Sacred beauties tell Sri Lanka’s story

RONAN O’CONNELL looks at some of the country’s most historic and celebrated shrines

They are trapped inside boulders, covered in candy stripes, symbols of a colonial past, or perched on precarious hilltop locations. Sri Lanka’s religious structures are not just historic, but also unique and bracingly beautiful. From the teeming capital of Colombo to the fort city of Galle and the jungle-draped south coast, here are eight of Sri Lanka’s most remarkable temples, mosques and churches.

Jami ul-Alfar Mosque (Colombo)

This is the only building I’ve ever seen that I would describe as hypnotic. The brash red-and-white stripes that drench the facade of Colombo’s biggest mosque almost left me in a trance. Combined with the dramatic patterns created by the ochre-and-cream floor tiles of its main courtyard, this gives the mosque a unique and ostentatious appearance. Built in 1908 in Indo-Saracenic design, Jami Ul-Alfar has become the hub of Colombo’s Muslim community. It is located in the lively neighbourhood of the Pettah in downtown Colombo.

Gangaramaya temple (Colombo)

Once a month, coinciding with the full moon, this Buddhist temple is inundated with worshippers dressed from head to toe in white. They are celebrating Poya Day, on which Sri Lanka Buddhists make offerings to their god and ask for guidance and fortune in the coming month.

Constructed in the late 1800s, this complex has a sequence of prayer halls in its tree-filled grounds. Also part of this complex, about 200m to its east, is the unusual Seema Malaka Shrine, which is located in the middle of Beira Lake, with a bridge giving worshippers access to it.

This is an edited version of the original, full-length story, which you can read here.

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