A fascinating mix of Buddhist and Hindu architecture and style is what makes Nalanda Gedige stand out, unique and extraordinary. This gedige is situated on the outskirts of Matale, 10 minutes off the Kandy-Dambulla road. Renowned as one of the most intricately built historical places in Sri Lanka, this edifice inherited its name from the Buddhist University in India, Nalanda. Therefore it is believed to have been built during the period between the 7th and 11th centuries AD which were the days of chaos since the Sinhalese kingdom was on the decline and the South Indian Kings had taken over.
It was since then to have been assumed that the construction of Nalanda Gedige was an initiation of fusing the Sinhalese and Tamil cultures through the intercrossed style of architecture which incorporates tantric Buddhist carvings and Hindu features.
Since the word gedige represents structures made completely out of brick, the Nalanda Gedige is special in comparison to other structures of similar style in the island is chiefly due to that this gedige was created with crystalline limestone.
The ground plan of this gedige is more of Buddhist influence but designed along the lines of a Hindu temple; with the ‘Mandapam, entrance hall which was originally roofed, short passage to a bare cellar and an ambulatory round the holy centre but then the crocodile balustrade, moonstone and dwarf figures are from Buddhist styles. The tantric Buddhist carvings depict sensual forms of art.
Even though there is lack of recorded history in relevance to the gedige, archaeologists were able to give details of the probable dates of construction after having observed the rich decorations inspired by the Pallava style which dates back to the 7th century.
Being the only shrine in the island to have this distinctive architectural style, it is rather rare and exceptional. In addition, there is a notable image which takes centre stage at Nalanda and it is the squat figure of Kuvera (the God of wealth) seated on a lotus podium in a semi-circular corner of the southern section. Although the exterior of the gedige seems cluttered with numerous sculptures of both styles, it does not look unattractive or overpowering.
Visit this site of endless mystery yet a place of beauty. To this day it has many secrets therefore adding intrigue and excitement to your journey in learning about Sri Lanka.
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