Gangaramaya temple is the place to go to if you want a quiet time. Walk about 300 meters from the Seema Malaka temple on the Beira Lake, and you will arrive at the fresh smell of rituals of the Gangaramaya temple. More than a temple, Gangaramaya is a huge Buddhist complex. What attracted me to it was the charm and the vibe. One of the most important Buddha Vihara in the Buddhist world. The temple can be touristy, but it depends on the time you choose to visit here. The temple has mixed South Asian, Chinese, and Southeast Asian architecture.
The temple, unlike the Buddhist temple you see in Thailand, it does not have a towering golden structure that you see in pictures. The temple can be easily missed though. There are lot of Chinese artifacts leading up to the sanctum. There are wood carving of elephants, swans. The sanctum has a yellowish hue, that is the home to the massive Buddha. The ceiling has painting depicting the life of the Buddha.
History of the Gangaramaya Temple
The builders of the temple chose to build the temple on a piece of marshy land that they bought from the Moors. Sri Sumanagala Nayaka Thera built the temple in the 1800s. I was told there have been many additions to the temple over the years. There is a ‘Bo’ tree in the complex, it was a sampling brought from Anuradhapura.
The museum has artifacts, trinkets from all over the world. There is stuff from India, Europe, China, and from all over Sri Lanka. The museum has too much to see, and you may wonder why a temple needs a museum. There are many Buddhust statues, Dutch artifacts like coins. There is a vintage car museum next to the museum for artifacts. I am not a car enthusiast; however this museum has a small collection.
Things to do here
Explore the Temple
More than a place of worship, this place is always buzzing with activity. There is lot of things to see. You can start exploring by finding the Bodhitree. Then there is the Seemamalaka which is the assembly hall for monks. Vihara Mandira, Residential hall, Alms hall, and the education hall.
I asked one of the teachers there, she said it was a Buddhist school, and so the white attire.
There is an elephant in the temple, and it is usually next to the museum for artifacts. Whilst you are exploring try and count the number of Buddha statues here. A temple worker told me that there are more than 1000 statues here. I told him I am not surprised. He then pointed to a small Ganesha statue, there are many of those also, he said.
The museum has the tiniest Buddha statue in Sri Lanka. The statue is kept inside a glass case, and you will have to use a magnifying glass to see the Buddha. All the best finding the Buddha.
The temple gets lot of visitors including foreigners and locals. Buddhists from all over the world come here to pray, and there is a ritual of pouring water on the sacred tree. After you finish watching, you may please take a mug, and do the same.
Volunteer at Gangaramaya
This temple has lot of volunteering opportunities. The temple also has many social activities to help the youth, children, and orphans. If you tell a monk that you are interested to lend a hand, the monk will help you with an opportunity.
The monks are friendly, and you could approach them to get some history about the place. Gangaramaya is the best place to start your Sri Lankan experience. It was the first place I visited before I explored other places in the island. Gangaramaya is a treat for curious eyes.
Gangaramaya Temple, Sri Jinarathna Road
Time of visit: 5:30 AM to 10 PM
Entrance fee: I did not pay, but most pay LKR 100