Monumental moment | Daily News
Kuttam Pokuna (The Twin Pond) and the Samadhi Buddha at Abhayagiri Vihara Complex

Monumental moment

Kuttam Pokuna (Twin Pond) which is now known is of recent origin. We have no information either about the date of its construction or about its old name. The twin pond is so called because the two ponds are constructed to form a single pond with two units. On architectural grounds we can safely assign this structure to a period between the eighth and tenth century and these ponds was undertaken by the Department of Archaeology in the years 1949 and 1953 for conservation.

Of the twin ponds, the one in the north seems to have been constructed before the southern one. It is believed that the two ponds were used for bathing purposes by the monks inhabiting the Abhayagiri Vihara. The structural and fine architectural differences confirm this point. It seems that after the construction of the southern pond an attempt had been made to join them. And the two ponds varying in size and architectural details are harmonised to make up a composite place of artistic creation.

Simple balustrade

The southern pond has only eighteen such steps broken into three stages with an equal number of balustrades. In the northern pond, a staircase consisting of twenty stone steps with a simple balustrade is found. The northern pond has only two flights of stone, whereas the pond in the south has three. The northern pond measures 91 feet long and the southern pond 132 feet long. The width of the two ponds remained 51 feet and depth is 14 and 17 feet respectively and the ponds are separated from each other by nine feet.

The water supply of the two ponds first flows into an enclosure built about the level of the ponds. The water then flows into the smaller pond through the mouth of a Makara. The larger pond in the south draws its water from the smaller through a duct below ground level connecting the two ponds. The water of the ponds drains out from a point at the bottom of the smaller pond. The five hooded cobra figure which is seen under the Makara figure is a unique piece of sculpture.

The other figure of the cobra is found near the water supply to the northern pond. The twin pond is undoubtedly represented the best surviving example of landscape architecture in ancient Sri Lanka.

Sculptural art

This Samadhi Buddha statue of the Abhayagiri Vihara complex is considered one of the greatest pieces of sculptural art of the early period. It belongs to the Abhayagiri monastic complex. The Buddha statue was discovered where it had stood in 1886. It had fallen to the ground and sustained some damage including a broken nose.

Later the statue was re-erected and the damaged nose was restored unsuccessfully, further damaging the beauty of the statue. The present repair looks very artificial and unnatural. The newly created cement roof is another eyesore that does not complement the serene beauty and charm of the Samadhi Buddha.

The statue was sculptured out of dolomite marble stated in virasana, displaying the Dhyana mudra. This Buddha statue which, according to archaeologists, belongs to the fourth century, and maybe at least a century older, represented the Samadhi attitude of the Buddha and it is also a masterpiece of Sinhalese sculpture.

Treasure damage

The hollow carved eyes were formally inset with crystal or precious stones. It was damaged by treasure hunters in 1914. The height of the statue is 07 feet 03 inches (1,980 M). From excavation conducted at the site, it appears that this statue was one of four statues originally placed around a Bodhi tree growing there. A further excavation conducted on the spot in 1960 revealed that there was a Bodhigara, a Bodhi-house here.

Among the discoveries were asanagala, a stone seat and a siripathulgala, a footprint stone. Of the four seated images, the one facing the north has survived.

There are also a few fragments of another one on a pedestal facing the south. It is quite possible that the other two were removed at some time to another location.

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