The temple's architecture demonstrates an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian, and Chinese architecture.
This Buddhist temple includes several imposing buildings and is situated not far from the placid waters of Beira Lake on a plot of land that was originally a small hermitage on a piece of marshy land. It has the main features of a Vihara (temple), the Cetiya (Pagada) the Bodhitree, the Vihara Mandiraya, the Seema malaka (assembly hall for monks) and the Relic Chamber. In addition, a museum, a library, a residential hall, a three storeyed Pirivena, educational halls and an alms hall are also on the premises.
Most notable for tourists is the architecture of the Simamalaka Shrine, which was built with donations from a Muslim sponsor to the design of Geoffrey Bawa.
It was the home for erudite scholars such as Ratmalana Sri Dharmarama Thero, Waskaduwa Sri Subhuti Thero, Weligama Sri Sumangala Thero, Welivitiye Dhammaratna Thero, and Pandit Batuwantudawe.
Don Bastian (de Silva Jayasuriya Goonewardane, Mudaliyar), a famous 19th century shipping merchant who was looking for a suitable land to build a temple for the Matara Sri Dharmarama thero, bought a beautiful piece of land belonging to three Moors, and filled and prepared the land at great expense. The land bordered on two sides by the Moragoda Ela and the Pettigala Ela was used to build the temple, which was subsequently named the Padawthota Gangaramaya Viharaya. The Mudaliyar, with the assistance of the people built a great 'Chaitya' (Dagaba) of 30 Riyans, and built a great decorative arch (thorana) and a 'Sandakada pahana' modeled on the ones found at Anuradhapura, at the entrance to the temple. A 'Bo' sapling brought from the great Sri Maha Bhodiya in Anuradhapura, was also planted by his own hands and brought up. He also built a three-storied preaching hall and the walls, railings and the moat round the temple.
Present day activities
Today Gangaramaya serves not only as a place of Buddhist worship; it is also a centre of learning. The temple is involved in Buddhist welfare work including old peoples' homes, a vocational school and an orphanage. The temple is uniquely attractive and tolerant to congregation members of many different religions. It has also been instrumental in establishing the Buddhist temple on Staten Island (U.S.A.) the Buddhist Center in New York and the Buddhist Centre in Tanzania, thereby helping to propagate the Dhamma in other countries.
Although this temple is known as one of the best temples and is a lot popular around many buddhists, it is also seen that elephants are very mistreated in this temple. Elephants are taken care of by inhuman people who are arguably believers of buddhism. A videograph of one such event is lined under the section external links.
- "Gangaramaya Temple". John Keells Hotels Group. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
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