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GALMADUWA VIHARYA – extraordinary building of unique architecture

Situated in Nattaramapotha (traditional craft village in Kandy) in Kundasale approximately 14 kilometers from Kandy City, Galmaduwa Viharaya is an extraordinary building of unique architecture. The Temple is an incomplete structure traditionally ascribed to King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe’s era (1747- 1782).

The structure of the Temple has a Tamil-Hindu influence, although it is a Buddhist place of worship. Constructed of stone and brick with a high gopuram (monumental tower, usually ornate at the entrance of a temple, a feature prevalent in South India), it is the only temple in Sri Lanka with Tamil-Hindu influence within a Buddhist place of worship. The incomplete stone temple that combines Buddhist and Hindu architectural features is an edifice that displays the excellence of massive stone and brick masonry that existed during the *Kandyan Kingdom. Although, it is an incomplete structure, it is a magnificent building.

Galmaduwa Viharaya is entwined in myths and legends. King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe had brought a plan from North India and constructed the Temple with the assistance of Meegasthanne Adikaram (also known as “Adigar” – a Great Officer with authority).

According to chronicles, while this building was being completed, King Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe heard of the discovery of a cave at Degaldoruwa and stopped construction of Galmaduwa Viharaya and diverted his attention to *Degaldoruwa Temple. Hence, to date, the Temple is incomplete and was never utilized as a temple (except some places of worship within the Temple Complex that were constructed recently).

The lower story of the *Mandapaya is constructed out of stone and the upper floors are constructed out of (mud) bricks, stone and granite. As the pavilion is made of gal (meaning stones in Sinhala), scholars are of the view that the name “Galmaduwa” (meaning stone structure, maduwa meaning hut/structure in Sinhala) was utilized.

In the interior of the pavilion, there is an Aasana (Image Altar). The pavilion is surrounded by a huge wall with an overhanging and deeply molded cornice. Salient features of the interior are the five windows pierced into the walls on three sides. Near the eastern building, there is a temple constructed approximately 125 years ago. As the villagers were unable to raise funds to complete the main temple, they had constructed a temple to compensate for the incomplete structure. The Image House in Galmaduwa Viharaya houses a marble seated Buddha Statue along with 24 other Buddha Statues dating to the Kandyan Era.

According to scholars, the old bricks engraved with *Brahmi script that were found in the temple premises prove that there had been an ancient stupa (dagoba) at this site. Reports written by British civil servants who served in *Ceylon during 19-20th centuries and folklore are the authentic reports about Galmaduwa Viharaya.

A.C Lawrie, an eminent British District Judge of Kandy (1873-92) has mentioned about Galmaduwa Viharaya in his book Gazetteer of the Central Province of Ceylon (originally published in 1896) and refers to the Temple as “Galmaduwa Gedige Vihare” or “Galapita-ambe Vihare”. He has described the Temple as “a very curious building built in the style of a Tamil Hindu temple.”

According to J.P Lewis, a well-known amateur historian who lived in Sri Lanka in the early 1900s, “the Galmaduwa Viharaya probably enjoys the unique distinction of being the most Hindu-looking Buddhist temple in existence”.

By Arundathie Abeysinghe

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