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Aukana is the tallest ancient Buddha statue in Sri Lanka which is situated in a village named Avukana, close to the Kala Wewa reservoir in Anuradhapura District. According to legend, this magnificent standing Aukana Buddha was sculpted during the reign of Dhatusena in the 5th century, though some sources date it to the 12th or 13th century. Aukana means ‘sun-eating’, and dawn – when the first of the sun's rays light up the huge statue’s finely carved features – is the best time to see it.

While the artist of this magnificent work of art is still unknown, there is a generally accepted belief that this statue was the result of a competition between a Master Sculptor (guru) and his pupil (gola). That the competition had royal blessing is clear, and this legend is supported by the fact that in nearby Sasseruwa stands a similar standing Buddha statue, which has not been completed. The story goes that King Dhatusena was to reward whichever sculptor completed his work first, and the master sculptor having completed his work first and been rewarded for it, his upstart pupil gave up on his carving and abandoned the project.

The Avukana statue rises out of a rock cliff face like a monolith. A unique feature is that the statue has been carved out of a great granite rock face and appears to stand alone, but is in fact connected by a narrow strip of rock which also supports the statue. The Buddha image stands on a Lotus flower pedestal which has been carved separately and placed under the statue.

The Avukana statue is considered to be one of the best examples of a standing statue of the Buddha from ancient Sri Lanka. The Avukana statue shows some influence of the Gandhara school of art, as well as the Amaravati school of art 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 up to the right shoulder, with the palm facing left. This position is known as the Asisa mudra, a variation of the Abhaya mudra.

It is said that the degree of alignment of the statue is such that raindrop on the nose would drop straight down to small depression carved between the toes. This occurrence would naturally depend on the absence of any blowing that would change the direction of the falling drops of water.

No trip to Anuradhapura is complete without witnessing the splendour of the Buddha statue in Aukana. Sightseeing around the area will bring you to the Kala Wewa tank, a breath-taking destination to relax, and enjoy a picnic amidst spectacular views.


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