The Temple of Gangaramaya – History
The Temple of Gangaramaya, The most visited temple in the city, the Gangaramaya Temple which organizes Sri Lanka’s largest and the most colorful Vesak festival annually, has a history of years. It was established in 1885 Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera at a time when Buddhist and Cultural resurgence was much needed as the county was under colonial rule.
The area was once a swamp beside Beira Lake. Has now turned to be an iconic complex that 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 Devudara Sri Jinarathana Nayake Thera, a pupil of Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thera who appointed him as the chief incumbent of the temple.
Annual Perahara (Procession)
One of the grandest festivals of the Gangaramaya Temple, the Nawam Perahara(Procession), the inception of the 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 costumes 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 colorful robes, parade in the perahara.
The Gangaramaya Nawam Perahara( Procession), a colorful pageant in the city of Colombo, plays a big role in preserving the Buddhist culture and taking in future generations. The Perahara attracts thousands of people not only from the whole island but also beyond the ocean as it is popular throughout the world.
Buddha RashmiNational Vesak Festival
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 on the Island. During this colorful festival, the temple and the area around a turn into sparkling farmland with thousands of beautifully crafted and illuminated Vesak lanterns some of which are afloat the Baira Lake and millions of lights on the trees around and Seema Malaka embellishing the Buddha Rashmi Pooja.
In addition, a number of religious observations and events are conducted parallel to the Vesak festival with a view to improving the knowledge of the devotees on Buddhism.
A temple well-known for its unparalleled social service, the Gangaramaya Temple let by the Venerable Galaboda Gnanissara Nayaka Thora, is always committed to the social well-being of the masses. The conscientious endeavors of ‘Podi Hamuduruwo’ to support the needy are really appreciable and commendable. It is worth mentioning that a towering strength to ‘Podi Hamuduruwo’ is Ven. Dr. Kirinde Assaji Thera plays a big role in all these worthy causes.
Some of the temple’s enormous social services are community development projects e.g. Na Sevana, vocational training centers, orphanages for the street children, homes for the differently-abled and the elderly, homes for the abandoned, publication of Buddhist literature, helping to develop thousands of rural temples, cultivation projects, and many more.
Initiated by Sri Jinarathana Nayaka Thera as a collection of artifacts and other objects of religious, cultural, and historical value. The museum of the temple was much developed to what is today by Ven. Galaboda Nayaka Thera with the help of devotees and donors here and abroad particularly in the Asian region. Today the museum is replete with a range of ageless treasures from ancient Sri Lanka as well as around the globe, including valuable Buddha statues of different influences, ancient Ola leaf writings, old coins, vehicles,s and other relics in a classic display of art, tradition, and culture.