Asokaramaya : Pankuliya Buddha Statue (අසෝකාරාමය : පන්කුලිය සමාධි බුද්ධ ප්‍රතිමාව)

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Asokaramaya is located in a beautiful area in the village of Pankuliya. This is a fairly unknown site to the average pilgrim, but it has one of the best locally sculpted Buddha statues in the country today. This statute equals the quality of the famous Samadhi Statue and the Toluvila statue (which is now kept in the Colombo Museum). This statue is also known as the Pankuliya Buddha statue. Unfortunately, this area has been rather neglected recently and has not been visited by pilgrims.

This monastery is made in the form of pabbatha viharaya architecture. Archaeologists believe that Pabbata Viharas were built merging with a natural rock formation. Pabbata Vihara is built by arranging several rectangular building areas (courtyards) at different levels surrounded by water. In the upper courtyard itself are the four sacred buildings, arranged in a specific order. In the ancient architecture book ‘Manju Sri Bhashitha Vastu-vidyawa”) written in Sanskrit, these buildings and standards are well explained.

The basic feature of these monasteries is a large rectangular precinct or sacred quadrangle which contains the four major shrines, a stupa, a bodhighara, a patimaghara, and a prasada which has been identified as the uposathaghara. VijayaramayaPankuliya AsokaramayaPacina Tissa Pabbatha ViharayaPuliyankulama Pabbata Viharaya (Pubbaramaya)Toluvila and Vessagiriya are the temples of this tradition in Anuradhapura. Kaludiya Pokuna (Dhakkinagiri Viharaya) in DambullaLahugala Magul Maha Viharaya, Menikdena, Pulukunava in the Gal Oya valley, a group of shrines at the foot of the rock at Sigiriya and Moragoda in Padaviya are the other provincial sites where Pabbata Vihara have been identified. (Bandaranayake, 1974).

In addition to this very fine statue, Asokaramaya is surrounded by thirty now-ruined buildings, including the ruin of a small dagaba in an area of about a hundred yards square. In the sacred enclosure there are four image houses, and around this, grouped as best as the uneven ground on the bank permits, are the residences of the monks with the out-houses attached to them. A large artificial pond with a small bund on one side completed the monastery (Weerasooriya, 1939).

This statue is said to belong to the 9th–10th century and is made of dolomite. The Buddha is seated in virasana and displays the Abhaya and Ahavana mudras. The eyes are hollow, indicating that they have been studded with precious stones in the past. There is a hollow socket at the top of the head for Ushnisha, which would have been used to deposit relics or for mounting a Siraspatha (headdress). The statue is 6 feet 9 inches (2 meters) in height and 6 feet wide, knee to knee. (Seneviratna, 1994). It is the only instance so far known in Ceylon of a seated figure having the hands in the gesture called Abhaya Mudra, which is Freedom from Fear (Devendra, 1952). The flight of steps retains an inscription written in the 8th-century script (Wikramagamage, 2004).

An Attani Pillar Inscription discovered at this site was read by Ranwella and published in 2004. This inscription helped us identify its original name as well as its function. Inscribed in the early 10th century, this was a nunnery and its name was Kalahas Mehenavara.

The Attani Pillar inscription describes an immunity granted by King Abha Salamevan Abhayi is dated his 2nd regnal year. The inscription was placed by a team of officials headed by a Commander of the Bodyguard named Mangalrad Seb granting some land assigned to a Buddhist nunnery Kalahas Mehenavara, founded by a high dignitary named Pirivahanu (warden) Koda Kasbalana of Dhannavala. It appears that the land has been donated to meet the cost of oil for the lamps at the image house from the revenue from that land (Ranwella, 2004). Drawing upon historical evidence, Professor Ranwella has asserted that Abha Salamewan corresponds to King Dappula IV. This pillar inscription is placed at the Anuradhapura Archaeology Museum named M1.

This site can be accessed through the road leading to the famous Gal Palama. You can ask directions from the villagers once you fall onto the road. The road leading to this temple ends at a paddy field. From there, you have to walk across the paddy field on a footpath to reach this site.

Sketches of the Ruins of Pankuliya from 1892

The following sketches are from the Plans and Plates for Annual Report 1892 by HCP Bell.


  1. Wikramagamage, C., 2004. Heritage of Rajarata: Major natural, cultural, and historic sites. Colombo. Central Bank of Sri Lanka. p.112
  2. Seneviratna, A., 1994. Ancient Anuradhapura. 1st ed. Colombo: Archaeological Survey Department, Sri Lanka, p 180.
  3. Devendra, D.T., 1952. Guide to Anuradhapura. 2nd ed. Colombo: [Govt. Press], pp. 57-58.
  4. Weerasooriya H.E., 1939. A historical guide to Anuradhapura’s ruins. Colombo: W.E. Bastian.
  5. Bandaranayake, S., 1974. Sinhalese Monastic Architecture – The Viharas of Anuradhapura. Leiden: Brill.
  6. Ranawella, S. (2004) Inscriptions of Ceylon Vol V (part II). Colombo: Department of Archaeology, Sri Lanka.

Also See

Map of Pankuliya Statue (Asokaramamya) in Anuradhapura

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)

The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites

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Driving Directions to Anuradhapura

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Bus

Anuradhapura is easily reached by bus, train or private transport. Air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned buses start at the Colombo Fort Main Bus Station. There are luxury busses which start from various places in Colomb travelling past Anuradhapura, to Vavuniya and Jaffna. However, you need to search the web and book a seat. These luxury buses mostly travel at night reaching their final destination early in the morning.

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Train

5 daily trains are starting from Fort Railway Station to Anuradhapura. Generally, the first train leaves at 9.40 am and the last train at 8.30 pm. Travel time is 4-5 hours depending on the number of stops of the particular train.

Colombo to Anuradhapura By Car or Van

Anuradhapura can be reached through many routes from Colombo. The two main routes are through Puttalam (Puttalama) and through Kurunegala. Travelling from Puttalam, you will pass the scenic Wilpattu area. From Kurunegala, there are two main routes to Anuradhapura. The most common route is through Dambulla. The other route is through Galgamuwa. Out of all the routes, the most commonly used is the Kurunegala-Dambulla route (Route 2).

Route 01 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute 02 from Colombo to Anuradhapura
Through : Negombo – Chilaw – Puttalam
Distance from Colombo : 210 km
Travel time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Central Expressway – Kurunegala – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo : 223 km
Travel Time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google maps
Route 03 from Colombo to AnuradhapuraRoute from Kandy to Anuradhapura
Through : Katunayake Expressway – Narammala – Wariyapola – Padeniya – Thambuthegama
Distance from Colombo :203 km
Travel Time : 4.30- 5.00 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map
Through : Katugastota – Matale – Dambulla
Distance from Colombo :136 km
Travel Time : 3.5 hours
Driving Directions : see on Google map

Driving directions to Pankuliya Statue from Anuradhapura

Route from Anuradhapura Railway Station

Distance : 7 km
Travel time : 20 minutes
Driving directions : see on google map


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