Colombo (pronounced kolombo) is the largest city and the commercial, industrial and cultural capital of Sri Lanka, with a population of 4,575,000 metropolitan area, and 555,031 in the city limits. It is located on the west coast of the island and adjacent to Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte (which is the official capital of Sri Lanka) suburb or the parliament capital of Sri Lanka. Colombo is also the administrative capital of Western Province, Sri Lanka and the district capital of Colombo District. Colombo is often referred to as the capital since Sri Jayawardenapura Kotte is a satellite city of Colombo. Colombo is a busy and vibrant place with a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings and ruins. It was the political capital of Sri Lanka, before Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte.
Due to its large harbour and its strategic position along the East-West sea trade routes, Colombo was known to ancient traders 2,000 years ago. It was made the capital of the island when Sri Lanka was ceded to the British Empire in 1815 and its status as capital was retained when the nation became independent in 1948. In 1978, when administrative functions were moved to Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Colombo was designated as the commercial capital of Sri Lanka.
The main city is home to a majority of Sri Lanka's corporate offices, restaurants and entertainment venues. Famous landmarks in Colombo include the Galle Face Green, the Viharamahadevi Park, Mount Lavinia beach as well as the National Museum.
Coat of arms of Colombo from the Dutch Ceylon era, depicting a mango tree.
The name "Colombo", first introduced by the Portuguese in 1505, is believed to be derived from the classical Sinhalese name Kolon thota, meaning "port on the river Kelani"
Another belief is that the name is derived from the Sinhalese name Kola-amba-thota which means "Harbour with leafy mango trees"
As Colombo possesses a natural harbour, it was known to Indian, Greeks, Persians, Romans, Arabs, and Chinese traders over 2,000 years ago. Traveller Ibn Batuta who visited the island in the 14th century, referred to it as Kalanpu. Muslim Moors whose prime interests were trade began to settle in Colombo around the 8th century AD mostly because the port helped their business and controlled much of the trade between the Sinhalese kingdoms and the outside world. Their descendants now comprise the local Sri Lankan Moor community.
Portuguese explorers led by Dom Lourenço de Almeida first arrived in Sri Lanka in 1505. During their initial visit they made a treaty with the King of Kotte Parakramabahu VIII (1484–1508) enabling them to trade in the islands' crop of cinnamon, which lay along the coastal areas of the island, including in Colombo. As part of the treaty, the Portuguese were given full authority over the coastline in exchange for the promise of guarding the coast against invaders. They were allowed to establish a trading post in Colombo. Within a short time, however, they then expelled the Muslim inhabitants of Colombo and began to build a fort there in 1517.
The Portuguese soon realized that control of Sri Lanka was necessary for protection of their coastal establishments in India and they began to manipulate the rulers of the Kotte kingdom to gain control of the area. After skilfully exploiting rivalries within the royal family, they took control of a large area of the kingdom and the Sinhalese King Mayadunne established a new kingdom at Sitawaka, a domain in the Kotte kingdom. Before long he annexed much of the Kotte kingdom and forced the Portuguese to retreat to Colombo, which was repeatedly besieged by Mayadunne and the later kings of Sitawaka, forcing them to seek reinforcement from their major base in Goa, India. Following the fall of the kingdom in 1593, the Portuguese were able to establish complete control over the coastal area, with Colombo as their capital. This part of Colombo is still known as Fort and houses the presidential palace and the majority of Colombo's five star hotels. The area immediately outside Fort is known as Pettah (Sinhala pita kotuva, "outer fort") and is a commercial hub.
In 1638 the Dutch signed a treaty with King Rajasinha II of Kandy which assured the king assistance in his war against the Portuguese in exchange for a monopoly of the island's major trade goods. The Portuguese resisted the Dutch and the Kandyans but were gradually defeated in their strongholds beginning in 1639. The Dutch captured Colombo in 1656 after an epic siege, at the end of which a mere 93 Portuguese survivors were given safe conduct out of the fort. Although the Dutch (e.g., Rijcklof van Goens) initially restored the captured area back to the Sinhalese kings, they later refused to turn them over and gained control over the island's richest cinnamon lands including Colombo which then served as the capital of the Dutch maritime provinces under the control of the Dutch East India Company until 1796.
