Among the trees of verdant Maligawila lie the extensive remains of Pathma Vihara, including two graceful Buddha statues, carved by devotees in the 7th century. Once part of a grand monastic complex, the site is delightful, set in an appealingly shady forest glade.
Sitting atop five crumbling, moss-covered flights of stairs is the 10m-high Maitreya Bodhisattva (Avalokitesvara). It was reconstituted between 1989 and 1991 from over 100 fragments unearthed in the 1950s. Sadly, it’s shaded by a banal corrugated canopy.
A few minutes’ walk under the thick canopy of trees in the opposite direction, and playing peek-a-boo with the clouds, is a magnificent 11m-tall Buddha statue, considered by some to be among the tallest free-standing ancient Buddhas in existence. Carpeted in thick green moss and with its feet often adorned in flowers left by pilgrims, this is a very beautiful statue despite the recent addition of a scaffolding harness.