Nalanda Gedige

Located midway between Matale and Dambulla, nestled in the middle of the Cultural Triangle of the country, the Nalanda Gedige is one of the more mysterious historical structures of the country, as its significance is debated by archaeologists even today. Adorned in a myriad of unique Buddhist carvings that include Hindu architecture, the Nalanda Gedige is a bold amalgamation of the two religions, making it a one-of-a-kind structure in the country. With most of its history in limbo, many a history geek can come up with their own conclusions here, while surrounded in a rustic backdrop of greenery.

Best Known For

  • Nalanda Gedige may not be well known for its ambiguous history, however, it certainly is famed for its unique structure, that boasts of a combination of the best in Buddhist and Hindu architecture, proving to be one of the only few structures in the country to do so. Therefore, making it a unique attraction.
  • Moreover, the complex is also famed for being located in one of the more untouched parts of the country, as it is surrounded by the rustic charm of the hill country of Sri Lanka. With the combination of Mother Nature and the ancient monument, it personifies the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka.

Interesting Facts

  • The Nalanda Gedige’s history is an ambiguous one, in that many an archaeologist lay claim to different periods, as to when it was really built and for its purpose.
  • However, after a considerable amount of research and study of the architecture of ancient Sri Lanka, a majority of archaeologists date the construction of the complex to be between the 8th and 10th Centuries.
  • It is believed that the complex was built during the time of the warring kingdoms of the Sinhalese and the Chola, thus the reason as to why it sports a very Dravidian style of architecture.
  • The intriguing structure is the unique combination of 2 distinctive types of architecture, namely, Buddhist and Hindu architecture.
  • Due to the unique combination of architecture, the complex has a close resemblance to the Hindu temples found in South India.
  • Although looking more like a Hindu temple, it is believed to have been used by Buddhists to perform their rituals and practices.
  • The Nalanda Gedige is proven to be the only monument of ancient Sri Lanka that includes a depiction of the Hindu god of wealth, God Kuvera.
  • Moreover, the structure’s unique carvings expand into erotic tantric ones too, which resemble that of the Khajuraho Temple in India.
  • Another feature of interest is its current location, as its original location, a little bit farther away from its current one, is now taken over by the Bowatenne Tank.
  • In other words, had it remained in its original location, it would have been swallowed whole by the artificial lake in the 1980s.
  • Due to the development of the lake, many archaeologists scrambled to save the ancient temple by relocating it on a higher terrain, taking it apart and again reassembling it in an intricate manner.
  • What makes the area one of the more serene and peaceful historical monuments of the country is its rustic surrounding of foliage and trees. Coupled with the Bowatenne Lake right behind the Nalanda Gedige, it really does make for a unique historical monument that is ‘off the beaten track’.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The Nalanda Gedige is open daily, throughout the year from 7.00am to 5.00pm. However, the best time to visit the complex is during the early morning, as the fresh air and the rustic background really do accentuate the complex.
  • There is no particular season to visit the complex, however, it is known to draw many tourists during the months from January to March, due to the favourable weather of Matale as a whole.
  • One of the benefits of the Nalanda Gedige is the fact that there is no entrance fee charged to anyone, making it just one of the few historic places in the Cultural Triangle that can be accessed free of charge.
  • Make sure you are clad in light, comfortable clothing as the temperatures could soar, depending on the time you visit.
  • Please keep the surroundings clean, as it is a very important archaeological site in Sri Lanka.
  • As always, bring along your camera to photograph the architectural beauty of the complex and its rustic surroundings.

In conclusion, although the Nalanda Gedige is an archaeological site that lives in ambiguous history, it certainly does make up for it in its exemplary architecture and its rustic location. Therefore, making it a perfect attraction for the traveller looking for the ‘road less travelled’.

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January - March


Culture and Heritage

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