Gangaramaya: Colombo’s Beautiful Buddhist Temple


If you ordered a Buddhist temple with everything, it would look like the Gangaramaya Temple. Buddhist temples span the spectrum from downright plain to elaborately decorated, and this one is definitely at the high end.

Located in the heart of Colombo, Sri Lanka, the temple is a large complex encompassing a couple of small museums, and they even run a technical school. Our karma was right, so we managed to catch a drum and horn trio, and best of all, it was bath day for the elephant!


The temple was an assault on four of my five senses (no buffet). Seeing the ornate statues and decorations, hearing the offering of music, smelling the incense, and feeling the flower petal offerings.


We haven’t established why the temple has an elephant, but to be honest, when the elephant came on the scene all thoughts of Buddhist symbolism and the Meaning of Life disappeared and we were at the circus.


It was bath day and there was a special pool just for this purpose. The mahout backed the elephant into the bath,


spoke a few commands, the elephant dropped into the bath, and then the scratching and scrubbing with a coconut shell began. The elephant had its head submerged, trunk waving about for air, and now I know I’ve seen elephant bliss.


The music in the temple was incredibly loud … and there were only three musicians!


We learned later that they weren’t just making music, but were making an Offering of Music. They weren’t just playing, they were worshiping. I love this concept, and here is a video of another way to Thank God. Trust me, don’t miss this one.

Happy Trails,


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

16 thoughts

    1. Thanks for the comment Andy, and for dropping by the blog. Our stop in Sri Lanka was a last-minute whim, and we’re so glad we did. The people there are friendly and the countryside is beautiful. It was a very pleasant two weeks. BTW, I love your eclectic blog.

      1. One advantage of eclectic is having the ability to blog about whatever appeals to you. Unfocused it might be, but as a blogger it does make the daily slog easier when deciding what to write about. I’ve even thought about a spin-off blog just for my wacky ideas.

    1. Thanks Andrew. Sri Lanka was a very pleasant surprise, and we had a great time there. It was a bit of a challenge getting around, but was worth it. We particularly liked the interior highlands and the tea plantations.

  1. I don’t think I will live long enough to understand Buddhism. The temples are amazing as you have shown. I just wish I understood this belief system better.

    1. I’m no Buddhist, but what I know of Buddism is that it is indeed complex. But at its basic level, it has Four Noble Truths. In life there is always suffering, we suffer because we want things that we don’t or can’t have, if we stop wanting we will stop suffering, and to stop wanting we should follow the Eightfold Path. Most of the Eight rules follow the Ten Commandments (no killing, stealing, etc.) Like most religions or philosophies, it’s easier to talk about than to follow through on.

  2. Thank you for the Sri Lanka Redux! I visited in the early 80s, before the Tamil War, and the North was still intact. Totally loved Sri Lanka, the people, the temples, the colors! Thank you for bringing back my memories.

    1. Thanks Mekala. We hadn’t made advance plans to visit Sri Lanka, but we were so glad that we did. The country is interesting and the people (as you know) are very welcoming. I don’t know if you’ve seen this temple, but it is amazing. Also, I’m sorry to see that your trip to Italy has finished. But I can see from your excellent photos, that you will have many good memories to look back on. All the best, James.

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