Gangaramaya Vihara Temple – Colombo, Sri Lanka - Atlas Obscura
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Colombo, Sri Lanka

Gangaramaya Vihara Temple

Why is there a vintage Rolls Royce in this Buddhist temple?  

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. 

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.

Unfortunately, when not being used in ceremonies, the elephant is shackled to a tree between a main road and bus depot for visitors to gawk at while men with canes loom ominously next to the poor creature.

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.