Mostly build by the ruling dynasties and early settlers, Sri Lankan temples and monasteries are classic examples of artistic beauty and artisanal excellence. Each of these structures narrates a story of its own and offers an insight into the rich cultural legacy of the country. Take a look!
Temple of the Tooth, Kandy
Also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa, Temple of the Tooth is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. Established in 1595, it is home to the relic of Buddha’s tooth and is famed for its magnificent architecture and beautiful carvings. Preserved in a gold casket-shaped stupa, the relic is a major attraction at the temple. Pictures and paintings here narrate the life story of Buddha.
Dambulla Cave Temple, Dambulla
Dambulla Cave Temple is a well preserved and the largest of all cave temples in Sri Lanka. Featuring around 153 statutes of Buddha alongside other beautiful paintings, sculptures and murals, this temple is a major attraction on the island. The Golden Buddha statue, located downhill, is one of the most beautiful statues here. There are over 1500 pictures depicting important events in the life of Buddha here, including his first sermon.
Gangaramaya Temple, Colombo
An eclectic mix of Indian, Chinese, Thai and Sri Lankan architecture, Gangaramaya Temple is a beautiful attraction. Home to a wide collection of Buddhist paintings, sculptures and antiques, the temple is a prominent religious and cultural site in the country. A statue of Lord Buddha made of jade is a major attraction here. Along with religious celebrations, annual pageants, exhibitions, and meditation and chanting sessions are held here regularly. For those willing to learn more about the life of Buddha, there’s an onsite museum and library as well.
Jaya Shri Maha Bodhi, Anuradhapura
A sacred fig tree in the beautiful Mahamewna Gardens, Jaya Shri Maha Bodhi is the oldest surviving tree in Sri Lanka. Believed to be a branch of the Bodh Gaya’s historic Maha Bodhi tree, it is a popular attraction in the country. It is visited by thousands of devotees from across the world especially on Poya (full moon). The surrounding fence, railing and other structures around the tree are beautifully decorated with flags and tiny statues.
Standing at 122ft (400ft), Jetavanaramaya is the world’s tallest stupa and among the eight most sacred places in the country. Known for its magnificent design and beautiful architecture, the compound is a popular attraction and a prominent place of worship in Sri Lanka. The intricate carvings, sculptures, paintings and statues in the complex are all stunning! This complex is home to over 10,000 monks.
Built during the reign of King Devamnampiyatissa (250BC – 210BC), Thuparamaya is believed to be the 1st dagaba in the country. Famed for its beautiful Vatadage (stupa-house), stone pillars, and magnificent architecture, this place is a must visit attraction in Sri Lanka. It is home to some of the ancient sculptures, statues, paintings and portraits inscribed during the inception of Buddhism in the region. Vesak is the most famous celebration at the temple.
Preserving some of the ancient relics of Buddha, Ruwanwelisaya is the oldest stupa in Sri Lanka. Built in 140 B.C. by the then ruler King Dutugemunu, the temple is a well-known attraction on the island. Sculptures, paintings and images depicting important events in the life of Buddha are the highlights here. The beautiful white dagaba guarded by 344 elephants at the entrance is truly impressive. Exhibitions, festivals, yoga sessions and other events are organised regularly here.
Famed for its striking carvings, mural paintings and magnificent architecture, Isurumuniya is a fascinating rock cut temple in the country. Built by King Devanampiya Tissa (307 BC to 267 BC), the complex today is a prominent worship site in Sri Lanka. A beautiful 6th century Gupta style sculpture, the sculpture of Isurumuni Lovers (Pem-Yuwala-Dutugemunu’s son Saliya and the low caste (Sadol Kula) maiden Asokamala whom he loved) is the most popular highlight here.