The winding dirt road passes endless rows of paddy fields and marshes, alongside which are sagging trees crowded by migrating birds pausing for rest. We reach a clearing, the end of the journey by car. A monk, emerging from a nearby building, explains that the path ahead must be done by foot. But, first, a small donation would be appreciated.
The sound of the breeze blowing as we walk across the path, which divides the jungle on either side of us, can be heard through the trees, intermittently broken by the squawks of startled birds. A large monitor lizard slowly ambles along the path, but becomes alerted to the presence of intruders and dashes into the brush.
Suddenly, a large rock appears in front of us, rising like a wall. Seven magnificent sculptures carved directly onto the rock shine in the sun. At the center, standing tall, is Buddha and on either side of him stands three figures. Welcome to
; to Buduruwagala, the 'Rock of Buddhist Sculptures'. Wellawaya, Sri Lanka
Carved into the
300 foot long and 70 foot high boulder is a 51-foot standing Buddha, possibly Dipankara, a past Buddha.
Shoes must be removed before climbing the low, rock-cut steps to the platform; a token of respect. Barefooted, we stand in front of seven towering Mahayana sculptures all carved directly into the rock. They are Buddha and his Bodhisattvas, beings who halted their enlightenment in order to help others.
Flanking either side of the Buddha are two trios of Bodhisattvas. On the right of Buddha: an unidentified Bodhisattva, and the Bodhisattvas Maitreya, the Future Buddha, and on the extreme right, Vajrapani, respectively. On the left of Buddha: Sudhanakumar, Avalokitesvara, the white painted figure, and his consort, Tara. The Sri Lankan archaeologist Paranavitana dated these carvings to the 9th century, although the lotus platform the Buddha stands upon was carved far later. Cracks at Buddha's feet indicate that they fell off and were perhaps later reattached when the lotus platform was constructed.
A candle-holder sits in front of the lotus platform; flower petals are strewn across the feet of the Buddha and in front of the lotus. People still journey to pray to Buddha and the Boddhisattvas. Many believe mustard seed oil is produced directly from within the rock and exudes from a hole near the feet of the Buddha.
The walk back to the car is different than before. Monkeys scamper around the rocks. Birds chirp aloud while trees rustle quietly. A feeling of calmness settles among us as we begin our drive back to Kelburne. We will have much to reflect and discuss at dinner-time.