Bringing back the glory of Bamiyan Buddha in Lanka

One monk’s big idea will soon be a reality as Sri Lanka’s version of the Bamiyan Buddha -- a 67.5 foot high granite Samadhi Buddha statue-- takes shape in a little village in Kurunegala. Here, Ven. Egodamulla Amaramoli Thera relates to Chandani Kirinde the beginnings of a gigantic task that started with the chance meeting of an Indian sculptor

It’s been eight years and four months since the day that renowned Indian sculptor Padma Sri M.M. Sthapathi and his men took on the gigantic task of carving out a 67.5 foot high Samadhi Buddha statue on a granite rock situated within the land of a temple in the quiet village of Rambodagalla in the Kurunegala district. The fruits of their labour have now taken the shape of an impressive Buddha figure, the first of its kind to be attempted since the Polonnaruwa era during which time the “Gal Viharaya” was carved more than 800 years ago.

Indian sculptors add final touches to the base of the statue
Chief sculptor Sthapathi still visits the site from time to time
Ven. Egodamulla Amaramoli Thera stands at the site. Pix by Lakshman Gunatillake

The idea for the gigantic Buddha statue first dawned on the chief incumbent of Vidyasagara Pirivena Vihara, Monaragala, Rambodagalla, Venerable Egodamulla Amaramoli Thera as he sat aghast watching the wanton destruction of the gigantic Buddha statues at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. As the scenes of destruction unfolded over TV, the Thera resolved that he would do whatever possible to build a Buddha statue to rival those blown to oblivion by a group of religious extremists.

“Due to the destruction, I wanted to begin a construction so that what befell the statues at Bamiyan would not be forgotten. I also wanted to bring about an awakening among the people of this country about their proud history during which period massive constructions were undertaken and have been left for posterity and have become a source of pride to all Sri Lankans.”

Although he had thought up a big idea, the Thera had to grapple with how he would set about the task. It was while contemplating how to get started on carving the statue after having chosen a 70-foot rock in the land belonging to the temple as the location, word reached him about a massive statue of the Hindu God “Hanuman” that had been constructed at Ramboda in Nuwara Eliya.

He decided to visit Ramboda with a group of villagers to inquire about its sculptors as finding the proper craftsmen was of utmost importance. It was while there that a chance meeting with the Chairman of Essuwaren Brothers, D. Essuwaren paved the way for his meeting with the chief sculptor M. M. Sthapathi.

“It was destiny that took me to Ramboda from Rambodagalla that day. We had planned to go a few days earlier but the visit had to be postponed due to some reason and coincidentally I was there on the same day that Mr. Essuwaren was, which made all this possible,” he recalled.

Ven. Amaramoli Thera who set about the task with a deep confidence instilled by his belief in the Buddha feels that it is faith that has made the work on the Samadhi Buddha reach near completion. “I believe my meeting with Mr. Essuwaren was preordained. Though a Hindu, he did not have the least hesitation in supporting my endeavour. When I first told him of my wish to construct a 70 feet high statue his first reaction was of surprise. But he soon recovered and extended his full support to me. From that day onwards till today, that support has been unwavering and has been a great source of strength to me,” the Thera said.

Since work began on the statue on September 13, 2002, the Indian sculptors have worked tirelessly to give form to the statue with Mr. Sthapathi visiting from time to time to guide them. The statue has also drawn both national and international attention with President Mahinda Rajapaksa being among those who have visited the site as well as visitors from countries such as Germany, the US and Thailand. The Indian Government too has contributed to its fund with the DSI Group and the Bank of Ceylon also being its leading benefactors.

Thousands of devotees too have contributed to fund the construction work. Amaramoli Thera proudly displays the words of Mr. Essuwaren when he spoke at a ceremony held at the temple premises as work on the statue began. “It is a Herculean task that will bring pride and honour to our country. If you have a pot of gold, spare a little, if you have some silver coins, give a few. If you cannot contribute monetarily give a hand to turn a stone. Even if that is not possible, let us spread the message that a great monument that will create history in Sri Lanka is happening in Monaragala, Vidyasagara Pirivena temple in the little village called Rambodagalla in the Kurunegala District.”

As the world celebrates the 2600th Sambuddha Jayanthi (anniversary of the Enlightenment of the Buddha) this year, to coincide with Vesak celebrations, several religious observances will be held at the Vidyasagara Vihara Pirivena. But the completion of the “Samadhi Buddha” project is still some way off.
“There is a lot more work to be done and even if it takes me another eight years and four months, I have the faith and strength to carry on the work,” the Thera said.

More details on the project can be obtained at the website

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