruwagala Rock Carved Temple is considered as the tallest rock-carved statue in the world after the destruction of Bamiyan Buddha Statues in Afghanistan. 

Situated about nine kilometers from *Wellawaya on *Thanamalwila Road (about 25 kilometers from *Ella), Buduruwagala Rock Carved Temple is a less visited place by local as well as foreign tourists. The location can be reached from a scenic road. 

According to scholars, Buduruwagala means “the rock with the statue of the Buddha” as Buduruwagala is derived from Buddha (Budu), images (ruva) and stone (gala) in Sinhala.

There are seven figures of the Buddha at the Temple, carved on a rock at the center of the cliff face, centered by a huge 15.3 meter Buddha Statue in Abhaya Mudra* position and there are three smaller statues on both sides. On the tallest statue there is an original stuccoed robe and a long streak of orange hue which suggests that the carvings were painted brightly in the past. There are six other images hewn in high relief, in sets of three located on either side of the central carving on the same rock where the Buddha Statue is located. 

According to scholars, the central of the three figures located to the right of the Buddha Statue is Avalokiteswara (the Mahayana *bodhisattva of compassion). There is a white-painted figure located to the left of this statue believed by many to be Goddess Tara.

The shape of the rock is similar to a kneeling elephant. The carvings have a *Mahayana Buddhist Style and are similar to the carvings at Dowa Temple (situated a few kilometers away from Ella town). 

There are square niches carved into the rock above the statues. But their use is not known. There is a 1.2 meter high hole similar to a flame by the right foot of the Buddha Statue. From time immemorial, the deepest reaches of the hole are constantly wet with a substance similar to the smell of mustard oil. To date, this is also an unsolved mystery.    

According to archaeologists, works of art in Buduruwagala belong to 9th or 10th Century AD (towards the end of the *Anuradhapura Period) and to Mahayana Buddhist School. There is a belief that during this period, Mahayana Buddhism had been practiced in Sri Lanka. A remarkable feature of these statues is their shape, different from Buddha Statues in every region in Sri Lanka.


Buduruwagala Buddha Statue - tallest rock-carved statue By Arundathie Abeysinghe

Avec ses 16 m de haut, le Bouddha central est le plus grand “Bouddha debout” du pays


Similar to many artifacts in different parts of Sri Lanka, the origin as well as the history of the Buddha Statue and other carvings of Buduruwagala Rock Carved Temple is a mystery.

Nestled beneath the hilly terrains of Central Highlands of Sri Lanka in *Monaragala District, the site of the Temple and the carvings are located about four kilometers from Buduruwagala junction (which detours from A2 Road and connects *Wellawaya and *Thanamalwila).

According to archaeologists, an ancient dagoba (stupa) had been uncovered midway along the road from the junction towards the Temple.

The rock-carved figures at Buduruwagala Rock Temple display excellent craftsmanship of Sri Lankan craftsmen of yesteryear.

Directions: Buduruwagala Rock Temple can be reached from Wellawaya or Thanamalwila. The last stretch of the road (about four kilometers) is on a track through a set of lakes.

  • Abhaya Mudra – This is the gesture of reassurance and safety or “gesture of fearlessness” which dispels fear and accords divine protection, displayed in many statues of Indian religions including Buddhism and Hinduism.
  • Anuradhapura – A major city in Sri Lanka, the capital of Anuradhapura District and North Central Province.
  • Anuradhapura Period – A period in the history of Sri Lanka which commenced when King Pandukabhaya (474 BC – 367 BC) established his kingdom in *Anuradhapura.
  • Badulla – Situated in lower central hills, Badulla is the capital city of *Uva Province and Badulla District.
  • Bodhisattva – According to Buddhism, a bodhisattva is a person who is on the path to become a Buddha. According to *Theravada Buddhism, a bodhisattva refers to a person who has made a resolution to become a Buddha and has received a confirmation or prediction from a living Buddha. 
  • Ella – Situated at an elevation of 1041 meters above sea level amid lush green forests, rolling carpets of tea and breathtaking mountains, Ella is a small town in the *Badulla District of *Uva Province. Popular among local and foreign tourists, Ella has a mild climate and a laid-back atmosphere.
  • Monaragala – Located in *Uva Province, Monaragala is the largest town in Monaragala District.
  • Thanamalwila – This is a Divisional Secretariat of Monaragala District of Uva Province.
  • Theravada – A conservative form of Buddhism (the other form is Mahayana Buddhism) which developed from Hinayana Buddhism (Sanskrit term literally meaning “small vehicle”, the name given by followers of Mahayana Buddhism to the more conservative school of early Buddhism). Theravada Buddhism is practiced in Sri Lanka, Myanmar (former Burma), Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
  • Uva Province – This is the fourth largest province in Sri Lanka bordered by Central, Eastern and Southern provinces.
  • Wellawaya – This is a town located in Monaragala District of Uva Province.

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