Saturday Magazine
Guard Stones

stone.jpg (23333 bytes)By A. 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 Lanka’s 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 waist.

The figure is protected by three arches and in the Naga’s 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.