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Temple

Saman (deity) Temple

  Province Sabaragamuwa
  District Ratnapura
  Nearest Town Ratnapura
  Period 6000 BC
  Ruler King Ravana

Introduction

Saman is a deity, subject to local and indigenous belief and worship in Sri Lanka. The name Saman means "the rising morning sun". His character is of historical significance for the Sinhala people and veneration especially to all the Buddhists. God Saman is considered one of the guardian deities of the island and the Buddha Śāsana. Natha, Upulvan, Vibhishana and Kataragama are the other guardian deities. Nayakkar dynasty from South India introduced Goddess Pattini replacing God Saman. God Saman is the guardian (patron deity) or the presiding deity of Saparagamuva and the Sri Pada mountain. Accordingly his main shrine or devalaya is at Ratnapura, where an annual festival is held in his honor.

According to common belief, he may have been a King or a provincial ruler (Mahasumana) of Saparagamuva from the Deva clan, one of the four main clans in ancient Sri Lanka. Others are Yakkha, Naga and Raksha. According to the tradition of Sammuthi Deva (considered a deity by common acceptance), he is revered as a deity. He is also thought to have been a Deva (god) of the heaven. There is much debate regarding his origin. By a few, he is also related to Vibhishana and God Katharagama. Some also relate him to the Mahayana tradition of Samanthabhadra. In the legendary history, Sumana Saman deviyo invited Lord Buddha to the Samanalakanda and on request Lord Gautama Buddha left his foot print on the rock at top of the mountain as a token of symbolic worship, in the absence of the Buddha. God Maha Sumana Saman is depicted crowned, bejeweled, holding a lotus flower in his right hand and accompanied by a white elephant.

History

Sumana Saman may have been of the Deva clan or yakkha or rakus or even Indian. Another legend discloses that Deity Saman is the younger brother of King Ravana who ruled Sri Lanka 6000 BC. Saman also had a sister of historic importance. Following his death, Prince Sumana Saman became a god, by the name of God Maha Sumana Saman.

God Sumana Saman was there when Lord Buddha visited the island for the second time. God Saman is recorded as having met the Buddha on the latter's first visit to the island when he visited Mahiyangana to drive away the yakkhas. Saman became a stream-entrant (sotapanna) after listening to the Buddha, who gave him a handful of hairs with which he erected the dagoba at Mahiyangana.

Sri Pada

According to Mahavansa, the great chronicle of Sri Lanka, Sri Pada mountain (also called Sumanakuta,Samangira,Samanthakuta and Samanalakanda) bears the impression of the Buddha's left foot, which he left on his third visit to the island (Mhv.i,77ff.). Some say that the name Samanthakuta means the "Peak of the God Saman". Generally Sri Lankan Buddhists believe that the footmark on the summit of Sri Pada is that of Lord Buddha, who during his third visit to Kelaniya, 2580 years ago, kept the imprint of his left foot thereon as a relict worthy of veneration.

Beliefs

God Saman is the tutelary deity of the mountain wilderness, whose divine eye is supposed to cast upon Deraniyagala, Boltumbe, Ellakkala, Nivitigala and the mountain Benasamanalagala. He is regarded as the chief deity of the area surrounding the sacred mountain as well as of the Saparagamuva country in general.

The Theravada Buddhists of Sri Lanka later made god Saman the guardian of their land and their religion. With the rise of Mahayana Buddhism, Saman developed into Samantabhadra, one of the four principal bodhisattvas of Mahayana. Like his later manifestation, Samanta is usually depicted crowned and bejewelled, holding a lotus in his right hand and accompanied by a white elephant. At Weligama, an ancient port on Sri Lanka's south coast, there is a 12 ft high statue which some believe is the figure of Samantabhadra carved out of a huge moss-covered bolder. This statue is now called Kushtarajagala. It is thought that the Pilgrims from India and northern Sri Lanka disembarking at Weligama were greeted by this bodhisattva figure as they set out on the long trek to Sri Pada.

God Maha Sumana Saman is depicted in human form accompanied by a white elephant, the ancient bulldozer of Lanka, the great noble beast of royal and Buddhist significance, in the background of Sri Pada (Adam's Peak). The resplendent god, a divine being in every sense of the word, holds a red lotus, a flower of Sinhalese Buddhist significance. His noble elephant too holds a red lotus.