Sri Lanka’s Buddhist heritage extends to the beginning of the earliest native settlements and spans more than 2500 years. To the South of the island its presence is evident in the myriad of temples that are a common sight. It is not difficult for any visitor to understand how the lives of the Sinhalese revolved around the local temple for thousands of years.
The Weherahena Temple near Matara is one of the several temples around the country that are specially revered by Buddhists. Although the modern building has no historical significance the surrounding area is said to have been a shelter the locals used to practice the religion in secret during the Portuguese rule of the coast. The temple seen today was built with the influence of Parawahera Rewatha Thero with the assistance of Anagarika Dharmapala, a key figure in the Sri Lankan Buddhist revival movement.
With the foundations laid in 1939, the one-of-a-kind tunnel was created to resemble a story in the Ummagga Jathaka – from the 550 stories of the past lives of Lord Buddha. The 600 foot tunnel is decorated all over with expressive paintings depicting various religious and historical stories. Above the tunnel is the temple’s most striking feature from the outside – the 39 meter high statue of Lord Buddha. Devotees offer flowers, incense and alms to the looming statue and on Poya holidays the temple can get rather crowded with locals.
The people of the south are a proud, religious kind but with warm welcoming hearts that extend gracious hospitality to their guests. A glimpse of the local lifestyle gives a wonderful look into the true nature of the culture of the island. From Galle, the Weherahena Temple is an easy ride down the picturesque road to Matara, stretching along the beach flanked by swaying coconut trees. Galle hotels will provide an advantageous entry point into other cultural sites nearby, like the Galle Fort. The Jetwing Lighthouse was created by Geoffrey Bawa – one of Sri Lanka’s iconic designers – to reflect the minimalist, yet elegant atmosphere of the coast. As one of the finest hotels in Galle, it gives any holiday a luxuriously Sri Lankan feeling.