The Aukana Buddha, also spelt Avukana Buddha or Awkana Buddha, is located at 30km northwest of Dambulla, close to ancient reservoir called Kala Wewa. The next larger settlement is Kekirawa at the A9 mainroad. Besides the famous Gal Vihara group of Buddha statues in Polonnaruwa, the Aukana Buddha is the most impressive rock-cut statue of Sri Lanka. It’s not only huge but of remarkable beauty.
With a height off more than eleven metres, the Aukana Buddha is the second tallest and by far the most voluminous historical statue in Sri Lanka. Only the central Buddha statue of Buduruwagala is slightly taller, but more a relief than a three-dimensional sculpture.
Originally, the statue had been located within a large image house built of brick, of which parts of the walls still remain.
The Aukana Buddha Statue shows the otherwise rarely seen Asisa Mudra, which is the “posture of blessing”. The robe in single groves is draped over the left shoulder to fall over the left shoulder up to the ankle, whereas the right shoulder is left bare. This resembles Buddhas from the South-Indian Amaravati style. The delicate carving of the Buddha’s robe reveals the underlying form of his body. It is a masterpiece of a colossal Buddha statue, carved by an unknown sculptor.
The statue stands on a pedestal. The slab off stone in front of it is carved in the clasical form of a double petal lotus flower. This pedestal is called Padmasana meaning “Lotus seat”.
Many guidebooks and tourist guides claim the Aukana Buddha is from the 5th century, when King Dhatusena created the nearby Kalawewa tank. But it is much more likely that it is from the late Anuradhapura period, roughly the 7th to 10th century. This could be confirmed by an inscription on a granite slab at the northern wall of the shrine, found and deciphered in the year 1952, dated to the second half of the 8th century AD. The statue is not mentioned in the island’s ancient chronicle, presumably because it was Mahayana Buddhist sculpture, whereas the chronicles are written by authers from the Mahavihara, which was the spearhead of the concurrent Theravadic tradition.
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