Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Silver Temple (Ridi Vihara), Sri Lanka

Name : The Silver Temple (Ridi Vihara), Sri Lanka

Location :

The Ridi Viharaya is a temple situated atop a hill at Ridigama (Silver village), a village 13 miles away from Kurunegala.

Description :

It is a cave temple with many interesting legends surrounding it, and is visited by Buddhists, Hindus and Christians.

Accidental Silver to finance the Ruwanweliseya Stupa
Ridi Vihara was built by the hero of the nation, King Dutugamunu who reigned in the 2nd century BC. The king lacked the funds to complete the great Ruwanweliseya Stupa (Ruwan Weli Saya dagoba) at Anuradhapura until the discovery of a rich vein of silver at the village now known as Ridigma. The new found wealth having allowed the illustrious king to carry on with his masterpiece, the king expressed his gratitude by creating a cave temple at the location of the silver ore.

Jackfruit treat temple
At the entrance to the cave temple, just before the main body of the temple lies the Varaka Valandu Vihara (Jackfruit treat temple), an exquisite little temple, which dates from around the eleventh century. Built right up against a small rock outcrop, it is dedicated to the guardian of the mountain on which the Ridi Vihara is located. The bases of the pillars are decorated with figures-a man with a spear, another with a bow & arrow-while inside the tiny shrine sits a small yellow Buddha statue & a few simple Kandyan-era paintings. When you are on the tour with us, we will, of course narrate the story of the jackfruit treat: how the temple got its name. And on tour in Sri Lanka you will be having tender Jackfruit spicy curry (Polos), ripe Jackfruit curry in sauce of coconut milk (Kiri cos) & ripe & juicyJackfruit (Varaka) as a fruit. Tropical Jackfruit, one of the largest fruits in the world, is a many splendoured love in Sri Lanka

The main rock-cut temple, Lower Temple
Beyond here, you pass through a wooden entrance pavilion (an old wooden palanquin hangs from the roof) and cross a small courtyard painted in harmonious pastel colours to reach the main rock-cut temple, the Pahala Vihara (Lower temple). Gold plated Buddha statue attributed to King Dutugamunu is kept securely inside a special case.

Pancha Nari Gataya (The knot of five maidens) in the lower temple.
To the right of the entrance to the lower temple is an exquisite ivory carving of a vase. At the close range the vase blooms into a figure of five entwined maidens.

Blue & White Dutch wall tiles of Biblical stories in the lower temple
The temple's interior is surprisingly large; a veritable Aladdin's cave, its walls are covered in tessellated hundreds of Kandyan-era pictures of Buddha. A 9m recumbent Buddha rests on a platform, a flower altar decorated with a blue & white tiles that narrates Biblical stories, which were a gift from the Dutch envoy to King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe (1746-1778 AD). The king in return had gifted the tiles to the temple. Christianity being a non-violent religion, the Buddhist spirit of tolerance of faiths would have spurred the Buddhist bhikkus (monks) to see the tiles with due admiration of their quality & artistry. Banishment of Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden, the last supper, Mosses & the burning bush, prophets of yore, dove of peace, creation of man are some of the scenes depicted in the tiles.

Floor Tiles with Christian Stories
At the far end of cave stand from left to right statues of the Buddha, Avalokiteshvara (Natha), King Dutugamunu (the last is an extremely ancient statue date from Anuradhapura period), as well as a delicate reclining Buddha from Burma.
Reclining Buddha from Burma
Upper Temple
Behind the temple, steps lead up to the right to the Uda Vihara (Upper Temple) right behind. This eighteenth-century structure is attributed to King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe. The entrance consists of Kandyan-period moonstone & steps flanked by elephants. A series of Hindu deities & images of the Buddha are located herein.

The main image of Upper Temple
In the main chamber is an impressive seated Buddha (UdaVihara Buddha) set on a busy backdrop Makara Torana (Dragon Arch) of images of gods, devotees and Buddhas. Paintings of mythological animals and King Rawana too adorn the temple.

A trompe l' oeil Cobra House, next to the main chamber of Upper temple
Next door to the main chamber is the small "Cobra House". To the right of the entrance door is a painting of a formation of nine maidens-a trompe l' oeil which, as you walk backwards, magically transforms into the shape of an elephant. It's a clever visual trick designed by the fresco artists.

