The Moonstone of Sri Lanka- In memory of Fawzia Braine
When we toured Polonnaruva Fawzia repeatedly drew my attention to the Sandakada pahana, " Look, this is the Moonstone " she pointed to the slab on the entrance to the Audience Hall, then again at the Vatadage. Fawzia died in Jan 2012. When I was informed of her passing, out of nowhere the image of the Moonstone leapt into my mind.
Sandakada pahana, or the Moonstone, is a unique feature of the Sinhalese architecture of ancient Sri Lanka .It is an elaborately carved semi-circular stone slab, usually placed at the bottom of staircases and entrances .
A half lotus was carved in the centre, which was enclosed by several concentric bands. The first band is decorated with a procession of swans, symbolising the distinction between good and evil, the second band has an intricate foliage design known as liyavel , which symbolises worldly desires.The third band has carvings of four animals : elephants, lions, horses and bulls, following each other in a sangsara, which translates as "continuous flowing" and, in Buddhism, refers to the cycle of birth, decay, disease and death, which can only be escaped through enlightenment. This concept was derived from the Hindu belief of reincarnation. The fourth and outermost band contains a carving of flames .
The lotus depicts the final achievement of Nirvana .
The national emblem of Sri Lanka is a gold lion holding a kastane sword in its right forepaw, the sword has been changed to a cross as a sign of respect for Fawzia's new found religion .
In memory of Fawzia Braine