Although the British captured Colombo in 1796, it remained a British military outpost until the Kandyan Kingdom was ceded to them in 1815 and they made Colombo the capital of their newly created crown colony of British Ceylon. Unlike the Portuguese and Dutch before them, whose primary use of Colombo was as a military fort, the British began constructing houses and other civilian structures around the fort, giving rise to the current City of Colombo.
Initially, they placed the administration of the city under a "Collector", and John Mac Dowell of the Madras Service was the first to hold the office. Then, in 1833, the Government Agent of the Western Province was charged with the administration of the city. Centuries of colonial rule had meant a decline of indigenous administration of Colombo, and in 1865 the British conceived a Municipal Council as a means of training the local population in self-governance. The Legislative Council of Ceylon constituted the Colombo Municipal Council in 1865 and the Council met for the first time on the January 16, 1866. At the time, the population of the region was around 80,000. During the time they were in control of the Colombo, the British were responsible for much of the planning of the present city. In some parts of the city tram car tracks and granite flooring laid during the era are still visible today.
This era of colonialism ended peacefully in 1948 when Ceylon gained independence from Britain. Due to the tremendous impact this caused on the city's inhabitants and on the country as a whole, the changes that resulted at the end of the colonial period were drastic. An entire new culture took root. Changes in laws and customs, clothing styles, religions and proper names were a significant result of the colonial era. These cultural changes were followed by the strengthening of the island's economy. Even today, the influence of the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British is clearly visible in Colombo's architecture, names, clothing, food, language and attitudes. Buildings from all three eras stand as reminders of the turbulent past of Colombo. The city and its people show an interesting mix of European clothing and lifestyles together with local customs.
Historically, Colombo referred to the area around the Fort and Pettah Market which is famous for the variety of products available as well as the Khan Clock Tower, a local landmark. At present, it refers to the city limits of the Colombo Municipal Council. More often, the name is used for the Conurbation known as Greater Colombo, which encompasses several Municipal councils including Kotte, Dehiwala and Colombo.
Although Colombo lost its status as the capital of Sri Lanka in the 1980s, it continues to be the island's commercial centre. Despite the official capital of Sri Lanka moving to the adjacent Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte, most countries still maintain their diplomatic missions in Colombo.
Geography and climate
Colombo's geography is a mix of land and water. The city has many canals and, in the heart of the city, the 65-hectare (160-acre) Beira Lake. The lake is one of the most distinctive landmarks of Colombo, and was used for centuries by colonists to defend the city. It remains a popular attraction, hosting regattas, and theatrical events on its shores. The Northern and North-Eastern border of the city of Colombo is formed by the Kelani River, which meets the sea in a part of the city known as the Modera (modara in Sinhala) which means river delta.
Colombo features a tropical monsoon climate under the Köppen climate classification, falling just short of a tropical rainforest climate. Colombo's climate is fairly temperate all throughout the year. From March to April the temperature averages around 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit) maximum. The only major change in the Colombo weather occurs during the monsoon seasons from May to August and October to January. This is the time of year where heavy rains can be expected. Colombo sees little relative diurnal range of temperature, although this is more marked in the drier winter months, where minimum temperatures average 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit). Rainfall in the city averages around 2,400 mm (94 in) a year.
Galle Face Green is a ribbon of green space located in the heart of the city along the Indian Ocean coast, and is a popular destination for tourists and residents alike. The Galle Face Hotel is a historic landmark on the southern edge of this promenade.
Gangaramaya Temple is one of the most important temples in Colombo. The temple's architecture demonstrates an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian, and Chinese architecture.
The Viharamahadevi Park (formerly Victoria Park) is an urban park located next to the National Museum of Colombo and the Town Hall. It is the oldest and largest park in Colombo and features a large Buddha statue.
Colombo is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural city. The population of Colombo is a mix of numerous ethnic groups, mainly Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Moors, and Tamils. There are also small communities of people with Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, Malay, and Indian origins living in the city, as well as numerous European expatriates. In 1866 the city had a population of around 80,000. Colombo is the most populous city in Sri Lanka, with 642,163 people living within the city limits.
Colombo was the capital of the coastal areas controlled by the Portuguese, Dutch and the British from the 1700s to the 1815 when the British gained control of the entire island following the Kandian convention. From then until the 1980s the national capital of the island was Colombo. During the 1980s plans were made to move the administrative capital to Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte and thus move all governmental institutions out of Colombo to make way for commercial activities. As a primary step the Parliament was moved to a new complex in Kotte and several ministries and departments were also moved
The great majority of Sri Lankan corporations have their head offices in Colombo. Some of the industries include chemicals, textiles, glass, cement, leather goods, furniture, and jewellery. In the city centre is located The World Trade Centre. The 40 story Twin Tower complex is the centre of important commercial establishments, situated in the Fort district, the city's nerve center. Right outside the Fort area is Pettah which is derived from the Sinhalese word pita which means out or outside as it is outside the Fort.
