Pathma Vihara

The East

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.

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