The transition from the galleries to the terraces is dramatic. The zigzagging paths of the gallery walkways are closed in by the balustrades, and after a time, the seemingly endless corridors can begin to feel somewhat claustrophobic. The terraces, by contrast, are open, spacious, and offer a free and fabulous view of the surrounding countryside. While the galleries are crowded with elaborate textually inspired relief panels, the terraces are visually spare. Most of the built forms there are relatively plain: only the central stupa is adorned with relief sculpture that represents decorative offerings (Figure 5.1). These differences are so striking that many scholars have thought that the terraces must represent an entirely new teaching based on a text other than the Gaṇḍavyūha. Often, this view goes hand in hand with some version of the theory that the program of Buddha figures on the terraces and in the niches constitutes a mandala that is based on a distinctively Tantric text and/or is similar to more well-known visual representations of Tantric or esoteric mandalas.