Sri Lanka has magnificent panoply of rock carvings dotted throughout the island. Some of these rock carvings are amongst the finest religious sculptures in the world. Down through the ages, Buddhists and Hindus have devoutly created rock carvings to honor their faiths, imbuing the landscape with spiritual depth and prowess. Sculpted out of the living rock, they have become masterpieces of world civilization.
Isurumuniya - A great survivor of rock carvings is the rock temple of Isurumuniya created by King Devanampiyatissa in the 3rd century BCE. Isurumuniya has several bas-reliefs. The most famous one is that of “The Lovers.” Another sculpture at Isurumuniya is a reclining Buddha statue carved from the rock. Faded over the centuries, but still visible to modern day visitors are some beautifully carved reliefs of elephants against the wall by the pond.
Aukana - Aukana is a gigantic standing Buddha statue. Carved out of a granite rock face, it belongs to the time of King Dhatusena in the 5th century CE. The engineering of the statue is so precise that if a drop of water falls on the nose, it trickles down between the feet.
The stone carver, Barana’s artisan skills are reflected in the life-like feeling the of sculpture exuded. The wavy lines of the robe appears as smooth as silk from a distance. According to legend the ripples on the robe resemble the smooth waves of the Kala Wewa. The robe hugs the shape of the body, giving it a human effect.
Res Vehera - Res Vehera or Sasseruwa is located 16 km from Aukana. Res Vehera is also a standing Buddha statue. There is also a gigantic reclining Buddha statue inside a cave. The special feature about the recumbent statue is that, it is the only Buddha statue that they have discovered thus far in Sri Lanka that has thread cemented into every single line of the robe.
Gal Vihare - Often referred to as some of the finest rock carvings in Sri Lankan history, the Gal Vihare. Galvihare means “rock cut temple.” The statues in reclining, Samadhi, and seated poses are magnificent and transport visitors to a flourishing era under King Parakramabahu 1 (1153-1186). Buddha statues nestle against a breathtaking landscape of boulders, Na trees, and rocks.