Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice Across Asia

The Texture of Practice: Sri Lanka’s Great Stupa


Stupas, hemispherical mounds that house sacred relics, are major sites of pilgrimage across the Buddhist world. Buddhists have visited the Ruwanwelisaya (pronounced Ru-on-way-li-saya) Stupa in Sri Lanka for more than two thousand years. Inspired by needs both spiritual and personal, believers come to receive blessings from the Historical Buddha’s bodily relics that the stupa is believed to enshrine.

Made of fired bricks, the stupa rises 338 feet from its foundation to its pinnacle—50 feet higher than the US Capitol. Ruwanwelisaya often is called “The Great Stupa” for both its size and the potency of its relics.

The video above offers a taste of the exhibition’s immersive film installation, which captures one day—from dawn to moonrise—of worship during Ruwanwelisaya’s monthly full-moon festival. The film reveals the texture and emotional power of a site that is at once broadly representative of Buddhist practice and distinctively local.

CREDITS Ambient sound, no narration. A film by Stanley J. Staniski; producer: Debra Diamond; content advisors and location coordinators: Lakshika Senarath Gamage and Sriyani Senarath Gamage; editor: Penny Trams; sound recordist and camera assistant: Janith Jayasekara; production assistant: Sachin Sanjeev.

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