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Grandeur of Gangarama

Gangarama is one of the royal temples located in Kandy Municipality area. This is so named because of its close proximity to the Mahaweli river. The route through Gangarama leads to another royal temple of ancient fame is Degaldoruwa. Inscription of Gangarama indicates that the route had been used by royalty in reaching a bathing site at the river.

The monastery of Gangarama possesses valuable 18th Century paintings. According to historical evidence of the epitaph as well as the style of the Buddha image the history of the temple runs beyond the 18th Century.


Gangarama. Pictures by Lakshan Maduranga

King Kirthisri Rajasinghe seemed to have lent his full patronage to the temple. On the face of the boulder containing the colossal Buddha refers to the renovation of the image, and building of the two storied shrine completed with paintings.

King Kirthisri Rajasinghe who used to have used the route by the Gangaramaya said to have greatly worried to see that the temple had been the target of the dutch who destroyed it. It was King Kirthisri Rajasinghe who brought the glory of Gangaramaya to its original grandeur, by spending a great wealth one bestowing great wealth to the painters and other workers.

There are two enclosed sites at Gangarama. Through a roofed gateway, the new preaching hall, the Bodhi tree and the two devales could be reached. The main image house with paintings is in the lower court. This faces south where the open drumming mandapa is located. The main shrine has been built round a standing stone image cut out of the living rock. There is a makara-torana which has been painted over the layer of stucco work a decorative valakulu-bemma runs around the two court yards. Arrangement of paintings sculptured and painted makara torana built at the entrance makes a devotional affect in those who enter the temple. A pair of Suddhavasa Bhahmas hovers over the arch. There are some figures of divinities too.

The painting is much damaged. It has flaked at many spots. The door of the main shrine room has wooden panels painted with figures of standing lions. Figures of two ferocious guardians Aghora-Bahaiava and Vatuk-Bahaiawa represent the most terrifying aspect of Siva.

Inscription on the rock of Gangarama indicates the work of King Kirthisri Rajasinghe in this monastery. He had built dwelling quarters for the monks, and many grants too have made. The main statue of Buddha which is carved in high relief bears close similarity as that of the Avukana Colossus. The King had replastered and painted the image and also added multi coloured paintings to decorate the shrine. These are the main attractions of the paintings which catch the eye of the visitors.

There used to be great painters who had contributed their skill for most reputed temples in the country. Gannoruwe Lokumuhandiram, found to be one of such painters. Artist of Udagama and Hiriyala who had done great works of painting found to be associated at other sites like Dambulla. Danagirigala-Dodantale and Ridivehera. According to the old people of Talwatte this monastery used to be the cremation site of the monks of the Malwatte chapter till recent times.

Gangarama is a great temple, which should not escape ones attention. I say so not because of its historical significance, but the temple makes the ancient arts an craft live again. Among the main plates of aesthetic value there are the presiding image of the Buddha which is main object of worship.

Configuration of Buddha is in inner west wall.

The other paintings of interest popularity and cultural importance found to be in Gangarama are renunciation enlightenment, Buddha among the hosts of mara, paintings, depicting second weak often enlightenment, third week upto the 7th week is well-depicted.

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