This sculpture presents a distinctively Sri Lankan version of the ascetic-bodhisattva found in art beyond the Indian mainland from the 7th through 9th centuries. The bodhisattva wears a long skirtlike garment, around which is wrapped an animal skin, probably that of a tiger. The spouted bottle (kundika) that he carries, his long matted hair, his relative lack of jewelry, and the animal skin indicate his asceticism. The importance awarded to ascetic bodhisattvas in Indian art from the 4th through 6th centuries illustrate changes in Buddhist thought during that period, and their appearance slightly later in Sri Lanka, Java, Thailand, and Cambodia reflect the spread of these new religious tenets outside of India.
The spouted bottled is an attribute of both Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya, the two most important and widely revered bodhisattvas, and it is likely that this sculpture was intended to represent one of them. However, Avalokiteshvara generally has a seated buddha in his headdress and Maitreya a stupa in his: the lack of either symbol hinders the positive identification of this bodhisattva.