Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara or Kelaniya Temple is a major Buddhist temple in Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, 7 miles from Colombo. Respected Professor Kollupitiye Mahinda Sangharakkhitha Thera is The chief monk of the temple. Buddhists believe that the temple was sanctified mostly during the third and final visit of the Lord Buddha to Sri Lanka, eight years after his transcendence. Thereby, its history would have gone back to 500 BCE. 

The temple is not that far from Negombo, making visiting it one of the best things to do in Negombo. 

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The temple is also renowned for its portrait of the reclining Gautama Buddha and the drawings by the indigenous artist Solias Mendis, which depict significant events in the history of the Buddha, in the past of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, as well as the Jataka legends. The Duruthu Maha Perehera parade is held every January. An 18-foot stone statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is in the temple. 

The Location of Kelaniya Temple in Sri Lanka: At Kelaniya, some 10 km northeast of Colombo, in Sri Lanka, rises the legendary Kelani Rajamaha Viharaya, one of the most respected ancient Buddhist temples in the country. Built on the top of a small mountain warmed by the waters of the Kelani River, this magnificent shrine offers one of the greatest views that this small island, the jewel of the Indian Ocean, has ever given to visitors. 

The Best Time to Visit Kelaniya Temple: You can visit Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara at any time of the year. It is advisable, however, that you visit Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara during January to experience one of the important Buddhist processions conducted by this temple. 

The ceremony is one of the most extravagant processions in Sri Lanka made up of lots of elephants. The ideal time of the day to visit Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara would be during the evenings so that you can see the walls and ceilings of the shrine all illuminated so that you can see the walls and frescoes elaborately.

What to see at the Kelaniya temple:

1) The Kelaniya stupa (dagoba) marks the location where the Buddha is reported to have been sitting on a bejeweled throne on his third trip to the island. The throne is thought to be in the stupa. 

2) The Viharaya is the oldest temple building in Kelaniya. The external walls are adorned with friezes of elephants (Gajas) symbolizing fortitude, dwarfs (Gansas) promoting prosperity, and geese (Hamsas) distributing the teaching of the Buddha. 

3) Gnomes are also known as Ganas in Hindu mythology. They are friendly and happy to be entertaining themselves and others with music and stunts. Ganas’ postures at the Kelaniya Temple are incredibly humorous. This temple also has a fascinating link to the Ramayana Epic, making it one of the key attractions of the Ramayana tours in Sri Lanka. 

4) The inside of the temple building has a seated Buddha in the room on the right side. The center hall is adorned with 19th-century paintings emulating the Kandyan style and typical Kandy painting styles, in general, the Jataka “birth tales” from the Buddha’s history. 

5) Kelaniya’s most famous sculptures, though, are the magnum opus of Sri Lanka’s most popular 20th-century Buddhist painter, Solias Mendis. They highlight significant scenarios from the Buddhist past of the island. 

6) Between the stupa and the Buddhist central temple is a shrine explored by Buddhists and Hindus alike. It is devoted to Vibhishana, who, as per the Indian Ramayana, became Ruler of Lanka as a consequence of the intense fight and is venerated as the protective deity of the Kelaniya area. 

7) The eastern main entrance of the Kelaniya Temple is reported to have influenced the Hagenbeck brothers to build the famous Jugendstil Gateway of their zoological garden near Hamburg, Germany.

So, it’s quite understandable that Kelaniya Raja Maha Viharaya has many attractions to witness and enjoy during the visit. 

The Duruthu Perahera and Festival: In this ancient temple, the ritual “Duruthu Perahera” takes place every year on the pre-full moon day of January (Duruthu Month.) On this day, thousands and thousands of people from all over the country and hundreds of international visitors are on their way to the Kelaniya raja maha vihara temple to see this amazing sightseeing. All the roads around Kelaniya today appear, as it were, to connect to Kelaniya and nothing else. 

The procession itself is a ceremony representing the age-old religious practices and rituals of the country. It demonstrates the ancient customs and cultural heritage of the region. It displays the world the age-old indigenous songs, folk music, and syncopated dance styles and drum beats that have evolved over the centuries around Buddhism and Buddhist traditions on the island. 

This great festival, popularly recognized as Kelani Perahera, was officially launched for the first time in 1927.

The History of the Kelaniya Temple: The Mahawansa, which is the ancient book that elaborates Sri Lanka’s history, reports that the initial Kelaniya Stupa had consecrated a jewel-studded throne on which the Buddha sat and chanted. The temple expanded during the Kotte period, but a significant part of its property was seized during the Portuguese Empire. There have been, however, new grants of land under the Dutch rule, and under the protection of King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha, the temple was reconstructed. It was restored in the first half of the 20th century with the aid of Helena Wijewardana.

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