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Kelaniya Raja MahaViharaya

Kelaniya Raja MahaViharaya

Located to the northeast of Colombo is the Kelaniya Raja MahaVihara, a venerated Sri Lankan Buddhist shrine considered second only to the temple of the Tooth in importance. Earlier shrines on this spot were destroyed by Indian invaders and later by the Portuguese colonialists; the present-day structure dates from around the 18th and 19th centuries.

A fairly plain dagobamarks the spot where the Buddha is said to have preached during one of his three visits to Sri Lanka, but this is upstaged by the elaborate image house. Made of yellow-orange colored stone, the eye-catching exterior boasts detailed decoration with ornate door knockers and pillars; look out for the elephants flanking the entrance. The interior is covered with paintings, the most striking of which are the 20th century murals by SoliasMendis, a renowned artist, depicting the Buddha’s visits to Sri Lanka.

The three-shaded temple grounds are home to a large bo tree, an impressive bell tower, two large statues and a small museum. Raja MahaVihara is also the focus of the DurudhuPerahera festival.