WELIGAMA
 
  Weligama Bay down south is a spectacular crescent of golden sand punctuating the coastline. Weligama has much to offer the visitor apart from sea and sun, however. Weligama, with its spectacular sweep of sandy bay, is a fishing centre 144kms from Colombo renowned for several artistic traditions such as lacework (especially mats and table-cloths) and architectural fretwork.
 
As you approach Weligama along the coast road east from Galle you will encounter Sri Lanka’s famous stilt fishermen, one who has a long pole with a crossbar that is stuck in the seabed close to the shore. When heading into Weligama from the west the main road forks. The inland branch runs through the centre of the town, over the railway track, and then past a small fenced-off area with several boulders, the largest of which has been carved with a 4-metre high figure known as the Kusta Rajah or ‘Leper King.’ Both hands  
are raised; the right hand in Buddhist Vitarka Mudra or instructional gesture. In addition the elaborate hair of the figure is decorated with medallions depicting Samadhi or meditating Buddha’s.
 
  During the 20th century the town became associated with a rocky islet just offshore – in fact you can wade to it at low tide – called Galduwa or ‘Rocky Island’ from time immemorial, but also known to the local inhabitants as Yakinige Duwa or ‘She Devil’s Island.’ In 1925 this islet was purchased by a French aristocrat, Count de Mauny, who built a beautiful octagonal house upon it and created an equally exquisite garden. Not surprisingly it became known as Count de Mauny’s Island, even though the new owner christened it Taprobane.
 
The 10 ft tall Bodhisattva is sculpted in bas-relief within a hillside niche. Local legend identifies this figure as a "Leper King" Kusta Raja; nevertheless, the figure is Avalokiteshvara, as shown by its typical iconography and details of costume, including the seated Buddha in his crown. Signage on-site dates the figure to the 6th century AD; other proposed dates have run as late as the 8th-9th century.

(Content Source: Travel Sri Lanka Magazine)
 
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