Gajasimha sculptures in Kelaniya
The north gate of the 20th century main temple in Kelaniya is flanked by quite spectacular Gajasimha sculptures. Gajasimhas are hybrid anmimals, a lion's body is depicted with the head of an elephant. Gajasminhas do not play a role in Hindu mythology. Probably, they are not a twist of the Narasimha incarnation of Lord Vishnu, as this Avatar has a lion's head. Nonetheless, Gajasimhas are a quite common sight at historical temples of southern India. Gajasimhas signify strength and sovereignty, particularly the might and wealth of a kingdom. Gajasimha sculptures are not known from Sri Lanka's Anuradhapura period, although some Indian specimens date back to the first millenium A.D. Gajasimhas are quite popular in the art of Southeast Asia in the second millennium. Depictions are found in Cambodia's Khmer temples in Banteay Srei and Roluos as well as in central Vietnam Cham culture and in various periods of Thai history. In Southeast Asia, Gajasimhas are portrayed as guardians of temples or as a mount for human warriors. In Sri Lanka, Gajasimhas are characteristic of the medieval Yapahuwa and Gampola periods.
Nuwan Chinthaka Gajanayaka,