Two legends connect the Sasseruwa and Aukana Buddhas. The first, and more prosaic, says that cracks (which can be seen in the torso) started appearing during construction of the Sasseruwa Buddha, and that it was therefore abandoned, with a new statue being created at Aukana. A second and more poetic legend relates that the two Buddhas were carved at the same time in competition between a master and his student. The master’s Aukana Buddha was finished first and the frustrated student, realizing his own limitations, abandoned the Sasseruwa image in disappointment. A third, and perhaps more convincing, theory has it that the two statues were created at completely separate times, with the Sasseruwa image dating from the third century AD and reflecting the Greek-influenced Gandharan style of sculpture, which originated in present-day Afghanistan and provided a model for Buddha images across South Asia – certainly the Sasseruwa Buddha’s ungainly square head and rather heavy features are in striking contrast to the chiselled elegance of the Aukana image.

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