Religious Attractions

Sri Lanka has an incredible religious heritage created and passed down over 2500 years since Buddhism was introduced to the country. Wonderful Buddhist temples, Dagobas, statues and various other monuments and structures built by ancient Sinhalese kings bring much magnificence and grandeur to Sri Lanka’s religious heritage while reflecting architectural marvels of the ancestors. Majority of Sri Lanka’s eight world heritage sites consist of these Buddhist Temple sites such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and Dambulla Golden Temple.

 

Today, the island is inhabited by people of various ethnic and religious backgrounds while Buddhists being dominant with over 70% of the population. Hence, many Hindu temples, churches of various denominations and mosques can be seen across the island. During the colonial era, a lot of churches were built in the island by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English.

  • Kelani Vihara

    A suburban city in the western province of Sri Lanka situated in close proximity to the Kelani River, Kelaniya is famous for its Buddhist temple, Kelani Viharaya. According to the historical chronicles of Sri Lanka, the Lord Buddha visited Kelaniya on the invitation of the Naga King Maniakkhita in order to settle a dispute between two Naga leaders called Chulodara and Mahodara over a jewel studded throne. After the Buddha settled the dispute, the stupa was built and the disputed throne is said to have been enshrined in the stupa. Kelaniya was the capital of the King Kelanitissa. However, the royal family of Magama in the south was connected to the royalty of Kalyani by the marriage of the King Kavantissa of Magama to Viharamahadevi, daughter of the King Kelanitissa. This marriage resulted in the birth of Dutugemunu (2nd century BCE), the greatest ever Sinhalese king of Sri Lanka.


     

     

    The temple is located on a large earth mound facing the Kelani River. The main terrace containing the sacred edifices, the image temple, the historic stupa and the Bo tree is approached by steep and wide stone steps and at the top are two beautifully constructed Toranas. Earlier there existed only one archway, but this has been doubled in recent times. The wide lawn leading to the main terrace contains the famed Devale of Vibishana (defector brother of Rawana), the presiding deity of Kelaniya. The historic stupa that still retains its original Dhanyakara (shape of a heap of paddy) shape occupies a large area of the terrace on the eastern sector

     

     

  • Gangaramaya Temple

    The most visited temple in the Colombo city, the Gangaramaya Temple which organizes Sri Lanka's largest and the most colourful Vesak festival annually, has a history of 120 years. It was established in 1885 by Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera at a time when Buddhist and cultural resurgence were much needed as the country was under the colonial rule.

     

     

     

    The area that was once a swamp beside the Beira Lake, has now turned to be an iconic complex which consists of the temple, the assembly hall in the breathtaking lake and the vocational training institute. Earlier, devotees had to cross the Beira Lake on a boat in order to reach the then small temple which was converted to what is today by the Devundara Sri Jinaratana Nayake Thera, a pupil of Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera who appointed him as the chief incumbent of the temple.

     

    One of the grandest festivals of the Gangaramaya Temple, the Navam Perahera, the inception of which dates back to 1979, is held annually in the month of February, displaying the rich religious and cultural tradition of Sri Lanka. It is quite a fascinating sight that hundreds of elephants nicely adorned with elegant costume walk with pride and dignity carrying the casket of the sacred relics while many troupes of traditional drummers, flutists, dancers and other traditional performers and hundreds of Buddhist monks clad in colourful robes, parade in the Perahera.

     

    The Gangaramaya Navam Perahera, a colourful pageant in the city of Colombo, plays a big role in preserving the Buddhist culture and taking it for future generations. The Perahera attracts thousands of people not only from the whole island but also beyond the ocean as it is popular throughout the world.

     

    Yet another grand festival held by the Gangaramaya Temple in commemoration of the Birth, Enlightenment and Passing-away of the Lord Buddha, is the annual Vesak Festival known as'Buddha Rashmi Pooja', the largest and the most attracted Vesak festival in the island. During this colourful festival, the temple and the area around turn into a sparkling dreamland with thousands of beautifully crafted and illuminated Vesak lanterns some of which are afloat the Beira Lake and millions of lights on the trees around and Sima Malaka embellishing the Buddha Rashmi Pooja.

     

    In addition, a number of religious observances and events are conducted parallel to the Vesak festival with a view to improving the knowledge of the devotees on Buddhism.

     

  • Ruwanweliseya

    The Ruwanweliseya was built by King Dutugemunu in the 2nd century BCE. Since being restored, the dome is clear and shines white in the sun. S.M. Burrows of the Ceylon Civil Service wrote in 1885, “Its present height is about 150 feet, with a diameter of 379 feet. It is now being restored by the pious contributions of pilgrims, and the zealous efforts of the Chief Priest.

     

     

    The Dagoba was originally surrounded by two large paved courts or platforms, the inner one raised above the outer. Round the outer side of the boundary-wall there was originally a complete circle of elephants, made out of brickwork, and coated with Chunam each elephant being furnished, says the Mahavamsa or the Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka, compiled in about the 6th century AD with tusks of real ivory. Most of these figures have fallen away beyond recognition; but in some few, the shape of the animal is still plainly discernable.”

