Gangaramaya Temple Overview

Gangaramaya Temple is not only one of the most beautiful but also one of the most iconic Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. It is more than a century since this temple was constructed; however even today, the temple doesn’t stop to surprise tourists and devotees. The pathways and doors that lead into the main sanctum sanctorum contain intricately carved sculptures that are simply breath-taking.

Highlights: The ceilings and walls contain pictures and miniature paintings that explain stories from Buddhism religion. In the main sanctorum, a huge Buddha statue exudes a brilliant sense of calmness in the devotees. Built in a mix of various architectural styles including India, Burmese, Thai and Chinese, this temple also houses a museum.

Location: The temple is located right on the Jinaratana Road in the heart of Colombo city.

Timings: The temple is open from 5.30AM to 10PM.

Price: Entry fee is LKR200 per adult.

One of the most popular Buddhist temples in Colombo, the Gangaramaya Temple is known for its tranquil surroundings and serene atmosphere. The temple sports exceptionally beautiful architecture and is located on the banks of the famous Beira Lake. On the opposite side of the lake, are several statues and intricate carvings that mark the majestic entrance to the temple. The main premises of this place houses a large statue of Buddha, and the ceilings of the temple tell the tales of his life. The Gangaramaya Temple was constructed in the late 19th century by Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera. Soon after its construction, the temple gained wide popularity in Sri Lanka as well as the rest of the world, including countries like India, Thailand and China.

This was because of the unique blend of architectural elements of the temple, which still attract thousands of tourists from all over the world. Gangaramaya Temple is not just a place for worship. It is also functioning as a center of learning. The temple hosts the Sri Jinarathana Training Institute. This institute controls nearly 40 training centers, all of them hosting a variety of vocational courses. It is estimated that more than 7,000 students are enrolled in these centers. In addition to all this, the temple committee also believed in giving back to the people. The Gangaramaya Temple’s Na Sevana’s Community Development Project in Sooriyawewa has been set up to help in upliftment of the local community by helping them with cultivation of crops, animal husbandry, vegetable and fruit yards, and also educating the locals about health and wellbeing.

How To Reach

Gangaramaya Temple is located 35 km away from Bandaranaike Airport.

Here are the best ways to get to the temple from the airport:

1. Colombo Express Bus:
The express highway bus will take about an hour to go from the airport to the temple, and the waiting time is around 30 minutes. That may sound like a long time, but it is a cheap mode of transportation, and will only cost you around INR 80.

You can buy a ticket from the conductor. The last bus from the airport leaves at 8.30 pm, and there are no night buses. So, plan your journey accordingly.

2. Taxi:
A taxi will take around 45 minutes to transport you from the airport to the temple, and there is no wait time as you can order one anytime. But the price is quite high - it will cost you around INR 2000. You can also pre book a taxi before you arrive.

Best Time To Visit

To get the most out of your visit to the temple, you should plan your trip here in mid-February. This is because during this time, the annual moon day celebrations are planned, so you will get to experience the lovely atmosphere this month. The entire temple is festooned with flags, bells are ringing everywhere, and the atmosphere is extremely serene and calming.

The weather in Colombo is also pleasant in February. In the summer, that is, between April and July, it can get quite hot, and in winter, the temperatures are too low. During February, you will be able to enjoy the temple’s tourist destinations without worrying about excessive heat or cold.

As for when to visit the temple during the day, it is recommended to go there during the morning, midday or evening prayer times, as the vibes at these times are extremely holy and sacred.

Other Essential Information

- Location:
61 Sri Jinarathana Rd, Colombo 00200, Sri Lanka

- Timings:
6 am to 10 pm, open every day

- Entry Fee:
There is no entry ticket to the temple per se. There is a small fee of LKR 100 for entering the museum.

You will also be asked for a donation to the temple when you enter. You can opt to donate however much if you want.

Architecture of Gangaramaya Temple

The architecture of the temple is a mix of elements derived from various countries, including India, Thailand, China, along with Sri Lanka. The temple is predominantly Buddhist and has various buildings on its premises. The main features of the Gangaramaya Temple are inspired from Vihara temple, the Bodhi Tree, the Cetiya (Pagada), and the Vihara Mandiraya.

Along with that, you may also see some resemblances to the Seema Malaka, which is the assembly hall of the monks, and the famous Relic Chamber. 
The temple has several other buildings in its premises, including but not limited to, a museum, some educational halls, a library, and the popular three stories of Pirivena. There is also an alms hall here.

The most popular tourist destination of all these buildings, from the point of view of architecture, is the Simamalaka Shrine. The place was built by using money from donations by a Muslim sponsor and it is largely inspired by designs by Geoffrey Bawa.

