Colombo, Sri Lanka March 9, 2015 1:00 am
The reclining Buddha statue in Danagirigala, Sri Lanka now only has one eye. Treasure hunters pulled out the other one. The stone pillow on which the Buddha rests his golden, curly-haired head has a hole in it.
“The perpetrators were hoping to find gold, silver, precious stones or ivory,” says Senarath Dissanayake, director general of Sri Lanka’s Department of Archaeology. Destructive treasure hunting is a major problem in the island country off the tip of India.
“Treasure hunting is based only on folklore about great riches. It has no scientific basis,” Dissanayake says.
The culprits in Danagirigala went home empty-handed, as did the ones who damaged a stupa (Buddhist burial mound) in Danowita and in Nurwarakanda where treasure-hunters drilled into the chest, belly button and pedestal of a seated Buddha statue.
Over the past two decades, police have come across more than 4,000 cases of such vandalism. The situation was particularly bad in 2012 and 2013 with the floors of caves dug up, the houses of former chieftains torn down and monks’ dwellings destroyed.
On average there was more than one such act every day.
“The trend is a consequence of the fact that people no longer have morals and ethics,” Dissanayake says.