     

  • Abhayagiri Dagoba

    Abhayagiri Chetiya is one of the most Sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Historically it was a great monastic centre as well as a royal capital. To the north of the city, encircled by great walls and containing elaborate bathing ponds, carved balustrades and moonstones, stood “Abhayagiri”, one of sixteen such religious units in Anuradhapura and a major Vihara. Surrounding the humped Dagoba, Abhayagiri Vihara was a seat of the Northern Monastery, or Uttara Vihara. Abhayagiri Dagoba was the centrepiece monastery of 5000 monks.

     

     

     

    The name means ‘Hill of Protection’ or ‘Fearless Hill’, another claim ‘Giri’ was the name of a local Jain monk. The monastery was part of the ‘School of the 4*Secret Forest’, a heretical sect that studied both Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism, also Chinese traveller Fa Hsien visited in AD 412. The Dagoba was probably rebuilt several times to reach its peak 75-metre height. It has some interesting bas-reliefs, including one near the western stairway of an elephant pulling up a tree. A large slab with a Buddha footprint can be seen on the northern side, and the eastern and western steps have unusual moonstones made from concentric stone slabs.

     

  • Jetavanarama Stupa

    King Mahasena (273-301 AD) built this largest Stupa in Sri Lanka. A part of a sash or belt tied by the Buddha is believed to be the relic that is enshrined here. At a height of over 400 ft (120 m), it is one of the tallest Stupas in the world and the largest brick building ever built, and 3rd largest structure in the ancient world, after the two largest of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Approximately 93,300,000 baked bricks were used to build the stupa (Ratnayaka 1993).

     

     

    This stupa belongs to the Sagalika sect. The compound covers approximately 8 acres (5.6 hectares) and once housed over 3000 Buddhist monks. One side of the Stupa is 576 ft (176 m) long, and the flights of stairs at each of the four sides of it are 28 ft (8.5 m) wide. The doorpost to the shrine, which is situated in the courtyard, is 27 ft (8.2 m) high. The stupa has a 6-metre deep foundation, and sits on bedrock. Stone inscriptions in the courtyard give the names of people who donated to the building effort.

     

  • Thuparama Stupa

    Thuparamaya, the oldest Stupa in Sri Lanka built after the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Thuparamaya, built by King Devanapiyatissa, enshrines the sacred collar bone relic of the Buddha. This relic, a gift from India, stands testimony to the cordial relations enjoyed by the then ruler of Sri Lanka. The columns around the stupa were a part of the walkway that supported a roof which covered the sacred edifice. Aesthetically, the interior of such a structure must have been the stunning expression of wood engineering and of the most skilful craftsmanship. The edifice’s conical design, unique in the architectural history of the world, continues to be discussed and debated by scholars and scientists.

     

     

     

    The discovery of medical texts and surgical instruments dating back to the Anuradhapura period confirm the quality of life during that era. The tradition of using stone troughs as medicinal baths to cure the sick was in vogue during the Anuradhapura and subsequent Polonnaruwa periods and before Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka. The patient, whether paralytic or in a coma after a snake bite, was immersed in a bath enriched with the appropriate medicinal potions that would gradually be absorbed into the body. Interestingly, the shape of the vessel was moulded to economize on the expensive fluid. The name Thuparamaya is a residential complex for Bhikkhus.

     

  • Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi

    One of the most sacred relics of the Buddhists in Sri Lanka and respected by Buddhists all over the world, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura, is the oldest living tree in documented history of the world. It is said to be the southern branch from the historical Bodhi tree Sri Maha Bodhi at Bodh Gaya in India under which Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment. It was planted in 288 BCF and is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date. It was brought from Bodh Gaya in India by the Ven Sanghamitta Therini, a sister of Arhant Mahinda who introduced the Teachings of the Buddha to Sri Lanka. The area around the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, the Brazen Palace and Ruwanweliseya Dagoba were once probably part of the Great Temple. It has been tended by a continuous succession of guardians for over 2000 years, even during the periods of Indian occupation.

     

     

  • Mahiyangana Vihara

    Lord Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka was to Mahiyanganaya. He had his first visit to Sri Lanka after nine years of enlightenment. According to Mahavamsa, Sivuhelaya (Sri Lanka) was peopled by Sivu-Helayos. The Yakkhas (clan) were living in Mahiyangana at the time. It says that the Buddha held a discussion on Dhamma with them. A Yakkha chieftain named Saman (who is now regarded as a deity) attained Sotapanna (First stage in liberation) after listening to the Buddha’s discourse and requested a token from the Buddha that they could worship in his absence. The Buddha gave him a handful of hair relic from his head, which was later enshrined by Saman in a small stupa, 10 feet (3.0 m) in height. This was the first stupa to be built in Sri Lanka during the life time of the Lord Buddha. 

     

     

    After the parinirvana of the Buddha, an Arhant named Sarabhu brought the Buddha’s left shoulder bone relic, which had been recovered from the funeral pyre. This relic was also enshrined and the Stupa was enlarged to a height of 18 feet (5.5 m). Since then several kings renovated and enlarged this Stupa. King Dutugemunu raised it to a height of 120 feet. Rulers as Voharikatissa, Sena II, Vijayabahu I and Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe have maintained the temple. In 1942, a society was formed for the renovation of the temple under Rt Hon. D. S. Senanayake the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. Reconstruction work began in 1953 and ended in 1980 with the completion of a new pinnacle for the Stupa.

