The Gangaramaya Vihara Temple is an unusual mix of a Buddhist temple and a museum, home to not only a number of vintage cars but an enormous amount of materials of dubious religious relevance, including gold, sapphires, sandalwood, elephant ivory, porcelain, Chinese statues, a cannon, stamps, watches, cameras, photographs, coins, two taxidermied elephants, stereos, shells, swords and other assorted knick-knacks. Many of these items were gifts to the temple.
There is also a lot of specifically religious material, including a massive sacred tree in the centre of the complex. Nearby is the temple’s most sacred relic, said to be a lock of the Buddha’s hair donated from a temple in Bengal.
The main religious event held here is the Nevam Perahara procession held on the poya day (full moon) every February. Hundreds of monks take part in the procession in which sacred relics are carried in a casket on the back of a highly decorated elephant.
After receiving criticism for keeping a captive elephant that was used for religious ceremonies, the temple removed the elephant from public display.
Know Before You Go
Women should ensure they are appropriately dressed with legs and shoulders covered. Shawls are provided to cover exposed shoulders/legs if needed. Photography is forbidden inside the temple itself. Entrance is 300 rupees. In the region around the Colombo Fort railway station you may be approached by people who seem to be very helpful and offer to take you on a tour to the temple. You will probably be ripped off if you get into a non-metered Tuk Tuk with them.