Cave 3 – Great New Monastery

Cave 3 — known as Maha Alut vihara, Great New Monastery — is the second most impressive cave temple in Dambulla after the great Cave 2. It was excavated and decorated by one of the last Kandy-based rulers, Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747-1782).

Defining Features

  • Kandy style primary Buddha. Directly opposite the entrance is the primary Buddha, craft­ed in the energized Kandy style (discussion to follow).
  • Reclining Buddha. A reclining Buddha nearly 9 meters/3o feet in length takes up the entire left wall.
  • Statue of ruler Kirti Sri Rajasinha. The temple’s sponsor is depicted with a beard and out­fitted in full royal regalia, in stark contrast with ruler Valagamba in Cave 2, who was dressed as a bare-chested bodhisattva (Fig. , )
  • Thousand Buddhas. Mahayana-influenced Thousand Buddhas paintings cover the ceilingThe third cave, the Maha Alut Vihara,

Primary Buddha and the Kandy Aesthetic

Made of stucco-covered brick, Cave 3’s primary Buddha image has many familiar features: samadhi meditation mudra (right hand in left, palms up) and half lotus posture, under a makara arch with a Kirtimukha face at the apex.

However, if you look closely, besides the obvious difference in position (sitting versus standing), you will notice a number of critical stylistic differences between Cave 3’s primary Buddha and that of Cave 2, which was modeled on earlier Anuradhapura prototypes. The flair with which these new features were executed makes it the best example of the distinctive Kandy style.

  • Stylized electric folds. The folds of the Buddha’s robe are significantly more stylized and less naturalistic than those of the primary Buddha in Cave 2 ( 145). The highly-tensioned lines convey the impression of electric spiritual energy.
  • Bulkier body. The Buddha’s body — particularly around his shoulders — is slightly bulkier, again hinting at a heightened inner energy that is just barely contained by his physi­cal body.
  • Flame. Absent on Cave 2’s Buddha, a three-pointed flame rises from the ushnisha on the back of his head. The flame is a powerful symbol for some of Buddhism’s most important concepts: like a dancing flame, the Buddha is ego-less and impermanent, always in the process of be­coming through a never-ending series of manifestations and extinctions.

the “Great New Monastery” acquired ceiling and wall paintings in the typical Kandy style during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747-1782), the famous Buddhist revivalist.

In addition to the 50 Buddha statues, there is also a statue of this king.

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