There are more Kandyan-era decorative murals of flowers & Buddha statues inside the Cobra House; behind it, a stupa sits almost completely covered under another part of the overhanging rock. These are the paintings of "Sarpenda" and "Vrushaba Kunjaraya" (the entwined heads of the bull and the elephant).

Artificial lake
There is an attractive artificial lake at the foot of the hills.

Ancient inscription
Outside the temple complex you can see an abandoned dagoba at the top of a smooth rocky outcrop. On the way up, to your right an ancient inscription in the stone that has been etched on King Dutugamunu's behalf.

An easy 10 minute walk starts to the right of this stupa passing a modern pavilion to an abandoned villa; nearby, on the top of the cliff, is a slab of rock which affords magnificent views of hills & valleys.

Websites :

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Aukana Buddha Statue, Sri Lanka

Name :  Aukana Buddha Statue, Sri Lanka

Location :

The Aukana temple nearby ancient Kala Wewa rainwater reservoir, perched on a small hill at the edge of the jungle located some 30km northwest of Golden Dambulla Rock Templewith its massive stone-carved Buddha
The perfect & elegant 12m-high standing Buddha is adored all over the island to such an extent, that several full scale copies have been erected in the island: Colombo, Dondra, Ratnapura, and Trincomalee.

Description :

The statue was erected in the same period the second half of the 8th century AD, as those at Polonnaruwa's Gal Vihara & Lankatilaka Vihara as well as Buduruwagala & Maligawila all of which emphasis on Buddha's superhuman, transcendal powers.

Bless you
Unlike other great statues in the island which are carved in "Abhaya Mudra" (Have no fear), the Aukana statue is in the "Asisa Mudra", the blessing position, with the right hand turned sideways to the viewer. The figure is carved in the round, narrowly connected at the rear to the rock.

The perfect Buddha statue
Carved out of the living rock with supreme assurance, Aukana Buddha is a magnificent image. His expression is serene & from his curled hair there sprouts the flame called siraspata signifying the power of supreme enlightenment. Although the statue is large & stands straight up with feet firmly planted on the lotus stone pedestal, the body retains a graceful quality enhanced by beautifully flowing drapery clinging to the body.

The sculpture in proportion
Aukana Buddha statue is carved alone the proportion of nine faces: the body height is nine times the length of the face. The proportion of nine faces is the iconometry followed by the sculptors in the eight century AC of Sri Lanka.

Sirasapata is the symbol placed on the top of the Buddha images in Sri Lanka. The sirasapata found on the head of Aukana Buddha statue is believed to be a modern addition in the year 1870. The discovery of a fragment of a sirasapata in the premises of the site suggests there had been a sirasapata on the head of the statue nearly a century before 1870. This turn of events have lead to study whether sirasapata had existed from the very beginning in the 8th century AD. According to the Buddhist literature sirasapata have existed in the all four previous Buddhas. Introduction and existence of sirasapata have been consistent in Sri Lanka since second half of the fifth century A.D. with several exceptions. Hence it is believed Aukana Buddha statue too was adorned with a sirasapata.

Drapery, the art of draping the statues in folds is prominent in the Aukana Buddha statue. The robe in single groves is draped over the left shoulder to fall over the left shoulder up to the ankle. The right shoulder is left bare.

Aukana Buddha statuestand on a pedestal, the front of which is carved off a slab off stone in the form of a double petal lotus flower called Padmasana meaning the Lotus seat.

The tallest (Ancient) Buddha statue in the world
The magnificent free-standing statue carved out of a single rock is the tallest Buddha statue in existence today. Following the destruction of similar but much larger statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan, the Aukana Buddha has gained even greater significance in the Buddhist World.

The whole of cultured world was horrified at the savagery & barbarity inflicted upon the colossal Bamian Buddha statues carved from the cliffs that dominate the dusty plains in the heart of Hindu Kush which have watched serenely for 15 centuries as the fortunes of the city beneath them waned from Silk Road metropolis to remote Afghan backwater.

In honour of the destroyed & in defiance of intolerant, China quietly goes with its own form of defiance: in their territory, carving, sculpting, erecting two statues similar in every conceivable way, to the two Buddha Statues destroyed by Taliban. In the ancient times Bamiyan, the region where Mahayana Buddhism originated, was known as Vokkana or Avakana. Do we have a clue to the name Aukana? In Sinhalese there is no such word as Aukana meaning sun eating as erroneously proclaimed.

Best time to see :

The best time to see the magnificent statue is at the crack of dawn when the first rays of sun light up the east-facing statue's finely carved features.

Websites :


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