     

  • Muthiyangana Vihara

    Muthiyangana Vihara (temple) is located in Badulla, a town 230 kms east of Colombo. The history of this temple goes back to the time of Buddha but this area around Badulla (especially Uva Province) goes way back in to the time of 19th - 18th century BCE.

     

     

    The Buddha and 500 Arhants visited this Island for the third time on the invitation of Naga King Maniakkhitha to Kelaniya. On that visit, Buddha came to Badulla on the invitation of King Indaka (now elevated to the Deity status), ruler of the Namunukula Mountain Range. King Indaka built a Stupa enshrining some hair and Mukthaka Dathu (drops of sweat turned into pearls) of the Buddha on the location where Buddha made his sermons. This is the birth of the Muthiyangana Stupa. Since then this Stupa and the temple have been expanded, reconstructed and renovated by many kings.

     

     

    The ‘Thorana’ of a unique design of six levels at the entrance of the temple is of an unknown period. First level includes the main entrance and above it on the second level is a typical Makara (dragon) Head. On the sides of the head are two guard figures and at the corners are two lion figures. On the third level there are two ‘Vamana’ figures and at the edge two animals probably lions. These figures are not as clear as the lion figures on the second level. On the centre of the third level is a high stand which goes right up to the fourth level on it are two bulls and the special features of these bulls are that they are decorated and have large humps. Such bulls are a feature of Hinduism and this feature indicates some influence of Hinduism in the making of this structure. Lastly and on top of the fifth level is a seated Buddha statue. The fifth is dedicated to the Buddha statue. The peacocks at the sixth level complete the outline of the structure. At the entrance is a colourful ‘Makara Thorana’. Right above the entrance and below the dragon head is a figure of Maitre Bodhisattva. On the right hand side of the Image house is a statue of Deity Indaka, the protector of the Muthiyangana Holy Ground and the Namunukula Mountain Range. On the right is the statue of Maitre Bodhisattva. Passing the Image House you come to the holiest structure of the temple, the Stupa which enshrines the hair and the Mukthaka Dathu of Buddha. The initial stupa built by the Deity Indaka in the 5th century BCE has been enlarged by the King Devanampiyatissa (250-210 BCE) of Anuradhapura Era.

     

  • Sri Pada

    Sri Pada also known as ‘Adam’s Peak’ is an ancient pilgrimage site, which has long attracted thousands of pilgrims from all faiths. “Sri Pada” means sacred footprint said to be of the Lord Buddha”. It is the pilgrimage to the sacred mountain, Sri Pada. Located in the southern reaches of the Central Highlands, in the Ratnapura district of the Sabaragamuwa Province—lying about 40 km northeast of the city of Ratnapura, this conical mountain is 7,360 feet high, soaring clear above the surrounding mountain ranges.

     

     

    According to history, when the Buddha visited Sri Lanka he placed one foot on the north of the royal city and the other on Sumana-kuta (Adam’s Peak) fifteen yojanas, or about hundred miles distant. The legendary evidence of Siam brings up that the Buddha left the print of his left foot on Adam’s Peak, and then, in one stride, strode across to Siam, (now Thailand) where he left the impression of his right foot. It is called Phra Sat, and its appearance is supposed to be like that of the foot print on Adam’s Peak and of similar size.

     

     

    Broad steps lead up to this walled enclosure containing the rock over which is a tower-like structure. The portion marked off as having the imprint of the Buddha’s foot is about five feet seven inches long and two feet seven inches broad. The hole in the rock in Thailand, which is believed to have the imprint of the Buddha’s right foot, is about five feet long and two feet broad. Buddhists attribute this universal size to the fact (such is the belief) that the Buddha was about thirty-five feet tall. The real footprint on Adam’s Peak is believed to be set in jewels beneath the visible rock and Hindus believe it that of the god Siva. The Tamil name of the rock (Civan-oli-pata) means “the mountain path of Siva’s light”. Muslims believe the footprint to be that of Adam (hence the name Adam’s Peak); Christians, that of St. Thomas, the disciple Jesus. Alongside the rock is a shrine containing images (one of which is made of silver) of the God Saman and a Brahmin priest officiates at this shrine. In front of the shrine is a small table on which pilgrims place camphor and lighted candles.

     

  • Nagadvipa Vihara

    Nagadvipa is only about 35 miles from India and the smallest Island in Gulf of Mannar. Merchants have long come here and the surrounding islands to buy the conch shells that are harvested in the warm shallow waters in the Gulf. The conch shell is of course essential for certain Hindu and Buddhist rituals and a particularly perfect specimen of one spiralling to the right can fetch an enormous price. Pilgrims have also been coming to Nagadvipa (Nainativ) since the 1st century CE to worship its famous Stupa. In the Mahavamsa the Island is one of the sixteen sacred places and the Tamil Buddhist epic, Manimekalai, mentions a gem studded throne and a stone with the Buddha’s footprints enshrined at Nagadvipa which pilgrims from India used to come and worship. The heroine of the epic is described as wandering amongst the island’s ‘long sandy dunes and lagoons’.

