NALANDA GEDIGE

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Some 35 kilometres from the Matale Town is Nalanda Gedige. From Nalanda Junction visitors can follow Gedige Road for around six kilometres, to arrive here. 

A unique feature of this building is that it has been built entirely of stone complemented by a hybrid style of architecture, which includes Hindu elements and tantric Buddhist carvings, thus an extraordinary combination of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Referred to as ‘Nalanda’ by the locals, the present structure was relocated from its original location circa 1975, following flooding of the Bowatenne Tank. The original site was considered as the centre of Sri Lanka.

From the Car Park a lovely promenade shrouded with foliage and trees welcomes guests as they approach.

The original structure is said to have included a Mandapaya (recitation platform) and Vimana (structure over the garbhagriha or inner sanctum). The design of the Sikhara (a dome-shaped crowning cap above the Vimana) is  considered most elegant.

There is also an image house with a standing Buddha, a statue of Ganesha and a Bodhisattva  (enlightened) figure surrounded by an ambulatory passage. Today a small stupa, located on a square foundation enclosed by a brick wall can also be seen.

Located on the south side upon the tympanum (semi-circular decorative wall surface) is a carving of Kuvera, the God of wealth, seated on a lotus, the only such image on the island.

Visitors should also not miss the an erotic tantric carving which depicts the sexual union of a lion and two men, said to be inspired by South-Indian influence

Despite some comments that the structure follows Pallava style Dravidian architecture, others also mention that this structure may have been dedicated to a Mahayana cult with pronounced tantric leanings.

There is a small museum here that provides an explanation of the carvings and Brahmi inscriptions on rectangular stone slabs.

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