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Temple step (“moonstone”)

Sri Lanka, central plateau, probably Anuradhapura

Not on view

Semicircular stone slabs have been placed at the thresholds between Andhra stupas and their shrine entrances since the early centuries CE. The Sinhalese Mahavamsa (Great Chronicle) names the moonstone as patika, a divider separating the mundane and spiritual realms. To cross it is to enter the presence of the living Buddha. At Anuradhapura, the “moonstone” step evolved into a complex decorative schema. Read as it is approached, its outer rim is bordered by flames representing the world of the senses ablaze with desire. Next is a procession of noble beasts—elephant, horse, lion, and bull—followed by the vines of ensnarement, Dharma-messenger geese (hamsas), and, at the heart, the lotus bloom.

Temple step (“moonstone”), Granite (gneiss), Sri Lanka, central plateau, probably Anuradhapura

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