     

     

     

    However on either side of the side entrance to the temple there are two very ancient objects. On the left as you enter is a large stone with an inscription of Parakramabahu I on it. In the first part of this inscription the king says that foreigners coming into the country should enter only at Uraturai (Kayts) and that they should be helped if in need. This undoubtedly refers to merchants and pilgrims from India. The second part says what measures should be taken if ships carrying elephants or horses and merchant ships are wrecked. On the right of the entrance is a large life saver-shaped stone, an ancient anchor. Arab ships used to carry such anchors. Less than half a kilometre down the road from the temple is Nagadvipa Vihara marking the place where the Buddha is supposed to have stayed during his visit to the small island. On one side of the road is the Bodhi Tree and on the other is the silver painted Stupa. There are two temples as well, one containing a bronze Buddha image donated by the Burmese government in 1956. Nothing at Nagadvipa is of any aesthetic or historical interest except for the inscriptions; everything having been built in the 1950’s.

     

  • Aukana Buddha Statue

    This is an ancient architectural marvel by the ancient Sinhalese. It may be called one of the wonders of the world as it is the tallest standing statue of the Buddha. The rock cut statue which stands 39 feet above its decorated lotus plinth and 10 feet across the shoulders, belongs to the period of King Dhathusena (459-477 AD), the builder of the great reservoir Kalawewa. It has been very well preserved over the years and is a joy for anyone to see. It is a creation by an unknown sculptor but it is unique.

     

     

     

    The portrayal in ‘The Handbook for the Ceylon Traveller’ gives a vivid picture of the Aukana statue: The best time of the day to view this statue is dawn. The first rays of the morning sun bring out the rich hues of the rock image and make it seem to come alive against the deep green of the trees beyond. As the sun rises it reveals the calmness of the delicately carved face: rising higher still, the sunlight picks out the gracefully carved robe, each pleat of which is a stunning conquest of art.

     

  • Rasvehera Buddha Statue

    This statue of the Buddha has two names; one is Rasvehera and the other is Sasseruwa. It is called Rasvehera because on the day the Sacred Bo Tree was brought from Anuradhapura and planted at this premises the rays of Lord Buddha illuminated around the place. 

     

     

    Rasvehera statue bears similar profiles to the Aukana Buddha statue. But there is a world of difference between the structures of these two Buddha statues. The Aukana Buddha statue is taller and stands 46 feet in height while Sasseruwa is 36 feet in height. This Rasvehera statue is carved into a rectangular frame in the rock boulder without the head decoration; The Siraspatha but portrays dots for the hair. Aukana statue stands on an exquisite lotus symbol and the Rasvehera statue stands on a plain rectangular stone pedestal. The symbolic Mudras (gestures) depicted here differ from each other. In comparing all visual purposes, from the sculptured features on the Rasvehera Buddha statue it comes into view that it had been an unfinished state of sculpturing for reasons known only to this great unknown sculptor.

     

  • Aluvihara Rock Cave Temple

    This rock cave temple is the place where Buddhist monks during the King Walagamba’s rule wrote the Tripitakas in Pali on Ola leaves. The heroic reign of king Walagamba (104-77 B.C.) would go into the records of history as the Tripitakas (Buddhist scriptures) were written down on Ola leaves in Pali by a conclave of Buddhist monks of the Aluvihare Temple, lying close to Matale. These Tripitakas originally had come down by mere word of mouth by being committed to memory by Buddhist monks of the time. Such Tripitakas are classified into three divisions. They are Vinaya Pitakaya (Basket of Discipline), Sutta Pitakaya (Basket of Discourse) and Abidharma Pitakaya (Basket of Metaphysics).

     

     

     

    At the entrance is a solid Pandal with an arch constructed out of concrete it leads to a steep climb of stone steps leading to the Meda-midula – the frontage terrace. Then from there, rise stone steps making way to the drip ledge rock caves. There is an influx of tourists both home and abroad flocking to this historic temple. Aluvihare library contains a gallery of antiques ranging from Buddhist statues, seated, standing made out of clay, brass, marble, while some of them have been gold plated. There are also very valuable Buddha statues gifted by Siam, Cambodia, China, Japan, and Myanmar, together with other archaeological artefacts. The first cave is about 25 feet long and 10 feet high and it was one of the venues where some of these old Thripitaka were written on Ola leaves in Pali by Buddhist monks. On its apex is written in bold Sinhala letters that the Thripitaka were written during the rule of king Walagamba. It’s a rock cave shelter that harbours an Image House decorated with the typical Makara Thorana. There are also seated, standing and recumbent Buddha statues of terra-cotta, while the murals are adorned with paintings of Jathaka stories. Kandyan period paintings are covering the cave ceilings. A spiral stone staircase ends on its summit where the Sacred Bo Tree stands serenely cloistering an image house in this rock cave. The third cave is met amidst a conclave of rock boulders where is sheltered another rock cave where the Thripitaka were written on Ola leaves by the ancient Buddhist monks and a commodious residence for the present day Bhikkhus arriving from all four quarters.

