The classical semi-circular moonstone of Sri Lanka is the Anuradhapura moonstone of the Mahasena Palace in Anuradhapura’s Abhayagiri complex. There are five more original moonstones in situ in Anuradhapura but much smaller. Prototypes of moonstones already existed in India, but only very few of them are preserved and they are less elaborate. So it is not wrong to say that the moonstone, called Sandakada Pahana in Pali, is a unique feature of classical Sinhalese art.
Today, Polonnaruwa is the place in the world where most moonstones can be seen, not only in front of temples but of other edifices, too. Moonstones of the Polonnaruwa period differ from thise of the Anuradhapura period. The exterior single band that once depicted the four Buddhist animals was replaced by separate bands for processions of only one species, the elephant, the lion or the horse. The most significant change of the moonstone design is the removal of the bull in the Polonnaruwa period. Presumably, the reason for this is respect for Hindu traditions: Their sacred animal should not be touched with feet. Tamil Hindus played an important role in the Sinhalese Polonnaruwa period. Some villages were founded for Tamil settlers and the guardians of the Sacred Buddhist Tooth Relic were Tamil Hindu merceneries. Accordingly, there are many more Hindu temples in Polonnaruwa than once in Anuradhapura.
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