Friday, October 17, 2014

Gadaladeniya Temple

Gadaladeniya temple is located close to Lankatilaka temple. Similar to Lankatilaka, this temple was also commissioned by the first king of Gampola, Buvanekabahu IV. Gadaladeniya also shows signs of South Indian influence and is associated with both Buddha and God worship. Professor Indrakeerthi Siriweera describes Gadaladeniya as a “synthesis of Buddha and God worships”

Gadaladeniya can be reached by turning off at Pilimathalawa to Davulugala road. It is only about a kilometer from Colombo-Kandy Road. It is said that the temple was built on the initiative of a Buddhist monk named Silavamsa Dharmakeerthi Thera. Dharmakeerthi Thera had lived for a small period as a student of a Chola monk in South India. The architect of the temple was also a South Indian named Ganesvaracharya. Therefore, it is no wonder that Gadaladeniya shows considerable South Indian influence in its architecture.

In its earliest days, Gadaladeniya temple may have had another name. In the book Nikayasangrahaya, the temple is named as “Saddharmatilaka Viharaya.” However, in the Saddharmaratnakaraya written in the 15th century, the temple is mentioned as Gadaladeniya.

The main shrine in Gadaladeniya temple is mostly constructed of granite. The porch at the entrance is its most striking feature. Its roof is built of huge monoliths and is supported by stone pillars. These pillars are adorned with sculptures such as lotuses, dwarfs, dancers, lions, flute players and wrestlers.

This shrine room is devoted to Lord Buddha. The main feature of the shrine room is the seated Buddha statue. Seated on a Vajrasana (Diamond Throne) this Buddha image is in the dhyana mudra (meditating posture). There is a standing bronze Buddha statue by this main Buddha statue. It is different from the typical Buddha statues in Sri Lanka. Therefore, it is probably a statue brought from India or South East Asia.

The interior of this image house has been decorated with paintings. This is the initial stages of the Kandyan style of paintings. Similar to later Kandyan paintings, the main colors used are red, yellow and black. Sadly, only some patches of the original paintings are preserved today. Other paintings may have been added during later renovation work by kings Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467) and Viraparakrama Narendrasinghe (1707-1739).

There is a small, beautiful dagoba (stupa) protected by a tiled roof at Gadaladeniya. Four surrounding stupas are of much later addition. Furthermore, there is a Upulvan Devalaya, dedicated to the God Upulvan. A Dadimunda Devalaya is also seen in the temple premises.

Gampola era saw a continuation of the literary traditions of Kurunegala era and Gadaladeniya was probably the literary center of the kingdom. The book Nikaya Sangrahaya was the work of Jayabahu Devarakkhitha Thera, a student of Silavamsa Dharmakeerthi Thera. It tells the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka from the times of Buddha to king Buvanekabahu V. Saddharmalankara, Balavatara and the Pali poetic work Jinabodhavali were all written by resident monks of Gadaladeniya in the 14th century.

Source: “Heritage of Sri Lanka” by Professor W. I. Siriweera
Pics:  Dr. Irantha Karunaratne

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