Places of Worship
Temples, Mosques, and Churches of Colombo
Colombo is an exciting city. Whether you are on transit for a few hours or have a few days to spare, there are several Hindu temples, Mosques, Buddhist temples, and Churches that are worth visiting. The most convenient and inexpensive way to visit these places of spiritual worship is to hire a three-wheeler or trishaw which swarm the city. Renting a private vehicle is another option. Private hotels can arrange a vehicle and organize tour guide services to these sites upon request.
Kathiresan Kovil - The Kathiresan Kovil or Hindu Temple is one of the oldest in Colombo. It is dedicated to the war god, Skanda. The carving on its domed fronts is extremely beautiful and ornate. The temple is the starting point for the annual Hindu Vel Festival when the colossal chariot is dragged to Kovils in Bambalapitiya in August every year. This festival celebrates the marriage of the Hindu God Muragan to his queen Deivanai and his concubine Valli Ammal. Location: Sea Street, Colombo 11, Pettah.
Sri Kailawasanathar Swami Devasthanam - This is often referred to as the oldest Hindu temple in Colombo. It is also one of the largest Hindu temples in the capital city. It has shrines of the Gods Shiva and the Lord Ganesh. The Sri Kailawasanathar Swami Devasthanam is situated behind the Fort Railway Station. Location: Captain’s Gardens, Kovil Veediya, Colombo 11.
Sri Shiva Subramania Swami Kovil on Shiva – This is a beautiful Hindu temple and lies in the heart of the city. Its ornate entrance is impressive. Two statues on either side of the doorway guard the main entrance. Location: Kew Road, Slave Island
There are several mosques dotted throughout Colombo. Here are a few of them:
The Grand Mosque – The Grand Mosque is the most important mosque in Colombo. It is also the largest mosque for the Muslim community. Location: Mosque Lane, Kotahena, Colombo 13.
Jami-UI-Alfar Mosque – Jami-UI-Alfar Mosque goes back to 1909. It is a decorative Holy site. The building has candy-striped red-and white brickwork. Location: Corner of 2nd Cross-and Bankshall Street, Pettah.
Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara - The Kelaniya Temple is a splendid example of Buddhist architecture and art. At the temple entrance one finds the 'Makara Thorana' archway. The Makara is a symbol of protection in local mythology, and is a stylized depiction of animals combined into an elaborate pattern. It has the trunk of an elephant, the body of a fish, the feet of a lion, the ears of a hog, the teeth of a monkey and the tail of a swan. Location: Seven miles to the north east of Colombo in Kelaniya.
Vajiraramaya Temple - This is a popular and important Buddhist temple in Colombo. It is a nice place to sit and meditate. Location: Bambalapitiya, 6km (4 miles) from Fort.
Gangaramaya - The Gangaramaya Vihara is probably Colombo's most famous Buddhist temple. For over a century since 1890, it has been making a valuable contribution to Buddhist traditions in Sri Lanka. Location: Beira Lake, Navam Mawatha.
Gothami Viharaya - Gothami Viharaya is famous for its wall paintings by the late George Keyt one of the foremost artists of Sri Lanka. The temple premises lie in a secluded area and is a pleasant place to unwind and contemplate. The shrine area is closed during the day time, but upon request, a monk will open the premises to view the paintings. Location: Off Cotta Road, Rajagiriya and Borella.
Paramanada Purana Viharaya – This temple was founded in 1806 and is an interesting place to visit. Location: Kotahena.
Dipaduttamaramaya – This is believed to be the oldest Buddhist temple in the city. Location: Kotahena
Asokaramaya Temple - The Asokaramaya Temples has fine wall murals and paintings. The details and the colours are exquisite to the minute detail. Location: Thimbirigasyaya Road.
The Garrison Church of St. Peter – This church was consecrated in 1821. Location: It is on Church Street near the Grand Oriental Hotel.
The Wolfendhal Church – This was built by the Dutch in 1757. It is one of the most important and famous Dutch buildings in Sri Lanka It is one of the few authentic Dutch buildings in the city. It is prominently placed on a hill, shaped in the form of a massive Greek cross commanding a view over the harbour. With walls 1.5m thick, the real treasure is its antique, Dutch furniture. Location: Ratnajothis Saravanamuttu Mawatha, Kotahena, Colombo 13.
St. Lucia’s Cathedral - Sprawled on 18,240 Sq. feet of land, this magnificent edifice rises to a height of 150 feet. It had humble origins, starting as a small chapel of wood and cadjan built by the Oratorian fathers in 1760 when Ceylon was under Dutch occupation. This was replaced by a larger church of brick and mortar in 1782. The cathedral is of distinct Gothic architecture. The facade rests on massive ionic columns and is adorned with seven statues. Silhouetted against the sky is the cross on the concrete lantern crowning the dome, the pinnacle of the Cathedral. Location: St. Lucia’s Street, Kotahena, Colombo 13.
Galle Face Christ Church – The 155-year-old Christ Church, adjacent to HolidayInn Hotel, was constructed with pounds sterling 860 contributed from the CMS London, and generous donations from the local populace. The foundation stone was laid on 21st January 1853, by the Bishop of Colombo the Rt. Rev. Chapman. On 13th October 1853, the church was opened. A large congregation, representing all three races in the country as well as the European community attended the dedicatory service by the Bishop. Rev. Pettit was ailing in health for some time and returned to England in 1855. Christ Church has been the chief evangelical centre of worship in Colombo for over a century. Although the surroundings have changed dramatically and the Church is now dwarfed by towering skyscrapers comprising hotels, nightclubs, restaurants and commercial enterprises, Christ Church continues in its perennial task of relating to the contemporary lives of its people as it preaches the message of the Gospel of Peace.