     

  • Ridi Vihara

    110 kms from Colombo, Ridi Vihara is located in Ridigama, a small village 20 kms northeast of Kurunegala town. This temple is believed to be built by King Dutugemunu in the 2nd century BCE, as a monument to the place where he found a silver (Ridi) ore mine which was used to finance the building of the gigantic Ruwanweli Seya. The Mahavamsa describes the discovery of this mine by a trader. In a southerly direction from the city, at a distance of eight yojanas (8 x 7km) silver appeared in the Ambatthakola-cave. A merchant from the city, taking many wagons with him, in order to bring ginger and so forth from Malaya, had set out for Malaya. Not far from the cave he brought the wagons to a halt and since he had a need of wood for whips he went up that mountain. As he saw here a branch of a bread-fruit-tree, bearing one single fruit as large as a water pitcher, and dragged down by the weight of the fruit, he cut the (fruit) which was lying on a stone away from the stalk with his knife, and thinking: `I will give the first (produce as alms),’ with faith he announced the (meal) time.

     

     

     

    This area was part of the Kandyan Kingdom during European occupation and King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha has made major renovations on this temple. Therefore most of the paintings and statues we see today belong to the Kandyan Era. On the way to the main cave you will come across a curious image house built entirely of stone. This is called the ‘Waraka Welandu Viharaya’ which translates to ‘the temple where Jak Fruit was consumed’. It is said that that this was the cave which the Indragupta Maha Thero consumed the Jak-Fruit (called bread-fruit in Mahavamsa translation) which was offered by the Merchant. Inside this image house is a seated Buddha statue and all the walls have Buddhist paintings belonging to the Kandyan Era.

     

    The design of this building strangely resembles a Devale (dedicated to Hindu Gods). There is also a hallway to enter the shrine similar to Devale Design. The 8-stone pillars holding the main roof of the hallway have carvings of female dancers which are not generally found in the Buddha image houses. Therefore it could be that this building was built during a period where the Hindu beliefs were strongly present in the country such as the Polonnaruwa Era or Kandyan Era.

     

    Passing this image house you would enter an entrance hall of the main Vihara complex. Here you would see a massive arms bowl which is said to have been used for Buddha Puja in the ancient times.

     

    The Maha Vihara is located inside a spacious rock cave and contains a 9 metre recumbent Buddha image and the original gold plated Buddha Image donated by King Dutugemunu. At the feet of recumbent Buddha image there is a statue of Ananda Thero, a statue of a Maître Bodhisattva and then statues of some Deities. It is believed that the last statue of Deity is actually a statue of King Dutugemunu. After these are a row of 5 Buddha statues which is said to have been originally gold plated.

     

    The flower pedestal of the recumbent Buddha image also has a very curious feature. It is decorated with about two hundred 18th century Dutch tiles portraying the life of Christ popularly known as Bible tiles. These are believed to have been presented to King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha (1747 - 1781) by a Dutch Governor who in turn donated it to the temple. From the way these tiles are arranged, the Tiller seems to be clueless of the pictures on the tiles. The roof of the cave is plastered and painted with various patterns.

     

    Entrance to the Uda Vihara is through a side door in the Maha Vihara. Here you will pass a protected door frame decorated with ivory carvings. Door frames decorated with ivory are an extremely rare feature for ancient buildings. This door has been subject to vandalism and the lower parts of the ivory are now missing. At the top centre of the decorations is what looks like a vase but closer inspection reveals it a carving of 5 females interwoven together. This design is called “Pancha Naari Getaya” (figure of five women entwined in the shape of a pot). Besides this is a carving of 2 lions. Around these are fragments of the ivory designs which covered the rest of the frame.

     

    The Uda Vihara believed to be built by King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha consists of three chambers and a connecting corridor. The first chamber is dedicated to deity who protects the mountain of Ridi Vihara. He is called “Kumara Bandara Deviyo”. The second which is the largest is the Buddha Image house. In addition to the large seated Buddha image this hall contains some curious and unique drawings. These drawings are not on walls but on the sides of the pedestal of the seated Buddha. On the left side is a picture of 3 lions who share one head. This is called “Tri Singha” drawing. On the other side of the seat is another unique drawing called “Vrushaba Kunjaraya” which the entwined heads of the bull and the elephant. On the same pedestal you can see 3 pictures of soldiers with arms. These are believed to be a depiction of Rama and Rawana war.

     

    At the end of the cave, outside the shrine room, there is a painting of “Navanari Kunjaraya”, the figures of nine women arranged in such a way to create the image of an elephant. Inside the temple are stupas. One beside a cave behind the Uda Maluwa and the other is on an altogether separate hill called “Sarasum Gala”.

     

  • Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil

    Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil lies about 1.5km from the Jaffna town on the Kankesanturai Road. This is an important temple in the Jaffna Peninsula and the most well-known. The history of the temple dates back to the time of King Parakramabahu VI (1411-1463) of Kotte Kingdom. King Parakramabahu VI had two adopted sons, Sapumal Kumaraya (prince) and Ambulugala Kumaraya (prince). The king sent prince Sapumal to the north where the South Indian Vijayanagara Empire was trying to attach Jaffna. The prince successfully drove away the invaders killing the king Arya Chakrawarthi, and brought his wife and children to Kotte. King Parakramabahu VI appointed the Prince Sapumal as the regional ruler of Jaffna. It was this prince who built the Nallur Kovil for the Hindu people of Jaffna. Prince Sapumal later had to leave Jaffna to take over the Kingship of the whole Island at Kotte. He was consecrated as King Buwanekabahu VI of Kotte. The Portuguese who captured Jaffna in 1560 demolished the Temple in 1621 leaving no traces of it. The temple then stood at Sankili Thoppu on the eastern side of the Point Pedro Road Jaffna again fell to Dutch in 1658. They were more tolerant on religious freedom and the temple was allowed to be rebuilt in the current location in 1734 by Don Juan Mappana Mudliyar whose descendants had taken the task of restoring the temple to its present splendour. The religious ceremonies are conducted with perfect time management and strict discipline. The Administration of the Temple should be commended for punctuality in conducting Poojas and religious ceremonies. Poojas are held daily six times a day with clock like precision. The fi rst Poojas start at 5 a.m. and the last one at 5 p.m. without any delay any time in any Pooja. Lord Murugan’s special Poojas are conducted on Fridays and auspicious days of the month.

