Bakamuna is a remote village located at the western edge of the Pollonnaruwa Districts, not far from Wasgomuwa National Park. It’s vicinity is crowded with ancient ruins such as the Buduruwayaya temple.
Bakamuna is situated near the Mahaweli tributary Amban Ganga from which water was dispersed for irrigation purposes already in the Anuradhapura period. It is also close to the Elahera channel leading water from the Amban Ganga to Minneriya Tank near Polonnaruwa.
Though located in only 20 km distance from the famous Kandalama Heritance hotel, Bakamuna is rarely visited by foreigners, though it is home to one of only 3 huge rock-cut reclining Buddhas in Sri Lanka. The lying figure near Bakamuna is called Attaragollava Buddha.
It is most likely that the Attaragollava Buddha of Bakamuna is from the Polonnaruwa period and created in the same period as Polonnaruwa’s world-famous Gal Vihara group of rock-cut Buddhas, during the reign of Parakrambahu the Great, since King Parakramabahu is credited with the innovation in the figure sculpture of the Buddha’s Parinibbana. Several such images from his reign and the following periods are found dispersed in many ancient sites in Sri Lanka, though only three of them are rock-cut giant Buddha’s, namely those in Gal Vihara, Bakamuna and Tantirimale. The rock-cut reclining Buddha’s are also the best known for their aesthetic appeal, despite their badly weather worn limbs.
Of these, the Attaragollava Buddha of Bakamuna is the smallest one, eith a length of 12 metres.
There is a striking contrast between earlier giant rock-cut statues from the Anuradhapura-period such as Aukana Buddha or Sasseruwa Buddha and Pollonaruwa-period Buddhas: All three places with rock-cut Buddhas from the Polonnaruwa time have reclining statues, all rock-cut statues from the Auradhapura time are standing Buddhas. The reason for this may be, that the colossal Buddhas of the Anuradhapura period show Mahayana influence. Mahayana figures are powerful super-human beings. This can be represented by displaying them vertically, surmounting the devotee.
The reclining Buddha representing the death as reaching he final Nirvana (Parinirvana) is a a more suitable symbol for Theravada-Buddhism, which became the island’s sole religion due to the monastic reform of Parakramabahu. The more modest height of a lying figure and the moment of death symbolize a more human than super-human being. And the passing away is exactly what is avoided or delayed by those Mahayana Buddhist saviours who renounce death and Parinirvana in order to save others within this world.
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