Today’s highlight was a morning visit to the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple where we watched the Sunday School children, all dressed in white, in their morning prayer and meditation. The temple not only holds a hair relic of the Buddha but also the world’s smallest gold Buddha (seen through a magnifying glass) and a museum featuring old cars and other artifacts. Note the picture of the moonstone with a crow sitting on the edge. These stones are found at the entrances of temples and each ring has meaning – click on the link above to find out more. I thought how nice the crow was to pose but as soon as I passed, I realized, he was just waiting to enter the temple – probably to steal some of the food offerings!
We then had a brief stop at the Town Hall – that looks a lot like the US Capitol Building. Across from it is a beautiful park with a large gold Buddha. We also stopped at the Seema Malaka Temple on Beira Lake (a small dam built by the Dutch). An image from the temple, by architect Geoffrey Bawa, was featured in a recent article about Sri Lanka in the Globe and Mail. Our next stop was to visit the Independence Day Memorial Hall. Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) became independent on February 4, 1948. It changed its name to Sri Lanka in 1972. Inside the hall, carvings explain the history of Sri Lanka, from its first settlers from India until independence. A final stop before lunch took us to the old Dutch Hospital, now a trendy mall and restaurant hot spot. For the foodies who visit, the Ministry of Crab is usually top of the list. While very tempting, we opted for a tasty biriyani lunch at a small local restaurant – our wallets thanked us. Afterwards, the heat of the day was at its peak so we simply drove through the Pettah Market area rather than stop to shop before heading back to the hotel.
We were very lucky to arrive during the Tamil Thai Pongal Festival – a harvest festival. While it did mean many shops were closed, it also meant that traffic was very light. We will be seeing the real Colombo traffic when we leave on Monday morning.