Vihara (Sanskrit, walking, for pleasure or amusement), with the Buddhists (q.v.), is the name of their temples and convents. Originally it designated the hall or halls where the Buddha Sakyamuni, and the priests by whom he was accompanied, used to meet; but when these halls were converted into temples, the name Vihara was applied to them; and when the temples became the center of a number of habitations in which the priests belonging to the temples resided, the whole monastic establishment was comprised under one name. Properly the Vihara merely designates the Buddhistic temple, and it is generally used in this restricted sense. In Ceylon they are permanent structures, the walls being plastered and the roofs covered with tiles. Surrounding the sanctum there is usually a narrow room, in which are images and paintings. Opposite the door of entrance there is another door, protected by a screen; and when this is withdrawn an image of Buddha is seen, which occupies nearly the whole of the apartment, with a table or altar before it upon which flowers are placed. The walls of the Vihara are covered with paintings, and its stories generally illustrate some legend of Buddha's life. Sometimes no land is attached to the Viharas; but often they are rich in lands. See Hardy, Eastern Monachism (Lond. 1850).

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