The per capita income of Colombo Metro area stood at USD $5358 and purchasing power per capita of $10,000, making it one of the most prosperous regions in South Asia.
The Colombo Metropolitan (CM) area is the most important industrial, commercial and administrative centre in Sri Lanka. A major share of the country’s export oriented manufacturing takes place in the Colombo Metropolitan area which is the engine of growth for Sri Lanka. The Western province contributes more than 50% to the GDP and about 80% of industrial value additions although it accounts for only 5.7% of the country’s geographic area. Given its importance as the primary international gateway for Sri Lanka and as the main economic driver of the country, the Government of Sri Lanka has launched an ambitious program to transform Colombo and its metropolitan area into a metropolis of international standards. A number of bottlenecks are preventing the Colombo metropolitan area from realizing its full economic potential. In order to facilitate the transformation of Colombo, the government has to address these bottlenecks which have for long been obstructing economic and physical urban regeneration of the city.
Pettah is more crowded than the fort area. Pettah's roads are always packed and pavements are full of small stalls selling from delicious Sherbat to Shirts. Main Street consists mostly of clothes shops and the cross roads, which are literally known as Cross Streets where each of the five streets specializes in a specific business. For example the First Cross Street is mostly electronic goods shops, the Second, cellular phones and fancy goods. Most of these businesses in Pettah are dominated by Muslim traders. At the end of the main street further away from Fort is the Sea Street, Sri Lanka's Gold market – dominated by Tamil interests. This mile-long street is full of jewellery shops.
At one time Air Lanka (now Sri Lankan Airlines) had its head office in Colombo.
Colombo has most of the amenities that a modern city has. Compared to other parts of the country, Colombo has the highest degree of infrastructure. Electricity, water and transport to street lamps, phone booths and etc. have a considerably good standard. The majority of the major shopping malls in Sri Lanka are in the city, of which all are wi-fi enabled. Apart from that, many luxurious hotels, clubs and restaurants are in the city. In recent times there's been an outpour of high rise condominiums, mainly due to the very high land prices.
Colombo Harbour is the largest and one of the busiest ports in Sri Lanka. Colombo was established primarily as a port city during the colonial era, with an artificial harbour that has been expanded over the years. The Sri Lanka Navy maintains a naval base, SLNS Rangalla, within the harbour.
The Port of Colombo handled 3.75 million twenty-foot equivalent units in 2008, 10.6% up on 2007 (which itself was 9.7% up on 2006), bucking the global economic trend. Of those, 817,000 were local shipments with the rest transshipments. Currently with a capacity of 4.1 million TEUs and a dredged depth of over 15 m (49 ft), the Colombo Harbour is one of the busiest ports in the world, and ranks among the top 35 ports.
Bandaranaike International Airport and Ratmalana Airport are the city's airports. Bandaranaike Airport serves the city for most international flights, while the Ratmalana Airport primarily serves local flights.
The two World Trade Centre towers used to be the most recognized landmarks of the city. Before they were completed in 1997, the adjacent Bank of Ceylon tower was the tallest structure and the most prominent city landmark. Before the skyscrapers were built it was the Old Parliament Building that stood majestically in the Fort district with the Old Colombo Light house close to it. Another important landmark is the Independence Hall at Independence Square in Cinnamon Gardens.
Even before the parliament was built some claim that the Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque was recognized as the landmark of Colombo by sailor approaching the port. The mosque is still one of the most visited tourist sites in Colombo.
Another landmark is St.Paul's Church Milagiriya, one of the oldest churches in Sri Lanka, first built by the Portuguese and re-built by the British in 1848.
The Fort district has the famous Cargills & Millers complex that is protected by a special government law from demolition. This is done mainly to preserve the historic beauty of the Fort area.
The Galle Face Green is the city's largest and most elegant promenade. Lined with palm trees and adjacent to the coast, this mile-long stretch in the heart of the city is a constant beehive of activity. The green is especially busy on Fridays and Saturdays. In the evenings it plays host to families and children playing sports and flying kites, lovers embracing under umbrellas and health enthusiasts taking their evening walks. There are numerous small food stalls and a small stretch of beach. The green was recently given a makeover and since then has been even more popular with the local community. The Green frequently hosts international and local concerts and performances, such as the recently concluded World Drum Festival.
