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Seema Malaka Temple

  Province Western
  District Colombo
  Nearest Town Colombo
  Period 19th century
  Ruler British Period


A temple in the lake

On three island podiums on Beira Lake, Colombo easily visible from Sir James Peiris Road, is the Seema Malaka, a Buddhist temple, a beautiful & unexpected site. Amidst the hustle & bustle of the city, the tranquil temple takes us by surprise. Not to be outdone, we take to the bridge like walkway leading to the temple in the middle of the lake with the breeze cutting into us. Set on three linked platforms rising out of the lake, the temple has a small Bo tree & delicately carved kiosk on the two outer platforms standing on either side of the larger central structure. The lake is surrounded by fine old trees, provides welcoming breezes throughout the day & attracts pelicans, egrets & cormorants

The inspired design

Whereas most Buddhist temples in the country follow strict traditional design, Gangaramaya temples floating on the middle of Beira Lake, is one of Sri Lanka's unusual temples. The design is inspired by the ancient forest monasteries such as those of Anuradhapura and Ritigala, which feature similar raised platforms linked by walkways. Then again the temple building is in the Kandyan style: with overhanging blue tiled roofs held up by walls apparently made from collected spindles & banisters. The temple designed by Geoffrey Bawa, one of Asia's foremost architects, with its peaceful elegance is a world away from the bustling capital, Colombo. It is intended for meditation & inaugurations of Buddhist Bhikkus..

The original

After the original 19th century version slowly sunk into the water, Geoffrey Bawa was commissioned to redesign it in 1979.

Gangaramaya temple

The Seema Malake is part of an ever-expanding complex of lavishly decorated Gangaramaya temple, a couple of hundred meters to the east. Gangaramaya sits behind an unusually elaborate perimeter wall faced with polished brass panels decorated with dwarfs (symbols of prosperity) & topped with Buddha statues. The complex has a library, a museum & extraordinarily eclectic array of bejeweled & gilt gifts presented by devotees & well-wishers over the years.


To one side of the courtyard, a sacred old Bo tree grows out of a raised platform draped in prayer flags. Next to it sits a richly decorated Kandyan-style wooden pavilion. Just behind the main courtyard is a tier of stacked-up Buddha statues from Thailand. Close by is the temple's most surprising feature; a fine selection of vintage cars, presented by well-wishers over the years

The principal image house

Across the courtyard lies the principal image house, its base supported by dwarfs in quasi-yogic positions. Inside, the entire building is occupied by an eye-popping tableau vivant, centered on a large Buddha statue sitting majestically in the meditation posture, flanked by elephant tusks & surrounded by dozens of other larger-than-life Buddha statues.