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Temple

Nalanda Gedige Matale

  Province Central
  District Matale
  Nearest Town Matale
  Period 7th to 11th centuries AD.
  Ruler -

Introduction

Nalanda is situated one km to the east of the A9 route 20km north of Aluvihare. It is one of a number of remarkable archaeological sites in Sri Lanka that receive few tourists through no limitations of their own. The reasons for this anomaly are various. Sometimes it has to do with geography and ease of access, although this is not the case with Nalanda. Often, however, it is a case of the beaten tourist track prevailing over good sense. A visit to Nalanda Gedige - gedige is an image house - is strongly recommended, because it exhibits a composite style of architecture unique in Sri Lanka, and an extraordinary fusion of Hinduism and Buddhism. To cap it all, this remarkable shrine occupies an extremely picturesque - if not original - location.

Named after the great Buddhist University at Nalanda in India, it has been said that Nalanda Gedige is “one of those fortunate places that have no history.” The surprising lack of knowledge regarding this shrine, and why it was located at Nalanda thwarts those who wish to delve into its past. Even estimates of its date of construction vary from the 7th to 11th centuries AD. This was a period of great turmoil on the island, with South Indian kings establishing themselves in the wake of the decline of the Sinhalese monarchy. It is possible that Nalanda Gedige was a bold attempt at a fusion of Tamil and Sinhalese cultures.

History

Nalanda Gedige has been moved from its original position to where it is found today, but it hasn't lost its beauty since it was assembled back again stone by stone. It still retains its unique appearance of mixing features of Hindu architecture with that of Buddhist designs. One example of Hindu influence is seen in the Hall of Waiting, which is known as mandapam in local language. However, there are no images of Hindu gods or deities found in the temple.

On the other hand, Nalanda Gedige features several Tantric Buddhist carvings which were damaged through time. Roland Raven-Hart wrote that the structure makes use of Buddhist ground plan with Hindu vestibules.