The Seema Malaka, a serene Buddhist temple that sits in the Beira Lake where three island-podiums can be seen when traveling along Sir James Peiris Road, in Colombo. Attracting many tourists and locals alike, the lake has a shady growth of trees, that is home to many water-birds such as cormorants, cranes, pelicans, and fishing eagles. The temple was designed by Geoffrey Bawa, one of Asia's prominent architects.
Connecting the road via a bridge-walkway where a further three platforms link two outer platforms on either side of the main central building where one can see the Bo tree and a skillfully carved kiosk.
History and Social Contribution
The famous Gangaramaya Temple with a 120-year history, was established by Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera in 1885 and is now run by the Venerable Galaboda Gnanissara Nayaka Thera, a very famous and revered monk in Sri Lanka. The Temple wall is elaborately decorated, boasting polished brass panels and Buddha statues. This intriguing Temple complex proudly boasts a library, and a fascinating museum holding many jewel-decorated and interesting gifts that have been presented to the Temple by devotees and well-wishers over many years.
The Temple is famously known for its focus on social services where the Venerable Galaboda Gnanissara Nayaka Thera’s laudable commitment to uplifting the needy has established many worthy and invaluable community development projects. These projects comprise the vocational training centers, Na Sevana, orphanages for street-children, elderly and differently-able, publications of a variety of Buddhist literature, tree-planting and a host of other projects.
Courtyard and Image House
The temple has many interesting things to see and this is evident everywhere you go. In the courtyard stands the sacred Bo Tree and a richly decorated Kandyan-Style pavilion made of wood. There is even a tier of Buddha statues which have been brought from Thailand. To the motor enthusiast another intriguing feature is the Vintage-Car collection which have been gifted to the temple by well-wishers over time. Across from the courtyard is the main image house. Dwarfs in quasi-yogic positions support its base, while one can see the imposing Buddha statue in a serene meditation pose, surrounded by magnificent elephant tusks and a host of other Buddha statues.
The Holy Relic
On 27th July 2007, the Temple was honored with the sacred relic - Kesha Datu (lock of Hair). This was ceremoniously donated by the Chittagong Buddhist Temple in Bangladesh and the government of Bangladesh. The Sacred relic was received by a team of dignitaries comprising Minister Rohitha Boggalagama, Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Ven. Thibbatuwawe Medankara & Ven. Assaji of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Viharayas of Sri Lanka.
Fascinating museum and its collections
The temple’s amazing museum is found next to the entrance, which two large rooms are packed with bewildering and interesting objects of great historical value. Some of these are a valuable collection of large sapphires and precious stones, various exquisite carvings of ivory, sandalwood and other kinds of wood, ancient Sanskrit ola-leaf texts, brass statues, huge jade and crystal statues, elephant tusks, coins, and a large collection of Buddhist and Hindu Deity likenesses. Other items of interest and valuable collectables one can see here, are old oil lamps and clocks, dagobas, ivory carvings, porcelain ware, and even gramophones!
The exciting Navam Perahera Colombo
The temple is also the focus of a major annual Buddhist pageant the Navam Perahera procession, held on the Poya day of every February, when up to fifty elaborately decorated elephants are brought to take part. Started in 1979, this exciting pageant has grown to be a very popular Perehera in the country and a great attraction to both local and foreign tourists, as it makes its way along the streets around the Temple area in Colombo. During this festival, Buddhist monks can be seen walking in the procession while many a youth adorning white, carrying Buddhist flags walk in front of the procession. Sacred relics are reverently carried by a majestic elephant including other lavishly decorated elephants followed by colorful, skilled dancers and drummers perform various cultural dances from different parts of the country.
The Gangaramaya Temple and Buddha Rashmi Vesak Festival
The temple is central and key to many of the Vesak celebrations in Colombo. This grand festival known as the ‘Buddha Rashmi Pooja’ is organized by the Gangaramaya Temple, commemorates the Birth Enlightenment and Passing-away of the Lord Buddha. During Vesak, thousands of people visit Colombo from all parts of the island to view Pandals and elaborately handcrafted lanterns lit up in various colors and textures. The whole area surrounding the Gangaramaya Temple is alight with illumination and excitement as many exhibitors of Vesak lanterns from all over the island set up their skillfully crafted exhibits along the streets surrounding the Temple and the adjacent Beira Lake. Both foreign and local tourists walk along the streets to take in these wonderful sights and sounds with hours of joy and excitement.
Another notable feature of this temple is that it has been influential in inaugurating the Buddhist Temple of Staten Island (U.S.A), the Buddhist Centre in Tanzania, the Birmingham Buddhist Vihara (U.K.), and the Buddhist Center in New York.