Avukana Buddha statue

Coordinates: 8°0′39.1″N 80°30′45.6″E / 8.010861°N 80.512667°E / 8.010861; 80.512667
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Avukana Buddha Statue
Avukana Buddha Statue is located in Sri Lanka
Avukana Buddha Statue
Avukana Buddha Statue
Year5th century
TypeStone sculpture
LocationKekirawa, Sri Lanka
Coordinates8°0′39.1″N 80°30′45.6″E / 8.010861°N 80.512667°E / 8.010861; 80.512667
WebsiteOfficial website

The Avukana statue is a standing statue of the Buddha near Kekirawa in North Central Sri Lanka. The statue, which has a height of more than 14 m (46 ft), depicts the Buddha with a hand raised in reassurance, a variation of the Abhaya mudra. The Avukana statue is one of the best examples of a standing statue built in Sri Lanka. It is now a popular tourist attraction.

Location and appearance[edit]

The Avukana statue is located in the village of Avukana (also spelled Aukana) near Kekirawa. It figure is set in a slight hollow and faces east, looking toward the Kala Wewa reservoir.[1] It was carved out of a large granite rock face,[2] but is not completely separated. A narrow strip of rock has been left at the back of the statue, connecting it to the rock to support it.[3] The rock face behind the image is carved like Cyclopean masonry, to give the appearance of a mountain. The pedestal on which the Buddha stands takes the form of a lotus flower. The statue alone is 11.84 metres (38 ft 10 in) in height, and with the pedestal, the total height of the Avukana statue reaches over 14 metres (46 ft).[4][5]

The statue was set within a large image house or shrine, of which parts of the lower walls remain. The structure had a stone foundation with the upper portions made of brick. It was 23 metres (74 ft) long and 19 metres (63 ft) wide.[6]


The Avukana statue is considered to be one of the best examples of a standing statue of the Buddha from ancient Sri Lanka.[3] The Avukana statue shows some influence of the Gandhara school of art, as well as the Amaravati School of India. The robe is worn tightly, clearly outlining the shape of the body, and its pleats are carved clearly and delicately. It is worn over the left shoulder, and the right shoulder is bare, as is the tradition in Buddha statues of Sri Lanka. The Buddha's body is straight, and the left-hand clutches the robe at the left shoulder. The right hand is raised to the right shoulder, with the palm facing the left.[1][4] This position is known as the Asisa mudra, a variation of the Abhaya mudra.[7]


Avukana Buddha Statue 04

The Avukana statue is widely believed to have been constructed in the 5th century, but several opinions have been expressed from the time of Harry Charles Purvis Bell, Ananda Coomaraswamy, and Senarath Paranavithana.[8] A comprehensive review of the evidence, and a close assessment of the sculpture's style, were undertaken by Diran K. Dohanian, who concluded, based on comparisons with Buddhas elsewhere in Sri Lanka and those produced for the Amaravati school, that the Aukana Buddha belongs to the 8th century.[8] This is confirmed by a donative inscription, found in 1951 on the north wall of the shrine, that is written in Sinhala and dates to the 8th century.[9]


While the statue is often said to have been made at the behest of King Dhatusena, another theory is that it was done by an individual named Barana.[10] There is another nearby standing statue of the Buddha, quite similar to the Avukana statue, at Sasseruwa. According to legend, the two statues are the result of a competition between a stone sculpting guru (master) and a goal (pupil). The story goes that the master constructed the Avukana statue, while the pupil made the statue at Sasseruwa. The first to complete his statue had to notify the other by ringing a bell. The master managed to complete his statue first and won the competition. This is said to be why the Sasseruwa statue is unfinished. The Avukana statue is considered to be the better of the two, and the similarities between them have led historians to believe that the story is true.[11] However, that is a mere legend as the Sasseruwa statue was built nearly four hundred years before the Avukana Buddha image. Reswehera Rajamaha Vihara is an ancient temple that was built by King Devanampiyatissa (307-267 BC).

Current situation[edit]

Today, pilgrims visit the statue from all parts of the country and the Avukana statue has become a popular tourist attraction.[12] Although the site lacked many facilities, it has now been improved by the Department of Archaeology and the Civil Defence Force.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Diganwela, T. (1997). කලා ඉතිහාසය [History of Art] (in Sinhala). Wasana Publishers. pp. 23–24.
  2. ^ Walters, Alan (1997). Palms & pearls, or, Scenes in Ceylon. 9788120612358. Asian Educational Services. p. 78. ISBN 978-81-206-1235-8.
  3. ^ a b Siriwera, W. I. (2004). History of Sri Lanka. Dayawansa Jayakody & Company. pp. 286–287. ISBN 955-551-257-4.
  4. ^ a b Sarachchandra, B. S. (1977). අපේ සංස්කෘතික උරුමය [Cultural Heritage] (in Sinhala). Silva, V. P. pp. 121–122.
  5. ^ De Silva, K. M. (1981). A history of Sri Lanka. University of California Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-520-04320-6.
  6. ^ Bandaranayake, Senake (1974). Sinhalese monastic architecture: the viháras of Anurádhapura. Brill. p. 206. ISBN 978-90-04-03992-6.
  7. ^ De Silva, D. G. B. (12 May 2001). "Misconceptions about Sri Lankan Buddha image". The Island. Archived from the original on 12 March 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
  8. ^ a b Dohanian, Diran K. (1965). "The Colossal Buddha at Aukana". Archives of the Chinese Art Society of America. 19: 16–25. JSTOR 20067080.
  9. ^ Archaeological Survey of Ceylon, Annual Report 1952, Colombo: [Ceylon Govt., Archæological Dept.]: p. 33, cited in Dohanian 1965
  10. ^ a b Perera, Harshini (21 June 2009). "A new facelift to Avukana precincts". Sunday Observer. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
  11. ^ "A guru-gola battle for supremacy". Sunday Times. 6 June 2004. Retrieved 5 March 2010.
  12. ^ Davidson, Linda Kay; Gitlitz, David Martin (2002). Pilgrimage: from the Ganges to Graceland : an encyclopedia. Vol. 1. ABC-CLIO. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-57607-004-8.

Further reading[edit]

von Schroeder, Ulrich (1990). Buddhist Sculptures of Sri Lanka. (752 p.; 1620 illustrations). Hong Kong: Visual Dharma Publications, Ltd. ISBN 962-7049-05-0

External links[edit]