Gadaladeniya Raja Maha Vihara is the Buddhist temple with the largest stone structure in Sri Lanka. This masterpiece of stone carving and stone masonry is located in Pilimatalawe in the district of Kandy. It is about 10 km from Kandy. The temple is picturesquely nestled among mountains. It is surrounded by patches of forest, paddy fields and charming villages. Gadaladeniya temple is built on a rock about 100 meters above the surrounding area. A flight of steps carved on to the rock leads to the temple, on the summit of the rock.
The temple houses some of the most intricating stone carvings of Sri Lanka. The artisans have been able to produce a large number of stone sculptures of Buddha, animal figures and floral designs. The temple is completely built with granite stones. The gigantic stone pillars of the temple are decorated with beautiful floral designs.
The temple shows some Hindu influence and there are some similarities to Hindu temples. This opinion can be well maintained by the installation of a Hindu temple next to Gadaladeniya.
At the entrance of the temple is a dagoba built on a slab of rock which is about 5 meters above the ground. The dagoba is sheltered with a roof, which is supported by four pillars. The image house is built under the Dagoba.
The main image house of the temple accommodates several Buddha statues in meditation and standing postures. A spacious open verandah can be seen before entering the image house and it is built with large beautifully carved stone pillars. Partially gold coloured meditating Buddha statue is placed in the middle of the house. Either side of the meditation Buddha statue is several other statues in standing posture. The main dagoba and image house is accompanied by four other image houses and dagobas.
The history of Gadaladeniya is dating back to 1300s. According to the inscription at the site, the temple was built by a minister called Senadilankara under the patronage of Dammakeerti Thera with the instructions of King Buwanekabahu 4th.
Gadaladeniya is not merely a Buddhist temple but also a masterpiece of stone carvings and masonry of ancient artisans. This archaeological site is considered as a must visited a place on the island. The temple structure is in very good condition but the paintings and plaster of the inner walls are in very dilapidated condition.
The Bo-tree of Gadaladeniya is residing in the temple since the beginning of the temple. The tree is also sharing the same granite rock as the image houses. A protective wall is built encircling the dagoba and material used for the construction is granite. This Bo-tree is a sapling of Bo-tree at Dewram Vehera in India.
Even though Gadaladeniya is a small Buddhist temple, is comprised of all major parts of the Buddhist temple namely Dagoba, Bo-tree, image house and living quarters of monks. At present, the temple is under the purview of the archaeological department and some renovations are carried out by the archaeological department.