     

     

  • Koneswaram Kovil

    Aathi Konesvaram is a regionally important Hindu temple is located in a predominantly a Buddhist area; Thambalagamuwa village in the Trincomalee District of Sri Lanka. The name of the temple in Tamil means the "Temple of the Original Lord of Koesvaram". It is situated 24 kilometres from the port town of Trincomalee. The temple was constructed during the 17th century in replacement to the Koneswaram temple (Temple of Thousand Pillars) that was destroyed by Portuguese in 1622. Only the main sanctum sanctorum remains of the original temple. The Gopuram or main entrance tower was added in 1953 and is one of the tallest in the region. The temple is built of stone and is surrounded by two enclosed path ways. The presiding deity is Siva but there are important cults associated with the veneration of Pattini Amman and Kathirkaswami accommodated within the main premises as well. The temple also has minor shrines to Pulleyar, Navagraha, Murunkan, Valli and Tevayani. The daily services are held set according to scriptures along with an elaborate annual festival that involves Tamil and Sinhala devotees of Trincomalee district. There are also festivals that pertain to Pattini Amman and Kathirkaswami. As part of the Sri Lankan civil war, in the 1980s and 90's the village was deserted and the temple abandoned. Since 2004 residents of the village have returned and the temple has been restored.

     

     

     

    This temple is situated in the village of Thambalagamuwa that was part of the medieval semi-independent feudal division called Thambalagamuwa Pattu. Prior to the arrival of Portuguese in 1622 and then Dutch colonial overloads in 1656, leaders of the Thambalagamuwa Pattu and others around it were independent rulers sometimes subject to Jaffna kingdom or Kandyan kingdom. Thambalagamuwa is surrounded by lush paddy fi elds and was a prosperous settlement. The presiding deity is known as Ati Konanayakar and the consort as Hamsagamanambike, another name for Mother Goddess Amman. These names are signi fi cant of the original presiding deity of the Koesvaram temple, Konesar and Annam Mennatai. The idol of the presiding deity is dated to the later Chola period (1070-1279 CE) and the consort to that of early Chola period based on the composition of metals and styles. The temple's name and the separate shrine to Ati Konanayakar allude to the tradition that this temple was built to accommodate the idols that were saved from the destruction of the Temple of Thousand Pillars in Trincomalee by the Portuguese colonial of fi cers.

     

    According to Tirukonasala Purana the temple was built with the help of Kandyan King Rajasingha II (1630–1689) after the loss of Koneswaram temple in the Trincomalee town. The idols that were saved from the destroyed temple were moved from place to place and eventually located in a secure territory under the Kandyan jurisdiction. According to the chronicle Vara rasasinkam identifi ed with Rajasingha II by historians says that the Kandyan kings also provided for the upkeep of the temple by allocating land to the temple in perpetuity and revenue distribution from local taxes. Another Tamil text of interest is Konesar Kalvettu. It is written from a point of view legitimizing the claims of the new temple that is Ati Konnanayakar to the traditions, revenue and services rendered to the destroyed Koneswaram temple. Author of the text is Kavirasa Varotayan and was written after the new temple was established

     

    According to the Tirukonasala Purana, Rajasingha II directed the local feudal lords to maintain the temple and its administration. These traditions were maintained by the local Vanni chiefs of the Thambalagamuwa Pattu division during the consequent period. The prevalence of this tradition as a successor temple to the original temple destroyed by the Portuguese was recorded by the Dutch colonial governor of Trincomalee, Van Senden in 1786. He recorded the physical status of the idols that were from the original Koneswaram temple. Residents of Thambalagamuwa Pattu made requests to the Dutch colonials to follow the traditions of allocating a portion of the revenue generated from paddy cultivation of rice to the maintenance of the temple. A similar request was also made to the British colonial governor Alexander Johnston by the Vanni lords of the Thambalagamuwa Pattu, in 1815.

