The Maligawila Buddha statue is a standing figure of the Buddha in Sri Lanka, which has been carved out of a large limestone rock , and is considered to be the tallest ancient free-standing image in Sri Lanka, at a height of 37 feet 10 inches (11.53 m) during the 7th century by a prince named Aggabodhi.
It is the tallest free-standing ancient statue of the Buddha found in the country. It had been broken into several pieces by the time it was found in 1951. The statue was reconstructed and raised again in 1980 under the direction of the then president Ranasinghe Premadasa.
Along with the Buddha statues of Avukana and Buduruvagala, the Maligawila Buddha statue is considered one of the best examples of the standing image of the Buddha from ancient Sri Lanka.
It bears a close resemblance to the Avukana statue, and depicts the same asisa mudra, a variation of the Abhaya mudra. The standing Buddha clutches the robe at the left shoulder, while the right hand is raised to the right shoulder.
History and restoration
According to the ancient chronicle Chulavamsa, the statue was built in the 7th century by a prince named Aggabodhi from Ruhuna. It mentions that he built a temple named Pathma Vihara, and also constructed a great statue of the Buddha there.
The statue was discovered in 1951, fallen from its pedestal and lying broken to pieces. Before that, it had been damaged by treasure hunters around 1948. A 1974 attempt to raise the Maligawila statue ended in failure. However, another attempt was made in 1991 under then-president Ranasinghe Premadasa. Several of the broken pieces had been damaged, including the right hand, face and feet; these were repaired before reconstructing the statue and re-erecting it. This has been described as a “very significant task” carried out under Premadasa’s direction. The Maligawila Buddha statue attracts a large number of pilgrims every year.