Sculptures, reliquaries and Buddha statues
The gold and clay reliquaries, and gold statues of Buddha discovered in the relic chambers, Buddha statues of stone, statues of Bodhisattvas, kings, the sculptures of the Vahalkadas, Guardstones, Naga stones, Makara Balustrades, Purnaghatas (full pots), and many other forms of sculpture comprise this category.
“A relic casket of polished blank earthenware of a type hitherto unknown – either in Sri Lanka or India – was among the objects discovered. The casket is cylindrical in shape, is 5 3/8 in. in height, and 2 7/8 in. in diameter at the base.
It is formed of three pieces, fitting one to the other, the uppermost to serve as the lid and the other two forming two separate compartments. The relic casket constitutes the most important specimen of ceramic art so far found in Sri Lanka. In the upper compartment was a reliquary of thin gold foil measuring 1 3/4 in. in height and 1 9/16 in. in diameter at the base.
This is made in the shape of an old miniature Stupa. The dome is bubbulakara or the bubble shaped and above it is the harmika surmounted by a chhatra or the umbrella.
By the side of the umbrella shaft is the Yupa projecting above the harmika. Inside the reliquary were found fragments of bone and a small quantity of ash.
In the other compartment again was found a miniature reliquary in the shape of a Stupa without the chhatra. This type of Stupa reproduces the earliest Stupa known in India at Sanci. Therefore, it could be safely concluded that this reliquary dates from about 3rd or 2nd century B.C. The niche on the western side contained a bronze Buddha image with traces of gilding, 5 3/4 in. in height, seated in the dhyana mudra.
It is counted among the most artistic Buddha image made in metal. Two other images of the Buddha measuring 2 in. and 2 1/4 in. in height were also found in the floor. The style of the Buddha images indicated a date somewhere in the 7th or 8th century.
There are several theories about the origin of the Buddha statue and its worship. There are a few scholars who think that the Buddha image originated in Sri Lanka. The reason for such an assumption is a statement found in the Mahavamsa that a Buddha image was made in the reign of Devanampiyatissa.
But this is not in the account of that monarch’s reign. Paranavitana categorically rejects such theories. Even in places like Sanci and Bharhut, the Buddha is represented by symbols such as the wheel of law, seat of enlightenment and the footprint.
Even in the earliest period in Sri Lanka, the Buddha was symbolically represented by Asana the seat and the Siripatula the footprint. The Gandhara and Matura Buddha images do not pre-date the Christian era. The earliest Buddha images found in Sri Lanka may go back to the first century of the present era.