Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara Overview
Also known as the Kelaniya Temple, Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara is a Buddhist temple which is situated seven miles from Colombo. This temple is well known for its magnificent sculptor’s art. Kelaniya Temple was built on the bank Kelaniya River which is believed to be one of the most sacred sites in Sri Lanka.

This temple was built in the era prior to the chronologically recorded history of Sir Lanka (since 543 B.C). The ancient temple was destroyed by a lot of invaders but was reconstructed again.

Highlights: The best feature of the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara is its amazing architecture which has grabbed the attention of lot of tourist around the world. There is a vaulted grill that opens upto the lower patio of the temple yard. The lower patios lead four sets of flights in four directions to the Upper patio where you can see the image of Hose, Dagaba and the Bo Tree (Peepal tree) with other buildings.

Location: The temple is located at Kelaniya, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Price: The entry is free of cost.

Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara is a Buddhist temple in Kelaniya, a suburb in the western region of Colombo, Sri Lanka. This temple is both a perfect combination of historical significance and architectural aesthetics. Over the years, this site has come to be associated with the flourishing of Sri Lanka.

It is often considered that the rise and fall of this temple were highly associated with the rise and fall of Ceylon.This Buddhist temple was developed during the rise of Ceylon and had a lot to offer in terms of the stored artefacts historical figures within it. Apart from being a prominent Buddhist temple, it is also a significant tourist attraction of Sri Lanka.

Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara has not only become a popular tourist spot in Sri Lanka but has also developed as an educational institution, especially for students of history and architecture. You would often find schools and colleges conducting excursions here. A lot of research activity is carried out here too. Located on the banks of the Kelani River this temple is often considered to be a site of worship for the popular Ramayana character, Vibhisana.

Be it the elaborate architecture, or the beauty of the surroundings, this place is sure to keep your eyes fixed to it in terms of the enriching history and beauty. If you are fond of history, architecture, and aesthetics, this temple provides for a perfect conglomeration of all these, which is sure to be etched in your heart forever. For those planning a visit, incorporating Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara into a Sri Lanka tour package will undoubtedly enhance the overall cultural and spiritual journey through the country.

How To Reach

Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara is located at a distance of around 39 km from Colombo Airport. There are various means of transport through which you can reach Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara.

1. Fly: you can take a flight from Colombo Airport to Diyawanna Oya followed by a taxi to reach Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara. Flight charges- 7500. Taxi charges- 600. This would take you around 15 minutes through flight, followed by 12 minutes via taxi.

2. Cabs: 
you can directly reach Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara from Colombo Airport by road through local cabs. This would cost you around 1000 and you would reach in half an hour.

You can additionally take a town car which frequently runs between Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara and Colombo Airport and reach the spot within 25 minutes. 

Best Time To Visit

You can visit Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara anytime of the year. However, it is advised that you visit Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara during January to witness one of the largest Buddhist processions which start from this temple.

The procession is known to be one of the most elaborate processions of Sri Lanka consisting of hundreds of elephants. The best time of the day to visit Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara is during the evenings so that you can see the walls and ceilings of the temple all lit up which help you to witness the murals and frescoes intricately.

Other Essential Information

1. Location-
Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara is located 7 miles from Colombo in Peliyagoda in Sri Lanka.

2. Entry fee- the temple has no entry fee and is open 24 hours a day.

3. Facilities- Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara provide the following facilities-

- Academic facilities
- Guide for tourists
- Toilets for tourists
- Waste disposal bins
- Parking area
- Wifi

History of Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara

Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara temple is known to have emerged during 500 BC when Gautama Buddha visited Sri Lanka for the third and final time. It is said that the original Stupa at Kelaniya comprised of a throne studded with gems where Buddha preached. Thus, the history of the temple dates back to centuries.

The Temple was built during the Kotte Empire which was later confiscated by the Portuguese invaders. The renovation of the temple from its ruins by a popular King Sri Rajasingha further deposits more historical and cultural value to it. However, with the emergence of the Dutch Empire in Sri Lanka this temple was rebuilt and renovated from the ruins.

The temple now comprises paintings depicting various stages of Buddha. 
The temple also comprises a clear depiction of the stories in Jataka Tales that we often read in our childhood. Each representation of the paintings has a definite moral that coincides with Buddha’s principles on the eightfold path.

This temple is also known to have been built when Buddha was enlightened, which further increased its historical value. Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara is also used as the venue for a famous procession in Sri Lanka conducted in January every year.

Murals in Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara

Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara comprises paintings dating back to the 17th and 20 centuries. The temple is divided into various sections consisting of murals of different eras, each one of them having a distinct significance.

1. Kandyan era murals- kandyan era was the last empire of Sri Lanka. This section of Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara comprises murals and frescoes of artists belonging to this era. These murals mainly depict the stories of Jataka Tales along with murals of Kandyan kings and queens.

One of the most distinctive features of the Kandyan era murals is its use of raw materials and style of murals. Most of the artists used naturally extracted colours from trees, flowers and vegetables. Thus the paintings on the walls of Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara in this section are solely made of natural pigments.

Not only that, the depiction of Jataka tales conveys their morals which Buddha preached. This section also depicts Buddha’s struggles in his life against various social factors. This section is sure to have your eyes fixed on it because of the perfection it exhibits in all of its depiction and is undoubtedly a must-watch if you are at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara.

2. Modern murals-
this section of Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara carefully depicts various changes that took place in Sri Lanka between 1927-1946. The paintings depict the flourishing of Buddhism and the internal changes it went through in Sri Lanka.

Not only that, but these murals also depict the Buddhist Tripitaka, the congregation of monks and various other significant events in the history of Sri Lanka. This section has also gained popularity as it not only depicts and exhibits Buddhist doctrines but also commentaries of various scholars of different origins on these doctrines. The attractive yet straightforward depictions have attracted tourists further. Thus, even if you are not well acquainted with Buddhism in general, these murals would let you explore religion more and also instil a sense of interest in historical minds.

3. Modern murals on the ceiling- you would find paintings done on the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara, a sporadic feature in most Buddhist temples. These ceilings depict beautiful decorations on the nine planets revolving around the sun along with the 12 zodiac signs. Each zodiac sign is pictured based on its positioning with the moon.

It also depicts each of its significance concerning a planet’s position. The ceiling murals are something worth watching because of its incredible craftsmanship. Further, it provides an important source of knowledge on how dates were calculated in ancient times with regard to the position of the planets with the moon.

The murals in all the three sections of Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara have its own significance with regard to Buddhism and the preachings of Gautama Buddha. It is mostly the murals which have gained significant popularity even as a part of academic research on the various empires in Sri Lanka, apart from flourishing as an important tourist spot.

Tips for visiting Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara

Since Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara is solely dedicated to Buddhism, Buddhist doctrines and Buddha’s preaching, it is better that you read about its history, historical and cultural heritage to get the true essence of it.

2. You should visit the temple during the day time and at least spend a few hours if you want to explore each section carefully.

3. It is advised that you either switch off your mobile phones or keep them in silent mode because Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara maintains a peaceful and calm environment.

4. Be careful not to litter at  the place as it is well equipped with garbage bins and you might be fined heavily if you are caught littering around.
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