Dambegoda Bodhisattva Statue

Dambegoda Bodhisattva Statue
Dambegoda Bodhisattva Statue (Sinhala: දඹේගොඩ බෝධිසත්ව ප්‍රථිමාව) is an ancient rock-cut Bodhisattva statue located in Monaragala District, Sri Lanka. It has been erected in close proximity of ancient Maligawila Buddha Statue.

In ancient times Maligawila and Dambegoda remained as one monastery site (Nicholas, 1963; Uduwara, 1991). It is mentioned that Prince Aggabodhi IV (reigned: 667-683 A.D.) built a 15 feet high Bodhisattva Maitreya together with a large Buddha image and donated it to the Ariyakari Viharaya (Chutiwongs et al., 2007). The Dambegoda Bodhisattva statue which is located near Maligawila is thought to be that Bodhisattva image built by the king (Chutiwongs et al., 2007). 

Scholars have dated this statue to the 9th-10th century A.D. (Chutiwongs et al., 2011; Silva, 1990).

A pillar inscription belonging to the 10th century A.D. came to the light on 11 February 1982 during an investigation carried out at the site under the direction of Dr. Raja de Silva (Uduwara, 1991). The quadrangle pillar is 3.8 m tall and 0.3 m wide and the record on it consists of 139 line (Uduwara, 1991). The inscription has been dated by scholars to the reign of King Mahinda IV [(956-972 A.D.) Uduwara, 1991].

Dambegoda pillar inscription
Reign: Mahinda IV (956-972 A.D.)    Period: 10th century A.D.
Script: Mediaeval Sinhala                  Language: Mediaeval Sinhala
Content: In the 10th year of his reign, King Mahinda IV built Magul Maha Pirivena, provided four requisites to the resident monks, and erected three stone images of the Buddha. Regulations were legislated for the monks at Mahavihara, Polonnarumahaseya, Lovamahapaya, Mahiyangana Viharaya, Ruwanweliseya etc. The annual reports of accounts were to be presented in the presence of the monks.
Reference: The information board at the site by the Department of Archaeology and the Ministry of National Heritage.

The statue
The statue can be identified as the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, a deity in Mahayana Buddhism  (Silva, 1990). This identification is proved beyond doubt due to the presence of the miniature Buddha on the crown of the statue (Chutiwongs et al., 2011; Silva, 1990). However, according to another opinion, this is a representation of Bodhisattva Maitreya/Maitri since it is referred to as such by a passage in the Mahavamsa (Chutiwongs et al., 2011). In ancient Sri Lanka, there was some deliberate attempt to fuse the identity of Avalokitesvara with Maitreya (Chutiwongs et al., 2007). This confusion is said to have become worst in the 14th century (Chutiwongs et al., 2007).

The statue, carved entirely in the round, is 16.4 m tall and stands on a circular lotus pedestal. It is erected in the posture known as Samabhanga (Silva, 1990). Both hands of the statue are half raised and shown in the Katakahasta gesture (Silva, 1990). Bodhisattva statues displaying Katakahasta gesture by both hands are said to be rare (Silva, 1990). The body of the statue is richly ornamented with jewellery including a long Upavita, the sacred thread indicative of a high social status (Chutiwongs et al., 2011; Silva, 1990). The upper body is naked and the lower body is covered with a pleatless Dhoti (Chutiwongs et al., 2011). The sockets in the eyes indicate that they once contained eye-balls made of precious stones (Chutiwongs et al., 2011).

Features of the Dambegoda statue can be compared with Bodhisattva statues at Veligama (Kustarajagala) and Buduruwagala (Silva, 1990). 

The Boddhisattva statue along with the nearby Maligawila Buddha statue was blasted by vandals using dynamites around 1948 (Silva, 1990). This ignorant deed had caused the disintegration of the statue into more·than 100 fragments (Silva, 1990). 

The restoration and the conservation works of the statue were commenced in the 1980s with help from Germany (Silva, 1990).

Dambegoda Bodhisattva Statue .
2) Maligawila by AlGraChe is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

1) Chutiwongs, N.; Prematilleke, L.; Silva, R., 2007. Sri Lanka Murthi: Buddha (Sri Lanka Sculpture: Buddha). Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural Affairs. pp.58-59.
2) Chutiwongs, N.; Prematilleke, L.; Silva, R., 2011. Sri Lanka Murthi: Bodhisattva (Sri Lanka Sculpture: Bodhisattva). Central Cultural Fund. Ministry of Cultural and the Arts. pp.98-99.
3) Nicholas, C. W., 1963. Historical topography of ancient and medieval Ceylon. Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, New Series (Vol VI). Special Number: Colombo. Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch). p.53.
4) Silva, R., Wijesuriva, G. and Wysse, M., 1990. Restoration of a vandalized Bodhisattiva image of Dambegoda, Sri Lanka. Icomos information, (1), pp.18-25.
5) Uduwara, J., 1991. Some observations on the Dambegoda lithic record. Epigraphia Zeylanica being lithic and other inscription of Ceylon: Vol. VI, Part 2. Archaeological survey of Ceylon. Sri Lanka. pp.140-153.

Location Map
This page was last updated on 6 June 2022
For a complete tourist map follow this link: Lankapradeepa Tourist Map

1 comment

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog thanks
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