     

    As a substitute temple to the original Koneswaram temple that was destroyed, tradition has endowed Ati Konanayakar with all privileges that were enjoyed by the previous temple. This includes the association of Hindus from various parts of Trincomalee district its festival organization to the assimilation of all local non-Saiva cults within the temple premises. During the Kandyan and later Dutch colonial period the Tamapalakamam temple also enjoyed revenue from the land that was given to it via royal gifts. During the British colonial period the temple came under the control of private ownership. The temple's private trustees were removed and in 1945 it became the responsibility of locally elected board. The Gopuram or gate tower was added in 1953. and is one of the largest towers in the region and is of fi ve stories high

     

  • Wolfendhal Church

    Dutch Reformed Church was introduced to Sri Lanka by the VOC with its fi rst church ministrations held in Galle on 6th October, 1642, almost 360 years ago. Its consistory in Colombo was established in 1658 marking the beginning of protestant church or what they called 'True Christian Reformed Church' subsequently, church councils were formed in Colombo, Galle and Jaffna stationing several Dutch predicants to commence proselytizing activities

     

     

     

    The Wolfendhal Church is the oldest Protestant Church in use in Sri Lanka. It celebrates its 253rd anniversary this year. The name of the church derived from the place name Wolfendhal. Christianity was introduced into The Netherlands between 700 and 750 AD. Later at the time of the renaissance in Europe, the teachings of the French theologian, Jean Calvin (1509-1564) greatly in fl uenced Christianity in The Netherlands. The Dutch as a dynamic nation preferred the freedom and realistic outlook of Calvinism that orthodox Christianity. The teachings of Calvin in fl uenced the Dutch as a trading nation with 'love of gain'. Prof. C.R. Boxer asserts that the Calvinism was the main driving force in the Dutch commercial expansion and cultural fl owering which were marked features of the 17th century scene.

     

    The United Dutch East India Company (VOC) was established in The Netherlands based on the charter issued by the States General in 1602. The birth of the 'True Dutch Reformed Religion' took place as a result of the National Synod held in Dordrecht in 1618/19. This reformed religion was considered the state protected religion in The Netherlands since 1619. At this time the Dutch East India Company was busy with gaining control over the spice trade in the East from the Portuguese. The crew of each of the Dutch voyage to the East accompanied several predicants for the purpose of performing religious rites on board and on land. They were hand-picked by the Board of Directors or the Heren XVII in Amsterdam and paid by the VOC itself.

     

    The religion to the VOC was of secondary importance. Profi t was its prime objective. Once a Dutch envoy speaking about religious liberty in The Netherlands in the presence of Charles X of Sweden, the king in reply pulled a rix-dollar from his pocket and said Voila vote religion. The policy of the VOC on religion was always defeated before the 'love of gain'

     

    The charter of 1602 made no provisions for promotion and maintenance of religious institution in the East. The Company directors were not obliged to spread the light of the Christianity practised in The Netherlands. When the VOC established its administrative headquarters in the East in Batavia (present Jakarta) the policy adopted was well defi ned in the following statement of the Board of Directors dispatched to the then Governor General in Batavia, Joan Maetsuiker. It states 'Nature of government is such that it cannot suffer two equally great controlling powers, any more than a body can endure two heads'. Similarly, the civil power always had full and unfettered control over the ecclesiastical. It was on this background the Dutch Reformed Church was introduced to Sri Lanka by the VOC with its fi rst church ministrations held in Galle on 6th October, 1642, almost 370 years ago. Its consistory in Colombo was established in 1658 marking the beginning of protestant church or what they called 'True Christian Reformed Church' (Waare Christelijke Gereformeerde Kirk). Subsequently, church councils were formed in Colombo, Galle and Jaffna stationing several Dutch predicants to commence proselytizing activities.

     

    The charter of 1602 made no provisions for promotion and maintenance of religious institution in the East. The Company directors were not obliged to spread the light of the Christianity practised in The Netherlands. When the VOC established its administrative headquarters in the East in Batavia (present Jakarta) the policy adopted was well defi ned in the following statement of the Board of Directors dispatched to the then Governor General in Batavia, Joan Maetsuiker. It states 'Nature of government is such that it cannot suffer two equally great controlling powers, any more than a body can endure two heads'. Similarly, the civil power always had full and unfettered control over the ecclesiastical. It was on this background the Dutch Reformed Church was introduced to Sri Lanka by the VOC with its fi rst church ministrations held in Galle on 6th October, 1642, almost 370 years ago. Its consistory in Colombo was established in 1658 marking the beginning of protestant church or what they called 'True Christian Reformed Church' (Waare Christelijke Gereformeerde Kirk). Subsequently, church councils were formed in Colombo, Galle and Jaffna stationing several Dutch predicants to commence proselytizing activities.List of Inscriptions on Tombstones and Monuments in Ceylon (1913) explains, '..... A marsh or a swamp frequented by jackals

     

    The hill on which the church stands must have taken its name from the surrounding ground. Several variations of the name Wolfendhal had been used in the British times including Wolfendhal and Wolfendhal. The Wolfendhal Church is situated on a higher elevation with a panoramic view, overlooking the Colombo harbour and the fort

     

    The Dutch chose to erect this magnifi cent church in Wolfendhal to replace the old Roman-Catholic church, the Church of St. Francis, located in the former Gordon Gardens (in the present Republic Square) in the Colombo Fort. Construction of the church started in 1749 during the tenure of Governor Julius Valentijn Stein Van Gollenesse (1743-51). His initials J.V.S.V.G. are placed in the front light, perhaps to remember his contribution to the building. The style of the building is Doric and the foundation takes the shape of a cross. The Church, therefore, is referred to as the Kruiskerk in Dutch

     

