Samadhi Statue

Samadhi Statue, in the Abhayagiri Monastery, is one of the best pieces of sculpture on the site. It is Sri Lanka’s most well-known and respected Buddha image, the standard against which all others are compared. It is made out of dolomite marble. This statue was found in the present location in 1886 fallen to the ground with damages to the nose. It was then erected and the nose was reconstructed. In 1914, it was found damaged by treasure hunters and re constructed again.

The Samadhi Statue is 8 feet (2.4 m) in height and made of granite and the Dhyana mudra is symbolished – The posture of meditation in which Buddha sits in the cross-legged position with upturned palms, placed one over the other on the lap. Toluwila Statue Which has a close resemblance to the Samadhi statue at Anuradhapura, was found among the ruins in a temple at Toluwila in Anuradhapura. It is 5’9″ (1.75 m) in height. The gap between the knees is 5’9″ (1.75 m). The width between the shoulders is 3’5″ (1.04 m). At present this statue is placed near the main entrance to the Colombo Museum.

In the sacred city of Anuradhapura and in the vicinity are a large number of other ruins. These have not been identified properly and many have been destroyed either by Tamil invaders or by vandals. Neither tourists nor pilgrims have paid much attention to these ruins and information regarding this is meager.

 

Background

  • Built. Although there is debate over the Buddha image’s age, it likely dates from the 5th-6th centuries.
  • Location. Eastern side of Abhayagiri monastery, on the northern edge of the ancient city. Toggle Map above.

The Buddha Statue

  • Overall simplicity of form. Consistent with the Theravada Buddhist conservative aesthet­ic, the Buddha’s form favors simplicity with clean lines and minimal non-critical decoration. He wears no jewelry and simple clothing, true to the historical figure’s ascetic lifestyle and hu­man (non-divine) existence on earth.
  • Symbolic representation. Despite the Theravada core belief in the Buddha as a real-life historical figure, the Buddha image has highly symbolic features. Consistent with similar im­ages throughout the Buddhist world, the form of the body appears to be expanded or bloated by what has been termed “sacred breath” (prana), as if he possessed a great internal energy that could barely be contained by his physical body. As a result, he has a less natural form characterized by rounded limbs (most noticeable in the oversized shoulders) with no muscle definition. This aesthetic was borrowed from Indian prototypes, most likely those made in the city of Sarnath during the Gupta period.
  • Samadhi mudra. He reveals the most popular mudra for Sri Lankan Buddhas: samadhi (meditation). In this mudra, the right hand rests in the left, palms facing upward just below the navel..
  • Half lotus posture. He sits in the half lotus posture (ardha padmasana), another trade­mark of Sri Lankan seated Buddhas. It consists of the right leg over the left, with the sole of the right foot facing upward ( 29). This differs from Indian prototypes that favored the full lotus (padmasana), in which the legs are locked, with the soles of both feet facing upward.
  • Robe clings to body with no folds. The robe hangs over his left shoulder, leaving the right shoulder bare ( 29). It clings tightly to his body. However, unlike later Buddhas, par­ticularly those of Polonnaruwa period, there are no fabric folds visible. Although many Late Anuradhapura period Buddhas have fabric folds, no-fold garments strongly suggest Anurad­hapura period origins.
  • Slight indication of a smile. The corners of the Buddha’s lips curl upward, forming a slight smile that hints at his defining trait: compassion..
  • Modest ushnisha. His hair is drawn into tight curls. Further, his ushnisha (cranial protuberance on the back of the head) — signalling the Buddha’s great wisdom — is small and barely visible, typical of the reserved Sri Lankan style. Finally, no flame rises from the top; highly-symbolic flames will not appear until later Buddhas, most notably those of the Kandy period showcased in the cave temples of Dambulla.

 

Layout of Bodhi Tree Shrine

The Samadhi Buddha is so impressive that you can easily miss that is only a small part of what origi­nally occupied this location: a bodhi tree shrine. As discussed in the introductory sections, bodhi tree shrines were one of the most important types of religious structures in Sri Lanka, evoking the histori­cal Buddha’s achievement of enlightenment under the sacred tree’s branches in Bodh Gaya, India.

  • Bodhi tree at center. A no-longer-extant bodhi tree originally occupied the square pit at the center of the structure. To accommodate the sacred tree, the pit had to be open to the sky.
  • Four Buddhas. Four Buddhas sat on platforms surrounding the tree on the cardinal points, explicitly recalling the enlightenment event. The Samadhi Buddha profiled above occupies the north-facing platform (under a modern concrete pavilion); only a vestige of the Buddha on the south-facing platform survives, while those on the east and west are completely destroyed. Visitors to the original shrine would have walked around the tree in a clockwise direction and then left offerings of water at the feet of the Buddhas.
  • Buddhist railing. A Buddhist style railing, consisting of three thick horizontal bars, encloses the sacred space.

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