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Asokaramaya (අශෝකාරාමය)

Sinhala. Name of a Buddhist Temple in the Sinhalese capital Colombo. The outer temple grounds feature a large dagoba (fig.) and a bodhi tree. The leaves of a bodhi tree (fig.) have the shape of a sacred lotus bud and are suspended upside down, that is with the tip of the leaf pointing almost straight downwards. Because of this the leaves actually function as a ventilating fan, causing a downward breeze when the wind blows through the treetop's foliage, so cooling the spot underneath it. It is supposed that this might have been a reason why Siddhartha, i.e. the Buddha-to-be, chose to meditate under this particular tree, where he sat for 40 days. The leaves of the bodhi tree, also known as the ‘tree of knowledge’, are depicted on the national flag of Sri Lanka (fig.), i.e. one in each corner maroon field surrounding the lion (singh) holding a sword. The inside of the Asokaramaya Buddhist Temple has numerous colourful murals and bas-reliefs related to Buddhism (fig.), including a depiction of the Buddha seated on the ground, with a naga coiled around him and its hood covering his head, a pose reminiscent of a certain interpretation of the pose in which the Buddha is seated in meditation on top the coiled body of the naga Muchalinda, that uses its head as a cover against the rain, a pose known in Thai as pahng nahg prok (fig.). It refers to a scene during the sixth week after Siddhartha's Enlightenment, when the naga king protected the Buddha, who was in deep meditation under a Taengwood Tree, against heavy rainfall by making a shelter with his multi-headed hood and lifted him above the flood waters by coiling its body under him. According to some old texts however, and depicted in the mural here, the snake actually coiled its body around the Buddha, making a protective wall with its body (fig.). See MAP.