    The high roof in the middle of the building resembles a dome resting on strong walls of approximately five feet thickness built of Kabook of unusually large size with coral and lime plaster. The original dome with its covering of blue Bangor slates had to be replaced due to the destruction that occurred in 1856 as a result of lightning. Later the slates were replaced with an iron covering. The iron covering, however, needs frequent repairs probably due to the salty sea breeze

     

    The Wolfendhal Church is a living edifice of the Dutch colonial architecture and a monument of the Dutch Christian zeal. It has been constructed with local material utilizing predominantly local labour, certainly with technical skills of the Dutch construction engineers at the time. It is, therefore, a national monument of dual parentage and outstanding example of combination of two cultures and traditions, the Dutch and the Sri Lankan

     

  • Dawatagaha Mosque

    Dawatagaha Mosque in Lipton Circus, Colombo, has become a byword in every Muslim home and no Muslim passes the shrine of the saint without paying his respects.

     

     

    The 150-year-old shrine the resting-place of the Muslim saint His Holiness Seyedina as-Sheikh Usman Siddique Ibn Ahdurrahman, who visited Ceylon from Arafat, Arabia and visited Adam's Peak at Balangoda, and later resided in what was later known as Cinnamon Gardens, has an interesting history behind it

     

     

    In 1820 a Sinhalese woman oil monger, the sole wage-earner of the family, was going on her daily rounds, travelling from Bambalapitiya through the cinnamon jungle to Maradana.

     

    In this jungle she tripped over the root of a Cadju tree and fell. Her clay pot was smashed to pieces. "Aiyo, Aiyo!" she cried out, "My family will have no food today. My only means of earning has been destroyed." She wept her eyes out in desperation and exhausted, fell fast asleep. A voice awakened her. It asked her not to despair and bade her rise, assuring her that everything would be well soon. She looked up and found no one in sight and in desperation burst into tears again

     

    Again the voice repeated the reassuring words. This was incredible as she had hardly seen any human being within earshot in that dense jungle. Suddenly she saw an old man in green garb and his holy mien was an inspiring sight to the The party of Mushinis recited Yaseen and Fathiha and prayed: "Oh Vohiyullah (saint)! Praise is to Allah for having given us the opportunity to bear witness to your miracle. Almighty Allah, may you reveal to us the identity of this Vohiyullah."

     

    They returned to Mamma Lebbe's mother and vouched for the truth of the miracle and the accuracy of the woman's report. They bought up the rest of the woman's oil after she had fi nished her rounds and dismissed her after giving her a good meal. The Muslims of the area appointed Maniema Lebbe as their leader, and Trustee of the shrine. The identity of the saint was still unknown.

     

    In 1847, twenty-seven years after the miracle, there came from Maghreb to this island a divine Sheikh Ali Jahbarooth Moulana, who took up his residence at the Maradana Mosque, Colombo. He was informed of the Dawatagaha miracle and on an appointed Friday, after Jumma prayers, a party of Muslims headed by Jahbarooth Moulana and including Katheeb Assena Lebbe, Sheikh Abdul Quadir and others proceeded to the shrine and recited Kath ham Fathiha.

     

    Jahbarooth Moulana identifi ed the grave of the saint. He shrouded himself with his ‘jubbah' (robe), knelt by the grave and sought communion with the saint. When he fi nally emerged from the shroud his face seemed ablaze with divine light. He announced to the assembled Muslims:

     

    "Oh, Almighty Allah, this is a most venerable saint. His name is Seyed Usman Siddique Ibn Abdurrahman, one who came to this island on a pilgrimage to Adam's Peak and after living in the vicinity for some time, died here." He then turned to Katheeb Thambi Lebbe and said, "What month is this?"

     

    Katheeb Thambi Lebbe said, "Today is the fourth day of the Muslim month of Zulqadha.' Jahbarooth Moulana then told those assembled, "We shall recite Kath ham Fathiha for the ten days of this month every year in the saint's memory and distribute "niyath."

     

    He gave a sovereign to the Trustee, Mamma Lebbe, and asked him to prepare ghee rice for the pilgrims. He also asked the Muslims to find a flagpole. A bamboo stalk was found near Mamma Lebbe's house and handed over to Jahbarooth Moulana who exclaimed "Marhaba! Marhaba!" and tearing a portion of his white turban, made a flag of it, and planted the flagpole at the head of the grave.

     

  • Digavapiya

    Digahavapi was sanctified by the Buddha during his third visit to Sr Lanka.Digahavapi means 'Long reservoir' possibly derived from Dighayu, once of the ministers of King Panduwasadewa. Despite its significance Digahavapi had never been as popular as some of the other sacred places and even today it is seldom visited.It was a main city in the past and King saddatissa built the stupa which was renovated several times. According to the records a young monk was once repairing the plaster work on the Stupa when he slipped and fell> Immediately he began to chant the Dhajagga Sutta and was miraculously saved as a result. There is little to see at Digahavapi today. In the 1920's attempts were made to repair the Stupa but funds were over and today is dome is only half compleat and not plastered.All around the Stupa are flower alters and large stones from ancient buildings. The Mahavamsa, an ancient chronicle written in the 5th century, and the Digahavapi of an earlier data,contains a mixture of legend and historical facts. These chronicles state that the Buddha himself visited the village, and on the spot where he sat in meditation a Chetiya was later erected.