There are several well-known religious attractions in Sri Lanka, but only a few are internationally famous. Among them is this magnificent Gangaramaya temple that you see on photo postcards, travel blogs, and religious websites. Despite the fact that this temple has been in existence for more than a century, it continues to amaze tourists and worshippers even at the present. Hence, we thought of sharing with you about this wonderful place. Continue reading, and you are surely going to visit it very soon!
When was Gangaramaya Temple Built?
This majestic and vibrant temple has a long and glorious history dating back over 200 years. Bastian, also known as de Silva Jayasuriya Goonewardane, Mudaliyar, was responsible for the establishment of this temple.
He paid a high price for the land in order to construct a temple for Matara Sri Dharmarama thero. Besides, he spent a considerable amount of his wealth to come up with this attraction, 30 Riyans to build the temple’s Chaitya or Dagaba to be specific.
A gorgeous and rich arch, a Sanadakada Pahana, is there at this section of the building, which has similarities to the ones in Anuradhapura. Don Bastian also brought a Bo sapling from Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, which he placed in the temple grounds with his own hands. He also constructed the temple’s teaching hall, moat, walls, and railings himself.
Ven. Galaboda Gnanissara Thero is the present Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya Temple, and his active leadership has given this temple fresh energy. The area that was previously a swamp next to Beira Lake has now been transformed into an iconic complex that includes the temple, an assembly hall overlooking the gorgeous lake, and a vocational education institute. Previously, pilgrims had to take a boat across the Beira Lake to access the little temple, which was later renovated to what it is now by Devundara Sri Jinaratana Nayake Thero, a pupil of Venerable Hikkaduwa Sri Sumangala Nayake Thera, who designated him as the temple’s primary successor.
Significance of Gangaramaya Temple
Gangaramaya is a unique combination of a Buddhist temple and a museum, housing not only a number of vintage cars but also an enormous amount of materials of doubtful religious significance, such as gold, sapphires, elephant ivory, sandalwood, porcelain, Chinese statues, a cannon, watches, cameras, coins, photographs, two taxidermied elephants, stereos, swords, shells, and other various knick-knacks. The temple received several of these things as gifts from local and international devotees.
Further, the Gangaramaya Temple is now active in Buddhist social activities, which includes old people’s homes, a vocational school, and an orphanage. Apart from conveying the spiritual vibe, the ‘Sri Jinarathana Training Institute’ also gives training to almost 7000 pupils. They also have a community development project called Na Sevana’s Community Development Project, which aims to build a better future in the area.
Besides, the temple is particularly lovely and welcoming to people of various faiths. It was also the main inspiration in the establishment of the Buddhist temple on Staten Island, the Buddhist Center in New York, and the Buddhist Center in Tanzania, all of which have contributed to the spread of Buddhism in other nations.
Highlighting Aspects of the Gangaramaya Temple
People go over to holy locations, but they’ll come back to this temple especially to see the architecture. Yes, this temple holds many highlighting aspects that are sure to delight you.
The finely carved sculptures that line the walkways and doors leading into the main sanctum sanctorum are just spectacular. Besides, this temple features a variety of fascinating architectural styles, including Sri Lankan, Burmese, Thai, Chinese, and others. Also, there are numerous Buddha statues throughout the temple, beginning with those that guide you to the main shrine.
Among the most marvelous architecture and sculptures, following are some of the major highlights.
The museum of Gangaramaya Temple is one of the temple’s most famous attractions. It features a collection that includes ivory and wood sculptures, trinkets, Buddha statues, ola leaf carvings, and even vintage cars! Indeed, this museum is a must-see for everyone who enjoys exploring historical treasures.
The Relic Chamber is the next, and it has a strong association with Buddha relics. Yes, you do not even have to be a believer of Buddhism to appreciate what’s there, because you can appreciate the charm of the chamber itself. So, simply take in whatever you see and depart with precious memories.
The sacred fig tree in the Gangaramaya temple is said to be a branch from the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. As you might already know, the Jaya Sri Maha bodhi is a sapling of the Bo Tree in India where Buddha attained nirvana. So, owing to all these reasons, the Bo Sapling at Gangaramaya Temple is considered one of the most valuable things out there. So just don’t miss out on it and make sure you snap it!
Replica of Borobudur
The iconic Borobudur temple, which was erected in the late 8th century, is located in Central Java. Meanwhile, the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple contains a facsimile of this famous location, complete with Buddha statues and stupas. So, these replicas indeed enhance the value of this great place and amuse your eyes with their charm. You are sure to witness what we say when you visit this significant attraction!
Seema Malakaya, as you know, is a modest temple dedicated to meditating instead of prayer. The Seema Malakaya here has a link to the mainland via pontoon bridges and magnifies the uniqueness of this religious attraction. From an architectural standpoint, the Simamalaka Shrine is the most popular tourist site among all of these monuments. This structure seems to have significant shades of Geoffrey Bawa’s designs and has come up with the donations of a Muslim patron.
