Ras Vehera (Sesuruwa) Buddha Statue
This is a colossal statue of Buddha lying close the famous Awkana statue, but not as popular. This statue is called Ras Vehera as well as Sasuruwa (or Sas-seruwa). The height of this statue is recorded as 39 feet 3 inches but according to the chief priest there its height is 42 feet 4 inches. The statue depicts the Abhaya Mudra ( freedom from fear). Like the Awkana the robe of the Buddha is clinging to the body but the final finishes doesn't seems to have been done.
The pedestal on which the Buddha is carved is not decorated and it is only a square block of stone. One ear is also unfinished. All this indicate that this statue was never fished for a unknown reason.
According to chronicles The King Mahasen (276-303 AD) who ruled from Anuradhapura has built a statue called "Rahera" statue at the base of the "Rahera" cliff. It is thought that Ras Vehera is this statue and after his death the work on the site has also halted.
This statue also lacks the "Siraspatha" at the top of the head which is seen in the Awkana statue. But it is said that there has been a wooden "siraspatha" in early days. There also has been a housing structure around the statue for protection as the rock in which the statue is carved is fairly soft. All this has been destroyed during the North Indian Tamil invasion (of Kalinga Maga).
The Bo Tree in the site is a sapling of the very first 32 saplings (dethis Omaha bo Ankara) of the Sri Maha Bodhi in the Anuradhapura and is thought to be planted by the king Devampiyathissa (250 - 210 BC). It is said that on the day the tree was planted the area was lit by colourful rays of light (ras). Thus the name 'Ras Vehera' was attached to this site. The tree is protected by a 10 feet tall 4 layers of tightly packed stones. This is too is a unique feature of the unique feature comparable to bodigara seen in other temples.
This place is also called Sesuruwa (or Sas-seruwa) which could be interpreted as the "similar statue". This could be due the proximity of the Awkana Statue and the similarities. Folklore also tells that the Ras Vehera statue was done by the same person and this was a trial before starting off the famous Awkana Statue.
There are 2 image houses in addition to the main Buddha image cut in to the stone. One is on the same path you climb to the rock statue but before the Bo tree. This image house inside a cave is called "Raja Maha Viharaya" and the stupa is said to be built by King Walagamba (89-77 BC). As you enter is a beautiful Makara Thorana and underneath is a beautiful seating Buddha statue.
The other cave image house contains a massive reclining Buddha statue. You can see several places in this statue where treasure hunters have broken in to and freshly repaired.
According to the priest of the temple this is 39 feet long and has some unique features not found in other shrine caves. It is possible to walk around this statue. Another feature is the robe on the statue has been hand woven and pasted. Then a hand woven cotton thread has been pasted all over to represent the waves of the robe. Then this has been plastered and painted. According to the chief priest this thread has been woven by single poor woman as a offering to the Buddha. The original thread and the robe is now visible in certain places, specially on the rear side of the statue.
In this cave there is finely woven bed donated by a wood craftsman during the King Rajasinghe (1797 - 1814) era. According the chief priest there is a very interesting story behind this offering. During these times only privileged people were allowed to sleep on beds. But the wife of this said wood craftsmen was nagging him to make her a bed. Finally the craftsman gave in and made a bed for his wife. And of course there was no fun sleeping on a bed when nobody knows that there is a bed in your house. So the wife had to tell about her secret bed to their neighbours and news spread from house to house and finally to the king. So finally the the poor craftsman decided to offer the bed to the temple to avoid punishment by the king.
In this cave is a small burrow where a large Cobra lives. It is commonly believed that this cobra is a protector of the cave shrine.
Both these shrine rooms are gerally kept locked to keep away thiefs. But the priests there will be happy to open them for anybody who wants to go in.
In addition to above there are 99 caves where the Buddhist monks lived in the pre christian era.
Routes to Ras Vehera
Ras Vehera can be accessed via Galgamua. From the town turn to the Horagollagama (Hora-golla-gama) Road. From this road turn to Meegalawa (Mee-ga-la-wa) Road. The site is about 15 km down this road. The distance to Galgamuwa from Colombo is about 160 Km and from Anuradhapura it is about 45 Km.
You can also reach the site form Kurunegala - Dambulla Road from Ibbagamuwa (Ibba-gamuwa) through Kumbukgataya (Kumbuk-gataya), Polpithigama (Pol-pithi-gama) and Moragollagama (Mora-golla-gama).
April 6, 2007