The Bellanwila Raja Maha Vihara is a popular temple just outside of Colombo (Boralesgamuwa). The bodhi-tree on the temple premises is one of the thirty-two saplings from the sacred bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, distributed over 2000 years ago. It also known for its big, bright and beautiful statues and murals.
The age of the temple isn’t well recorded, and some say that some form of the temple existed as far back as before the 15th century. The temple suffered from negligence during the Portugese invasion in the 17th century but was revived in what was probably closest to its present form in the 1800s.
The temple space is a wide sandy enclosure with a lot of trees and interesting old structures on the premises.
There’s a simple shrine room as you walk in, and the stupa in the distance – just before you reach the stupa turn left into this amazing chamber. The walls are covered in religious murals and there are striking statues of the Buddha positioned in different parts of the chamber. Its high ceilings and thick columns create quiet spaces cocooned away from the rest of the place.
The murals are particularly fascinating to feast your eyes on – they even stretch out onto the ceiling and probably date back centuries. It reminded me of the inside of the Angurukaramulla temple in Negombo.
Moonstones are usually my favourite part about temples. Intricate stonework is almost a completely forgotten art, so seeing these bits of an ancient heritage at the beginning of a staircase is pretty epic. You’ll also find a few lovely wood carved doors.
We really liked the Bellanwila temple – it was peaceful and serene on the day we visited. The murals and sculptures considering their age are especially interesting, and the bodhi tree rustling in the wind is a soothing sight. I was personally impressed by how warm and welcoming everyone at this temple was towards me in my Muslim attire – I think there’s a tip in there that all religious spaces can pick up.