Kelani Raja Maha Vihara

Just outside Colombo off the Kandy-Colombo road the Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya is an important site of Buddhist pilgrimage in Sri Lanka. It was here that the Buddha, on his third visit to Sri Lanka, together with 500 bikkhus preached to the King of the time and averted an impending war over a jewel encrusted throne. In honour of this the throne was enshrined here in a stupa, and Kelaniya has since been a revered site.

Over time however, invading Indian armies and colonialist Portuguese destroyed and pillaged the original stupa and what stands today was mostly rebuilt during the late 19th century. The centre point of the temple premises today is an ornate brick and mortar structure built in the typical Kandyan style. It houses an impressive 18-foot reclining Buddha and its inner walls are covered with murals depicting historical Buddhist events.

Every January the temple hosts a religious pageant called the Duruthu Perehera. Attended by thousands, the procession features traditional dance and performing troupes, heralded by elephants in bright regalia, in honour of the relics of the Buddha and three Hindu deities, Vishnu, Kataragama and Vibishana.

Written by Jonathan Roelofsz for

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