The Kelaniya Temple near Colombo makes a fine day trip from the city. It is a wonderful introduction to Buddhist history in Sri Lanka.
At Kelaniya, a superb set of 20th century Raja Maha Vihara paintings tell the stories of the Buddha's life before he attained enlightenment. Painted by master Solias Mendis, this temple art is rich in detail and steeped in Buddhist tradition, a joy to behold.
There is much to see at this active temple in addition to the Vihara paintings. After viewing the temple art--covering walls and ceilings of temple rooms and hallways--take time to wander the grounds, and experience the life of this active temple. When my husband and I visited, pilgrims prayed before the temple's reclining Buddha, families with children received instruction from a saffron-robed monk, and another monk intoned a blessing over an infant. On the temple grounds, devotees lit oil lamps and chanted at the outdoor shrine. Everywhere, there was the scent of incense.
Visitors during the January poya, or full moon, have an opportunity to see the Duruthu Maha Perahera of Kelaniya. The Buddhist pageant, held over three evenings, celebrates the visit of Lord Buddha to Colombo, Sri Lanka, about 2500 years ago.
A tuk-tuk ride out from central Colombo takes about forty minutes and is an experience in itself!