The Gangarama temple hosts the Navam Perahera, which is a prominent tourist attraction. The perahera was first conducted in 1979 and has been organized every February since then. The pageant’s highlight is a stunning arts festival with over 1,000 performers and over 100 elephants brought in from all around the island. Thousands of people come to visit this beautiful Perahera from all over the island, as well as from across the ocean, as it is well-known all over the world.
How to Reach the Gangaramaya Temple?
Gangaramaya temple, this wonderful religious attraction rests in the heart of the vibrant Colombo city, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. Hence, reaching this place is not a hard task.
- No.61, Sri Jinarathana Rd, Colombo – 00200, Sri Lanka.
- How to reach?
- Bandaranaike Airport is the closest airport to the temple. To get to the temple, you may either take,
- The Colombo express bus-From the airport to the temple, the express highway bus will take roughly an hour, with a 30-minute delay. Although this may appear to be a lengthy time, it is a rather inexpensive means of transportation, costing roughly LKR 200 – LKR 250. You can buy the bus ticket during the trip, by paying the conductor on the bus. The very last bus from the airport departs at 8.30 p.m., and no nighttime services are available. As a result, make sure to plan your trip appropriately.
- Taxi-A taxi ride from the airport to the temple takes about 45 minutes, and there is no need to wait because you may book one at any moment. However, the pricing is extremely high, costing roughly LKR 5000 – LKR 6000. You can also reserve a taxi in advance of your arrival.
- Bandaranaike Airport is the closest airport to the temple. To get to the temple, you may either take,
Apart from that, if you reach the Colombo Fort bus station from anywhere on the island, you can take the 101 bus route, and get down near the Colombo City Centre, to arrive at Gangaramaya Temple.
- Open hours
- The temple is open for visitors every day from 6 a.m – 10 p.m.
- Entry Fee
- It’s free to enter the temple.
Best Time to Visit the Temple
You should visit the temple between mid-February and mid-March to get the most out of your visit. The yearly moon day celebrations take place during this month, and thus, you will be able to enjoy a pleasant and elegant environment. The whole temple is draped in flags, bells ring out everywhere, and the ambiance is quiet and peaceful.
Besides, in February, the weather in Colombo is also good. It can get fairly hot in the summer, between April and July, and it can get rather cold. When considering the best time of the day to visit the temple, the morning, or evening prayer hours are the best, as the vibes are particularly holy and sacred at these times.
Things to Remember When Visiting the Gangaramaya Temple
Knowing about the culture of a place is always better to have a pleasant experience out there. Hence, make sure you go through the following points, before planning your visit to Gangaramaya Temple.
- The temple does not require tickets, yet there is a charge to enter the museum. Besides, the temple also accepts donations, and it is a tradition of visitors to make a donation. So, if you wish to, you also can contribute to this wonderful religious attraction.
- The temperature here can be very hot, and the sun can be very strong. As a result, it is recommended that you bring a bottle of sunscreen and a hat. They will surely help you to avoid being sunburned.
- Some of the most breathtaking sights and magnificent perspectives in Colombo may be found at the temple. As a result, we suggest you bring your camera with you so that you may capture all of the majesties that surround you.
- You should take a tuk-tuk instead of a bus or cab to get to the temple from the city. The ride is incredibly spectacular and breathtaking, and it is well worth taking in all of the sights on this one-of-a-kind excursion.
Traditions to Follow When Visiting Buddhist Religious Attractions
Apart from what we mentioned in the previous section, there are certain traditions to follow, as you visit the Gangaramaya Temple, since it is a Buddhist religious place. They are not rules, yet traditions that the Buddhists respect and follow. So, we suggest you follow them, in order to blend with the culture at the Gangaramaya Temple, or any other Buddhist religious attraction.
- Dressing appropriately is a fact that you need to pay attention to when visiting a Buddhist religious attraction. As a result, avoid wearing sleeveless tops, shorts, or skirts. It is better to wear something that covers from your shoulders up to the knees. This implies you shouldn’t have to wear traditional clothing and can instead go for jeans or pants. Generally, a T-shirt and jeans are a good choice.
- It is usual to remove your shoes when visiting any Buddhist temple, including this one. Wearing them inside the temple grounds is deemed disrespectful. Make sure you’re wearing flip-flops that can be readily removed. Carry bags with you so you don’t have to carry anything in your hands.
- When moving around the temple, always ensure you’re on the right side. This indicates respect for Lord Buddha.
- Don’t make a vocal greeting to Buddha. Just take a bow to Buddha, and it’s as simple as that. In practically every country, this is how you should welcome Buddha.
The Bottom Line
Isn’t Colombo’s Gangaramaya Temple stunning? Even if you are not a temple enthusiast, a trip to this location will leave you speechless with all of the statues, antique designs, and especially, the museum’s exhibits. And yes, this is more like a must in any of the Colombo city tours. So, never miss visiting this wonderful religious place, when you visit Sri Lanka. Happy and Safe Travelling!