Sasseruwa Buddha statue


Sasseruwa Buddha statue is located 11km west of the Aukana Buddha statue on a stony mountain with a pathway of 300 steps, rests another standing Buddha sculpture. As at the Aukana statue, as shown by the holes for beams cut into the rock around it. Marauding Dravidian enemies from South India destroyed this covering structure & all other buildings.
There are incomplete works from the very head to toe of the statue: the decoration above the head, "Siraspata", wasn't craved into the rock; one of the ears is incomplete; the final shine to the robe of the Buddha was not done; the foundation is only an undecorated square block of rock.
Two legends join the Sasseruwa Buddha Statue with the Aukana Buddha. Primary, some say that the cracks on the statue's torso during the construction began the craftsman to abandon it & create a new sculpture at Aukana.

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To reach the Sasseruwa statue itself, one must ascend 300 steps. As you make your way up, comparisons between this statue and its counterpart at Aukana become inevitable. However, what becomes immediately apparent is the disparity in artistry and the unfinished state of the Sasseruwa statue. Unlike its twin, which stands as a freestanding figure, the Sasseruwa statue is a sunken relief on a massive boulder connected to the rock wall behind it. Though nearly identical in height to the Aukana statue, the Sasseruwa statue features a raised right hand not in a gesture of benediction but in the abhaya mudra, a symbol of fearlessness.

Surroundings and Appearance

The Sasseruwa statue is flanked by an imposing curtain of rock, which towers above it with a brooding presence. This curtain, characterized by a light purple hue typical of the granite in the area, is delicately adorned with patches of blue and green lichen. Unfortunately, this positioning and the recessed relief carving technique make the statue appear dwarfed and diminished. Furthermore, the weathering of the statue in certain areas gives it a distinctively forlorn look.

Despite its apparent shortcomings in craftsmanship compared to its Aukana twin, the Sasseruwa statue possesses its unique charm, as observed by John Lindsay Opie in his work "Island Ceylon" (1970). Opie highlights the statue's attempt at lyrical charm through the curves and arrangement of its features, particularly the gracefully curved forearm and elbow of the upraised arm. The Sasseruwa statue exudes an expression of smiling benevolence, combining awe and innocence in a more appealing manner than its Aukana counterpart, which is comparatively more assertive and insensitive. While the Aukana statue enjoys technical excellence and perfect condition, the Sasseruwa statue, though less refined, captivates with its lyrical and religious grace.

Legends and Theories

Legend has it that the two statues were created by a guru (master) and his golaya (pupil). According to the tale, a competition ensued between these two sculptors to fashion the colossal figures of Aukana and Sasseruwa. As the years passed, the master craftsman completed the statue at Aukana while the pupil toiled on the unfinished Sasseruwa statue. However, upon hearing the bell announcing the completion of the Aukana statue, the pupil abandoned his work, leaving the Sasseruwa statue to brood amidst the surrounding jungle silently.

Another theory suggests that the same sculptor crafted Sasseruwa as a prototype or a subsequent replica of the Aukana statue. However, considering the differences in technique and standard between the two statues, this theory appears less plausible. Additionally, local legends recount a fascinating tale recorded by R. L. Brohier in his work "Seeing Ceylon" (1965). According to this account, during the 2nd century BC, King Dutugemenu ordered the creation of a large Buddha statue on the southern escarpment of the mountain at Sasseruwa. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the statue remained unfinished, and a duplicate was swiftly carved on the left bank of the Kala Oya river.

Analysis and Reflection

While legends add an air of mystery to the origins of the Sasseruwa Buddha statue, it is undeniable that the Aukana sculpture boasts superior craftsmanship. The Aukana sculptor's technical excellence and skill overshadow the lyrical charm and grace found in the Sasseruwa statue. Yet, the unique expressions and appeal of the Sasseruwa statue should not be underestimated. The Sasseruwa sculptor, despite being an awkward artist, showcased considerable grace in both a lyrical and religious sense. The Aukana sculptor, though less inspired, excelled as a master craftsman and technician, ultimately surpassing the artistic merit of the Sasseruwa statue.

The Sasseruwa Buddha statue is a testament to Sri Lanka's rich archaeological heritage. Despite its incomplete state and weathered appearance, the statue continues to enthrall visitors with its distinct allure. As you explore the history and legends surrounding this enigmatic statue, you will be transported to a time of intricate artistry and spiritual devotion, reflecting the peaceful environment in which these masterpieces were created.


1. Can the Sasseruwa Buddha statue be easily accessed? Accessing the Sasseruwa Buddha statue is not accessible due to the condition of the approach roads. Visitors must climb 300 steps to reach the statue.

2. How does the Sasseruwa statue compare to its twin at Aukana? While the Sasseruwa statue shares similarities with its Aukana counterpart, it is considered inferior in artistry and remains incomplete. The Sasseruwa statue is carved in sunken relief and connected to the rock wall behind it.

3. What is the significance of the raised hand gesture of the Sasseruwa statue? The Sasseruwa statue features a raised right hand in the abhaya mudra, symbolizing fearlessness.

4. What is the surrounding environment of the Sasseruwa statue like? A towering curtain of rock flanks the statue with a purple hue. The presence of blue and green lichen adds to its aesthetic appeal.

5. Are there any legends associated with creating the Sasseruwa Buddha statue? According to famous legends, the Sasseruwa statue was left unfinished by a pupil who competed against a master sculptor, resulting in the completion of the Aukana statue. Another theory suggests it may have been a prototype or a later replica.



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