About Gangaramaya Temple
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
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 Gangaramaya Temple
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.
What Not to Miss at Gangaramaya Temple
Here are the best places worth checking out near the temple:
1. The national museum of Colombo: The museum houses some of the most diversified collections of the ancient civilizations of which Sri Lanka was a part. You will get to see the ruins of the history of the country, artworks from some local artists, as well as intricate carvings, demon masks, swords, and some remnants of old temples of the city here.
2. Galle Face Green: This ocean-side promenade is ideal for relaxing for a couple of hours far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Get some breathing space near the clear blue waters of the ocean, and get some delicious snacks from the stalls nearby. Enjoy the scenery around you, and take photos of the sensational sunset. DOnt forget to try the mango cocktail.
3. Viharamahadevi Park: This is another place where you can relax amongst lush green scenery without having to deal with hordes of tourists. This park is the oldest one in Colombo, and is especially beautiful when it is blooming season in spring. It features everything you could ask for - picnic hotspots, waterfalls, walking trails, and lovely flowers.
4. Independence Memorial Hall: This is the historical place where Sri Lanka gained independence from Great Britain in 1948. The Hall features a statue of the first president of the country, and is surrounded by lush green gardens where you can relax in peace. The hall is relatively less crowded compared to the rest of the city, so it is a great place for an evening of calm and relaxation.
5. Mount Lavinia: If you want to do something truly unique, take a train ride to the picturesque Mount Lavinia. This train ride features a look at some of the most beautiful beaches in the city. It is a great way to explore the scenic beauty of the countryside.
Things to do in Gangaramaya Temple
1. Visit the museum: This is one of the most famous attractions in the Gangaramaya Temple. The museum has several halls, all of them filled with artefacts and paraphernalia related to Buddhism and local culture of Sri Lanka. You will find a huge collection of ivory and wood carvings from several time periods here, and some famous ola leaf writings and curios as well.
There are also some of the most beautiful Buddha statues in this museum. If you are history and culture buff, this is a simply unmissable destination. And if you like cars too, you’re in luck – because the museum also showcases some vintage cars.
2. Check out the Relic Chamber: The Relic Chamber of the Gangaramaya Temple is a homage to Buddha and hosts various statues and relics related to Buddhism and Buddha himself. For Buddhists and cultural buffs, this place is a treasure trove of interesting elements and lovely sights to explore.
The temple also houses sacred relics of some of Buddha’s disciples, including those of Arhant Seevalie. The latest addition to this building is a sacred relic donated to this place by the Chittagong Buddhist Temple of Bangladesh and the Government of Bangladesh. The building has a beautifully designed room where you can admire all these relics, and more.
But even if you are not religious yourself, this place has a nice, serene vibe that will make you feel calmer and more tranquil. Make sure you check out this place and all the sacred beauty it has to offer.
3. Enjoy some time at the Bodhiya: This sacred fig tree is believed to be the place where Buddha gained enlightenment. Hence it is an important historical and cultural sight for devotees of Buddhism. Make sure you visit this place and soak in all the sacred and serene vibes of this place.
Bodhiya also offers some of the most beautiful views and scenic panoramas of the city all around. Make sure you carry your camera with you so that you can capture all this beauty.
4. Admire the Replica of Borobudur: Central Java, in Indonesia, houses the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Gangaramaya Temple houses a perfect imitation of this temple. This perfect replica is aesthetically pleasing and is one of the finest examples of Southeast Asian architecture.
This place features several statues of Buddha in neatly stacked platforms. The serene vibes and lovely atmosphere make this place an unmissable destination when visiting the temple.
5. Admire the architecture of Seema Malakaya: This place has been designed by the most famous architect of Sri lanka, Geoffrey Bawa. It is essentially an assembly place for the monks of the temple, and is located in the middle of the Beira Lake.
This place was built in 1979, and features various architectural elements taken from various Southeast Asian cultures. The lovely atmosphere, the minimalistic colors, and the serene vibes make this place a lovely destination, and a place to get some refuge from the hustle and bustle of tourist crowds.
Other Essential Information About Gangaramaya Temple
- 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.