Situated in the tranquil waters of Beira Lake in the heart of Colombo, minutes away from the frisky buzz of the city Gangaramaya Temple is one of the most remarkable 19th century landmarks in Colombo. Founded by a trader, Don Bastion, it was later transformed into the religious fortress it is today by venerable Mahopadhya Dewundara Sri Jinaratane Thera.
This is religious and artistic sanctuary embellished by the celebrated architecture of Geoffrey Bawa is a hotspot for keen pilgrims and tourists specially for those who are here to savour native culture immersed in urban pleasures while staying at a luxury apartment Colombo has to offer with quick access to all the enticing island charms, such as Capitol TwinPeaks.
The premises constitutes several imposing buildings new and old; a resourceful library, a museum with ancient coins, brass and copper carvings and ola leaf books, a residential hall, a rather sizable Pirivena (a school for monks), a vocational training centre, educational halls and an alms hall apart from the classic features of a traditional Buddhist temple such as; a Pagoda(Chaitya), Bodhi tree (a sapling of the Sri Maha Bodhi over hundred years old) and an assembly hall for monks (‘seema malaka’).
The ‘Seema malaka’ (an assembly hall for monks), the newest addition to the complex was opened to the public in 1979. It is located in the middle of the Beira lake, accessible via a wooden platform. This sublime structure is house to a replica of Buddha’s footprint sculpted in marble, which was donated to the temple. The either sides of the walls are decorated with an elaborate sculpture depicting various historical events in Buddhism and consequences of good and bad actions of an individual.
The temple shelters six elephants, who are blessed with the honours of performing at the ‘Navum maha Perehara’, held in February every year. This is a breathtaking sight of majestic tuskers carrying sacred relics in an ornamented casket surrounded by honourable monks dressed in yellow robes dispersed amid thousands of people in white, walking in serenity among the joyful hustle of various cultural dancers, fire dancers, drummers and flag bearers exhibiting various traditional dance forms and skills of their respective localities. This is a festival worth catching a glimpse of, as it is an inherent tradition meticulously honoured within the island. While appreciating the spiritual bliss of the temple, do keep in mind that this is a place of worship, so dress appropriately.
Roland Lefevre is a travel writer who specializes in creating features on leisure as well as business travel destinations across the globe.