The world’s tallest walking statue of the Buddha was unveiled on 14th of February 2014, at Ranawana Temple in Kandy district, Sri Lanka. The 80-foot tall statue stands as if it were a Buddha in real life, majestically looming over all below. The statue was unveiled at a ceremony in the presence of the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, D. M. Jayarathna, and many other dignitaries and revered monks. Built with the sole patronage of Mr. Padmasiri Muthumala, the proprietor of Ruhunu Foods (pvt) Ltd., the statue is higher than the previously tallest walking Buddha statue of the world, the Buddhamonthon statue in Thailand.
Ranawana Temple’s history began in 1602 CE and belongs to the great Buddhist clan known as the Malwatta sect of Kandy. The temple spreads itself gently over the area of a small hill, consisting of the temple complex and places of worship with the 80-foot tall giant Buddha statue at its apex. The temple’s chief incumbent, Rev. Ampitiye Sri Saranankara Chandrajothi Nayaka Thero, has been the guiding force behind the development.
Rev. Chandrajothi jovially mentions the story behind the statue. “Some time ago I visited Thailand. When I was there, someone informed me that the world’s tallest walking Buddha statue is in Phutthamonthon District in Thailand. Upon visiting the site I was so inspired by its majesty when I returned to Sri Lanka and I mentioned this statue to a sculptor and suggested that Ranawana temple should have a similar statue. The reply of the sculptor was, ‘why do you want a similar one, let’s build the biggest in the world.’”
From the very outset of the building process, the project proved to be a challenging task as the selected space on the hill was not stable enough to support the imposing weight of the concrete statue. The veteran Sri Lankan sculptor, Mr. Suranga Rajawardhana, took up this challenge and to this day continues to amaze the engineering community of Sri Lanka with its success. “Very often a number of engineers visit the site for inspections because they want to learn how a humble sculptor raised this giant statue to stand on one leg. In fact, one government minister recently visited us with his team of engineers for the exact same purpose,” the mildly spoken Rev. Chandrajothi further explains, speaking proudly of the success of Mr. Rajawardhana.
In addition to the statue, Ranawana temple has been graced with exquisitely modelled surroundings. The gate into the temple is an exact replica of the northern gate of the Sanchi stupa of India and, according to Rev. Chandrajothi, is the only replica of its kind outside of India. The temple grounds contain statues of the twenty-four Buddhas who came before Gautama Buddha with the respective types of Bodhi trees ascribed to them. The grounds also hold statues depicting stories of Buddhism while the main Buddha statue is accompanied by 80 statues of enlightened arhats who followed him. The architectural plan of the whole temple was designed by Rev. Chandrajothi and sculpted by Mr. Suranga Rajawardhana.
“I see an ample amount of further developments to be completed within the next few years and I will see it through. There is no other temple in [sic] the caliber of Ranawana in Sri Lanka,” the Rev. Chandrajothi says with a proud determined look on his face, gazing at the ongoing construction work on the temple grounds.
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