Buduruwagala – Moneragala, Sri Lanka - Atlas Obscura
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Moneragala, Sri Lanka

Buduruwagala

Seven beautiful 1,000-year-old rock-cut Buddhist statues. 

Buduruwagala is a rock temple dating back to the ninth or 10th century. It consists of seven ancient Buddhist figures carved into the face of a large cliff. The largest measures 51 feet high, making it the tallest Buddha statue in Sri Lanka.

The giant Buddha figure is situated at the center of the cliff face, flanked by three smaller statues on both sides. On the right are depictions of the Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, the Goddess Tara, and Prince Sudhana; on the left are Maitree Bodhisattva, and Vajrapani Bodhisattva. These are figures from the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism. 

A faint orange hue is visible on the tallest statue, suggesting that the carvings were probably painted originally. Several square niches are carved into the rock above the statues; their use is not known. By the right foot of the Buddha is a 4-foot-high hole shaped like a flame. The deepest reaches of this hole are always wet with a substance that smells like mustard oil.

It is speculated that Buduruwagala (which roughly translates to “rock with Buddha statues”) was a hermitage site for Mahayana Buddhist monks, but no information other than the approximate age of the carvings has come to light so far. These days, a modern building houses a small number of monks that reside here.

Know Before You Go

Buduruwagala can be reached from either Wellawaya or Thanamalwila. The last 2.5 miles (4 km) are on a dirt track through a set of lakes, home to egrets and herons.