Colombo's Eccentric Gangaramaya and Peaceful Seema Malaka Buddhist Temples (


Welcome to Todd’s Wanderings!

You are probably wondering, who is Todd, how can he travel so much, doesn’t he have a job? Well, the short answer is I

Mt. Ramlaou, Timor Leste

am guy who left home 10 years ago. With the exception of graduate school I have been living abroad ever since.

Not satisfied with that answer? Here’s a slightly longer version.

I am a conflict resolution and human rights expert who has lived in Japan, Thailand, Timor Leste, Sri Lanka, most currently Kosovo, and visited over 30 countries. I began my wanderings 10 years ago as an English teacher in Japan. I fell in love (with the country), stayed for five years and then finally moved on to international development work.

I am also a travel writer, working on my first book, and draw inspiration from the decidedly offbeat areas of the world I find myself in. This website is a way to share my travel experiences, destinations and advice.

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Colombo's Eccentric Gangaramaya and Peaceful Seema Malaka Buddhist Temples



Lanka has an amazing diversity for a small island and offers the possibility of experiencing vastly different climates, history, and cultures during a short vacation. In this Four Part Series I will share a glimpse of four different areas of Sri Lanka that can, and should, be a part of any itinerary to the island of providence.


Part 1 explores the East Coast city of Trincomalee and the Hindu  Koneswaram Temple and Part 2 brought us to the Ancient Buddha Rock Statues of Polonnaruwa. Part 3 visited the Hill Country and Hikes Through the Tea Trials. In this final article we stay closer to home, the city of Colombo.

Sri Lanka’s largest city, and the starting point for travelers flying into this South Asian island nation, Colombo is often bypassed completely in favor of the southern beaches, majestic hill country, or the cultural triangle in the county’s center. Seeking the tranquility, history and nature promised, travelers head out of the crowded and chaotic city. However, the city deserves some attention and there are a few unique sites to see. Perhaps the most intriguing is the eccentric Gangaramaya Buddhist temple.

Praying in front of Giant Buddha, Colombo Sri Lanka Gangarama Temple

A man prays before the giant Buddhist Statue at Gangarama Temple. The main Buddha statue is just one of at least a thousand filling every corner of the temple.

An interesting and eclectic mix of Buddhist images from all over the world, as well as a smattering of random antiques, creates a crowded feeling to this popular temple. The temple is really the warehouse for the thousands of items collected by the widely traveled, eccentric head monk Podi Hamuduruwo. It’s impossible to draw a clear line between where the Theravada begins and the Mahayana tradition ends (the first officially followed in Sri Lanka , and the second the tradition that spawned Tibetan and Zen Buddhism). Throw in Hindu statues and you’ll soon forget to care about the differences. Podi accepts donations from everyone and everywhere, somehow finding room for everything. Whether intended or not, it’s a nice message of tolerance and acceptance in a country where ethnic and religious tensions fueled the now ended 20 year plus civil war.

Naked Statue at Buddhist TempleThis is one way to be greeted at a Buddhist Temple. Makes you wonder why I am asked to wear long pants!

Antique Buddhist CarBuddhist monks know how to roll in style!

How to hold up a Buddhist TemplePot-bellied dwarfs holding up the temple. Yup, they are naked too!

Gangarama Temple ElephantThe temple even has it own elephant, with gigantic tusks. Just be careful, he seems really agitated to be chained to such a small area all day long. On the weekends he usually gets a break and is trucked out of the city to get away from the pollution that is making him sick. Very sad, if you ask me. Leave the elephants for statues in a city temple.

Meditating with WaterA devotee meditating with a jar of water. She is attempting to make her mind as still as the water inside.

Sri Lanka MusicTraditional Kandian musicians playing at noon time. You can watch and listen to them on my YouTube Channel.

Gangarama Thai style Buddhist StatuesThese statues have a Thai look to them.

Mahayana Statue at Gangarama Temple Sri LankaThis is an unmistakable Mahayana Buddha statue. Perhaps of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Gangarama Temple Sri LankaA very crowded temple. The two large angry statues in the back are Nio guardians from Japan.

Just a five minute walk down the street at Beira Lake is another temple, Seema Malaka, that is worth a visit. It is not as eccentric as Gangarama, but it is also not your typical Sri Lankan temple either. Built on an island in the lake, the temple was designed by the famed architect Geoffrey Bawa. It is rare to find a moment of peace in a crowded city like Colombo, but this is one place you are guaranteed to find it. There is no entrance fee, so you can relax and watch the pelicans drift buy. Unfortunately, the water is highly polluted, and the bright green water is anything up refreshing to look at.

If the previous temple was a shining example of tolerance and acceptance, Seema Malaka has more dubious origins. Rumor has it, it was financed by a muslin who was kicked out of the community. No, its not a conversion gift, but more of a f$*#% you gesture. Regardless of its origins, it is one of Colombo’s must see sites.

Seema Malaka Lake Temple Sri Lanka Seema Malaka Temple from above.

Seema Malaka Colombo, Sri LankaWatch out, the walkways get VERY hot and you are not allowed to wear shoes in the temple.

Seema Malaka Temple Colombo, Sri LankaYou will never get lonely with such good company around.

I hope you have enjoyed this mini tour through Sri Lanka. The country has so much to offer this is but a small sample of what you can expect from the land of serendipity. But don’t forget to give Colombo its due. Two days is plenty to get a feeling for the city, but after three years of living there I was still discovering new surprises.