Sunday, December 20, 2020

Potgul Vihara Statue, Polonnaruwa

Potgul Vihara Statue
A colossal stone statue called as Potgul Vihara Statue (also known as the Statue of Parakramabahu I, the Statue of Pulasti) is located near the Potgul Vehera in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. The statue is regarded as a superb example of Asian Art.

The statue
The statue is 10 feet 12 inches high and has been carved in high-relief on the southern face of a rock boulder located near the Potgul Vehera and Parakrama Samudra (Basnayake, 1990). The sculptor is unknown (Paranavitana, 1952). The statue is tall as the height of the rock boulder. The head of this individual is dressed with a Makuta (Paranavitana, 1952) He has long ears and his eyes are half-closed. His beard is long and the mustache is drooping. The shoulders are round and the chest and the belly indicate the features of a man of advanced years (Paranavitana, 1952). The naked upper body has no ornaments except for a single thread worn over the left shoulder. He holds some object (probably a yoke or an Ola-leaf book) in his hands (Paranavitana, 1952; Wikramagamage, 2004).

The body at the hip has inclined somewhat to the left. The weight of the body rests on the left leg while the right leg keeps at ease. The knee of the right leg slightly projects forward. The lower body is covered by a thin cloth ornamented with flower patterns at regular intervals (Paranavitana, 1952). The cloth is held in position at the waist by a belt with an ornamental knot (Paranavitana, 1952).

Statue of a king or a sage?
The identity of the statue is uncertain (Basnayake, 1990; Jayasuriya, 2016; Paranavitana, 1952; Wikramagamage, 2004). Some believe that this is the statue of King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186 A.D.), while others think that it is the statue of Sage Pulasti or Agastya or Kapila (Basnayake, 1990; Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004).

Sage Pulasti
According to the view of L. Prematileke and Wikramagamage, this statue may represent Sage Pulasti, after whom Polonnaruwa was named Pulastipura (Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004). Wikramagamage says that this statue can not be considered a king due to the presence of a crown of matted hair, lack of royal attire, and long ears (Wikramagamage, 2004). Prematileke and Wikramagamage mention a defaced inscription on the summit of the rock boulder that possesses letters of the name Pulatasa or Pulasti (Jayasuriya, 2016; Wikramagamage, 2004).

King Parakramabahu I
S. Paranavitana believes that this statue represents a man with strength, majesty, and dignity and not a usual individual (Jayasuriya, 2016; Paranavitana, 1952). According to him, the treatment of the drapery in this statue is the same as the statues at Gal Viharaya that are belonging to the reign of King Parakramabahu I [(1153-1186 A.D.) Paranavitana, 1952]. Therefore, this statue near the Potgul Vehera is believed to be a work of the 12th century A.D. (Paranavitana, 1952). About thirty yards south-east of the statue, the remains of a Stupa built over the ashes of cremation has been found (Paranavitana, 1952). Paranavitana says that it is possible to be a Stupa shaped monument built over the ashes of a king of Polonnaruwa after his death, and the statue on the face of the nearby rock boulder could be a monument built to commemorate him (Paranavitana, 1952). A copper figure with a somewhat similar posture has been found from Panduwasnuwara, the old Parakramapura where Parakramabahu I lived before he becomes the king of the country (Paranavitana, 1952). With this evidence and theories, Paranavitana has concluded that this statue is that of a king possibly King Parakramabahu I (Jayasuriya, 2016; Paranavitana, 1952).

1) Basnayake, H.T., 1990. [Wijesekara, N. (Editor in chief)]. Archaeological Department Centenary (1890-1990): Commemorative Series: Vol. IV: Sculpture: Colombo. Commissioner of Archaeology. pp.105-106. 
2) Jayasuriya, E., 2016. A guide to the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Central Cultural Fund. ISBN: 978-955-613-312-7. pp.71-72.
3) Paranavitana, S., 1952. The Statue near Potgul-Vehera at Poḷonnaruva, Ceylon. Artibus Asiae, pp.209-217.
4) Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. pp.202-203.

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This page was last updated on 20 December 2020
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