Colombo’s Gangaramaya Temple

Immediately after visiting the quiet water temple of Seema Malaka, we decided to check out Gangaramaya. Built in the 1800s, this is the most important place of Buddhist learning and worship in Colombo. The sprawling complex is a bewildering assault on the senses. Packed with worshipers, tourists, clouds of incense, chanting, elephants (alive and stuffed), and a collection of everything even the slightest bit related to Buddhism, there is enough here to occupy a huge chunk of time.

Gangaramaya Temple Colombo Sri Lanka

When visiting temples, we usually maintain a quiet composure and respectful behavior. There’s nothing more hideous than a sunburned tourist in a place of worship, with safari hat and fanny pack, laughing and yakking as though he were at Disney World, and snapping pictures of the funny little monks who are clearly there for his amusement. But when we entered Gangaramaya, the first thing I did was run over to the resident elephant like a blathering idiot. “Can I touch it, huh? Huh? Can I?” I guffawed and posed while Jürgen took photos of me with the gentle giant, whose name is Ganga. The usual dignity? Out the window. Shucks, I’m touchin’ a real-life elephunt! Gyuk-gyuk.

Buddhist Statue delivery

Having to pay Ganga’s caretaker 500 Rupees brought us back down to earth, and we composed ourselves before exploring the rest of the temple. First, we ventured into the image room — fantastic. With a massive, golden Buddha decorated with elephant tusks and surrounded by various other gods, this room was breathtaking. Nearby, there’s an ancient Bo Tree, which worshipers were circling. I love this aspect of Sri Lankan Buddhism. Every temple on the island has a Bo Tree, which is subject to almost as much veneration as images of Buddha himself. According to the faith, it’s the tree which Buddha sat underneath while obtaining enlightenment.

We spent a lot of time inside Gangaramaya’s strange and delightful museum. A guide led us on a tour of the wide-ranging collection of bric-a-brac and Buddhist memorabilia. There were gifts from other Buddhist nations, including a Japanese sandalwood cabinet which our guide claimed was worth at least a million bucks. And we saw the world’s tiniest Buddha, smaller than a thimble, which revealed extraordinary detail underneath a microscope.

Gangaramaya is one of the top sights in Colombo. Don’t pass up a visit to this amazing, living center of Buddhism.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map

Gangaramaya Temple
Gangaramaya Temple stupa
Gangaramaya Temple buddhists
Gangaramaya Temple golden statue
Gangaramaya Temple monk
Gangaramaya Temple cleaning
Little girl visiting buddhist temple
Gangaramaya Temple flags
Gangaramaya Temple gold
Buddhist boom box
Gangaramaya Temple tooth
Gangaramaya Temple peacock
Stuffed elephant Gangaramaya Temple
Gangaramaya Temple tree
Temple elephant Gangaramaya Temple
Gangaramaya Temple elephant

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. joel jason

    hot guy in the orange cloth!!! are there many that look like him there?

    1. Dre

      “hot guy in the orange cloth!!!” is happen to be a Buddhist monk. Much like a Catholic priest or a person who practices the faiths of any religion in the world, you should know to honor them. Please try to get in to the specific culture before you comment.I am Catholic Sri Lankan, we respect all religions in Sri Lanka. In fact this rich ethical diversity and harmony that has made Sri Lankan life so colorful. You should come and see…!And yes, you will find hot, handsome guys all-around Sri Lanka…! 😉

  2. Dre

    By the way, Jürgen and Mike this is a wonderful blog and fascinating travel reporting you do. Keep it up.. You will be amazed by the rich diversity, history, folklore, culture and natural beauty… I got to know about this thro’ a friend you happen to met in Anuradhapura. Cheers….!

  3. Frances Buckler

    Is this the temple elephant Ganga, chained on two feet and barely able to move?Is this elephant standing on concrete or on a natural ground?Is this elephant constantly swaying the head – an indication of emotional and mental distress?

  4. Nikolaus Eberan

    Buddha would turn around in his grave if he would see “his” followers, so called monks, treat God’s creature, the “temple elephant” Ganga.
    This is false Buddhism in its purest, most touristy and disgusting way.
    I have visited many important shrines in the world and this “holy” mentality proves most always to be the same fake!

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