History of Gangaramaya Temple

The temple was built by Don Bastian, aka de Silva Jayasuriya Goonewardane, Mudaliyar. He bought the land at a great expense, as he wanted to build a temple for Matara Sri Dharmarama thero. The lands on both sides of the temple were previously known as Moragoda Ela and the Pettigala Ela. Later on, it was named Padawthota Gangaramaya Vihara.

Don Bastian built the temple’s Chaitya or Dagaba with 30 Riyans. This part of the building now features a beautiful and opulent arch, a Sanadakada Pahana which has been inspired from the one at Anuradhapura. Besides this, Don Bastian also brought a Bo sapling from Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura which he planted with his own hands in the temple premises.
He also built the preaching hall, the walls, the moat, and the railings of the temple himself.

Tips for Visiting the Temple

Here are some tips for visiting the temple:

1. Tickets are not required to enter the temple, but there is a fee for entering the museum. The temple also welcomes some donations, so it is considered polite to donate something before you enter the place. Make sure you have some cash on hand.

2. While visiting the temple it is expected for the tourists and locals to dress conservatively. Therefore do not wear sleeveless tops, shorts or skirts. Make sure you are covered properly. This is applicable for both men and women.

3. What is recommended is you should wear something that falls below the knee. This means you don't have to necessarily wear ethnic clothes, and you can wear jeans or trousers. Generally it is wise to have a T-shirt and jeans on.

4. The temple has some of the most beautiful sights and panoramic vistas you will see in Colombo. Therefore, it is recommended to carry your camera along, so that you can capture all the beauty around.

5. The weather here can get quite hot, and the sun can be quite unforgiving. That is why, it is recommended to carry a bottle of sunscreen, and a hat with you, so that you don’t get sunburnt.

6. If you are going to the temple from the city, you should take a tuk tuk instead of a bus or taxi. The ride is quite scenic and beautiful, and it is worth enjoying all the sceneries in the unique ride.

7. When visiting any Buddhist temple, including this one, it is recommended to take off your shoes. It is considered impolite to have them on in the temple premises. Make sure you are wearing flip flops so you can easily take them off. Also carry a bag, so you don’t have to carry them in your hand.

8. Always make sure that you remain on the right side when you are moving in the temple. This shows reverence for Buddha.

9. Do not point towards anyone. Do not greet Buddha verbally. All you have to do is bow. This is considered the proper way to greet Buddha in almost all countries.
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Gangaramaya Temple FAQs

What is the dress code for Gangaramaya Temple?

The dress code for the temple is as follows: You should not wear anything that is above the knees or shows off your arms or shoulders. Generally, it is recommended to dress conservatively. Do not wear sleeveless tops, skirts, or shorts. You do not have to dress in traditional or ethnic clothes, but it is expected for both men and women to be covered appropriately. A jeans and t-shirt should be fine for both men and women.

Who is this temple dedicated to?

The temple is dedicated to Lord Buddha and features the Bodhiya where he gained enlightenment. It has quite a special place in the hearts of the devotees of the religion, and is considered a sacred place by the locals.

What is the architecture of Gangaramaya Temple?

Gangaramaya Temple features architectural elements from several Southeast Asian cultures, along with Buddhist elements. Indeed, it is a fine example of the amalgamation of the architectures of several Asian countries, like India, China and Thailand. One part of the temple is also based on elements inspired from a temple in Central Java, Indonesia. Thus, it can be said that the Gangaramaya Temple displays a mixture of Buddhism and Asian cultural elements in its architecture.

How many hours should we plan for Gangaramaya Temple?

The entire tour of only the temple building will take around 45 minutes. However, there are several other buildings in the temple, including the museum, the Bodhiya, the Relic Center etc, which are simply unmissable. To enjoy the beauty of all these places, and cover all the different sections of the temple, you will need at least two to three hours. If you go during peak tourist season, it can take even longer as there may be queues to enter various buildings and sections.

Is the Ganga Elephant still present there?

Yes, Ganga Elephant is still present at Gangaramaya Temple.

What is Gangaramaya Temple Vesak?

The Gangaramaya Temple is brightly lit during the annual festival of the Buddhists which is held every year in Vesak in Colombo. The festival is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Buddha, as well celebrate his enlightenment and passing on a full moon day in the month of May. The annual festival was set up by Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera in 1885. The festival was established in order to reunite the people of Sri Lanka and affect a Buddhist resurgence in the country, at a time when the people were suffering immensely under the colonial rule. Nowadays, the festival is celebrated with great pomp and show at the temple and is a delight to witness for every tourist and local.

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