Peta’s paintings always reflect our travels and lives ~ Stray dogs in Nicaragua, goats in India, sculptures in the Jardins des Tuileries in Paris, ancient artifacts and archaeological treasures in Peru, textured colorful wooden fishing boats in Morocco….
Here in Sri Lanka, her painter’s eye is starting to focus and zoom in on Buddhist art.
And so it is that we explore two Buddhist temples on the Southern Coast of our pearl shaped island, gathering visuals and inspiration.
One of the temples, dating 370 years, is next to the largest Buddhist statue in all of Sri Lanka.
The other temple is up on a hillside, a 235 step climb, housed in caves. (A smaller version of Dambulla) and less well known, which means we pretty much have the place to ourselves, just as we like it.
The setting of this temple is a hill, (dotted with large leafy trees and huge steel grey boulders), is noteworthy itself.
Each level has a set of small caves with distinct art created at different time periods.
Reclining Buddha framed by the doorway, is a first visual that is breathtaking. (To get a sense of the size of the reclining Buddha, the kneeling monk in sunflower yellow robe, is about life size. )
The yellow ochre Buddha head is framed by a creamy wall mural with charcoal grey, crimson and blue geometric elements.
Love the detail of the hand resting every so lightly on the leg, just above the foot. Right hand down means the Buddha is speaking. Offerings of flowers rest in Buddha’s lap.
Depending on where one stands, the perspective of a reclining Buddha changes dramatically.
Statues of disciples with flowing saffron robes ~ particularly beautiful against the teal blue skin of the figure in the back.
Not one inch of the cave walls and ceiling, remain unpainted. Scenes of Siddhartha’s journey toward Nirvana/enlightenment.
Buddha’s pillow is decorated with a sacred geometry lotus flower. The same lotus flower which is gathered from lakes to be used as offerings to Buddha inside most temples.
The roof of this cave is covered in pink lotus flowers and white daisies, all with yellow centers, each one perfectly geometrical.
This particular cave has a series of disciples one after the other creating bands of crimson red all the way around. They look like stencils, but we have to remind ourselves that they are all hand painted one by one centuries ago.
Evidence of Indian mythology influence. Shiva on the right and a blue ogre to her right. The Sinhalese practice a form of Buddhism known as Theravada Buddhism whose traditions emanate from India.
Some of the steps to the last level up are carved into the side of the rock.
Whew! Lots of steps to climb in the island’s tropical heat, but definitely worth it for the inspiration…
At the top of the hill, a small whitewashed stupa punctures a fluffy cloud which feels close by.
Perfect spot atop an enormous rock, which has a nice flat top for us to lie on and absorb the energy around, with the jungle and temple below.
And down below, back on the ground, a lake filled with waterlilies. This is where the flower offerings come from….
A flower seller outside the temple selling huge lotus flowers which are what have provided inspiration to Buddhist artists for years ~ scroll back up and you can see these pink blossoms on the cave ceiling and as well on Buddha’s pillow.
On full moon and any festival when Buddhists go to temple, they always wear white. Ben’s bunch of lotus flower offerings really pop against the white of the stupa and temple and his shirt. Behind the bell shaped stupa, is the temple and behind that (center of photo) is the largest Buddhist sculpture on the island.
Lotus flower offerings placed in a soft line in front of Buddha along with incense.
The statues of kneeling monks (behind the table of offerings, in front of the towering Buddha) are life size.
“Waves” of golden saffron colored robes with paintings of stupas behind.
There is nothing accidental about the colors found in Buddhist imagery. The colors are encapsulated in the Buddhist concept of a “rainbow body” ~ a transitional state of meditation in which matter is transformed into pure light. There are 5 transcendental Buddhas, each personification of the abstract aspects of Buddahood. Blue bodied refers to “Akshobhya”. Blue transforms anger into mirror like wisdom.
The gorgeous ceiling ~ hand painted using pigments created from plants and rocks.
Corner of the temple which is lit by soft light coming through small stain glass windows near the painted ceiling.
The temple wells are devoted to a delicately painted mural of Buddha and his disciples. This image is firmly entrenched in my mind as one which makes me feel peaceful and meditative. I am looking forward to seeing how it impacts my canvas.
Close ups of (above) mural. Love the saffron/sienna tones against the indigo blues and emerald green of the trees.
And from a different era, a depiction of Persian travelers (guessing Persian ? based on the facial hair, turban and outfit), paying respect to Buddha against an indigo blue background. The sash and turbans are painted in beautiful simplistic detail.
A small shrine next to the temple houses a thin strip of mural which goes all the way around, of a line of pilgrims in procession to pay respects. (From a more recent time period to be sure.)
Bare chested Sri Lankan drummers ~ often seen still today, at festivals and ceremonies.
The head monks years gone by, are painted on one wall in memory and in respect to the knowledge they imparted to the community of this particular temple.
Beautiful portraits (about 50 years old) capture the head monks and the positive energy which radiates from their gaze.
A charcoal gray and creamy white toned mural of the largest Buddha sculpture in Sri Lanka is also depicted on the temple walls. Which is naturally right next to the sculpture
Ben is a sliver of white on the right at the bottom. But even this does not come close to giving an idea of scale and just how large this Buddha actually is!
Buddha’s “backrest” is built so that one can climb to the top to see the view. It does give one an idea of height ~ 7-8 floors high.
We enjoy your comments and feedback!
Ben & Peta