C. B. Pethiyagoda
This photograph is of the guardstone or doratupala/muragala at the top of the
flight of steps which follow the moonstone leading to the Isurumuniya Rock Temple built by
King Devanampiya Tissa in the Golden Age of Anuradhapura. It is one of the eight places
(Atamasthana) of Buddhist worship in Anuradhapura. The figure is of a Naga - a mythical
human species closely associated with cobras whose function is to protect Buddhist temples
from evil influences and to ensure peace, serenity, piety and prevent theft and sacrilege.
Nagas carved on granite as guardians of places of worship built during the Anuradhapura
period of Sri Lankas history are common. The workmanship is delicate and exquisite
but bear a distinct Indian influence. In later times, such as the Polonnaruwa period the
carvings are said to be inferior in quality and beauty.
The Nagas on guard stones are richly bejewelled, crowned and adorned with a halo of
five or nine cobra hoods. This particular carving carries five such hoods. The chest is
bare but the neck, ears, waist and ankles are decked in jewellery with a sword at the
The figure is protected by three arches and in the Nagas left hand is a vase of
flowers while the right hand carries a spring of flowers with a pot of flowers at its feet
all being symbols of prosperity. At the feet are also two Ganas or dwarfs who are
believed to be attendants of Kuvera, the God of Wealth.