Cannons that were once mounted on the rampart of the old fort of Colombo laid out for observance and prestige at the Green, giving a colonial touch to the city. The famous colonial styled Galle Face Hotel, known as Asia's Emerald on the Green since 1864, is adjacent to Galle Face Green. The hotel has played host to distinguished guests including the British Royal Family and other royal guests and celebrities. After a stayed at the hotel, Princess Alexandra of Denmark commented that "the peacefulness and generosity encountered at the Galle Face Hotel cannot be matched. Also facing Galle Face Green is the Ceylon Inter-Continental Hotel, Sri Lanka's first five-star hotel. Around the corner from Galle Face are prominent coffee bars, chic bars and boutiques.
Education institutions in Colombo have a long history. Colombo has many of the prominent public schools in the country, some of them government-owned and others private. Most of the prominent schools in the city date back to the 1800s when they were established during the British colonial rule, such as the Royal College Colombo established in 1835. Certain urban schools of Sri Lanka have some religious alignment; this is partly due to the influence of British who established Christian missionary schools. These include the Anglican, Bishop's College(1875); the Methodist, Wesley College Colombo (1874); the Buddhist, Ananda College (1886); the Muslim, Zahira College (1892); the Catholic, St. Joseph's College (1896). The religious alignments do not affect the curriculum of the school except for the demographics of the student population. Colombo has many International Schools that have come up in the recent years.
Higher education in the city has a long history, beginning with the establishment of the Colombo Medical School (1870), the Colombo Law College (1875), School of Agriculture (1884) and the Government Technical College (1893). The first step in the creation of a University in Colombo was taken in 1913 with the establishment of the University College Colombo which prepared students for the external examinations of the University of London. This was followed by the establishment of the University of Ceylon in Colombo. Today the University of Colombo and the University of the Visual & Performing Arts are state universities in the city. The Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology has a metropolitan campus in the city centre. There are several private higher education institutions in the city.
Colombo has wildly varying architecture that span centuries and depict many styles. Colonial buildings influenced by the Portuguese, Dutch and British exist alongside structures built in Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Indian and Contemporary architectural styles. No other place is this more evident in the Fort area. Here one may find new towering skyscrapers as well as historic buildings dating far back as the 1700s.
The Portuguese were the first colonists to settle in Colombo; establishing a small trading post, they had laid the foundations for a small fort which in time became the largest colonial fort in the island. The Dutch expanded the fort thus creating a well old fortified harbour. This came into the possession of the British in the late 1700s and by the late 19th century the seeing no threat to the Colombo Harbour, began demolishing the ramparts to make way for the development of the city. Although now there is nothing left of the fortifications, the area which was once the fort is still referred to as Fort. The area outside is Pettah or pita-kotuwa in Sinhalese which means outer fort
There are none of the buildings of the Portuguese era and only a few from the Dutch period. These include the oldest building in the fort area, the former Dutch Hospital, the Dutch House which is now the Colombo Dutch Museum and several churches. The President's House (formerly the Queen's House)was originally the Dutch governor's house, and successive British governors made it their office and residence. However, it has undergone much change since the Dutch period. Adjoining the President's House are the Gordon Gardens, now off limits to the public.
Much of the old buildings of the fort area and in other parts of the city date back to the British times, these include governmental, commercial buildings and private houses. Some of the notable government building of British colonial architecture includes; the old Parliament building which is now the Presidential Secretariat, the Republic Building which houses the Ministry of Foreign affairs, but once housed the Ceylon Legislative council, the General Treasury Building, the old General Post Office an Edwardian style building opposite the President's House, the Prime Minister's Office, the Central Telegraph Office, the Mathematics department of the University of Colombo (formally the Royal College, Colombo). Notable commercial buildings of the British era include the Galle Face Hotel, Cargills & Millers' complex, and Grand Oriental Hotel.
Colombo's most beautiful festival is the celebration of Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death all falling on the same day. In Sinhala this is known as Vesak. During this festival, much of the city is decorated with lanterns, lights and special displays of light (known as thoran). The festival falls in mid May and lasts a week. Many Sri Lankans visit the city to see the lantern competitions and decorations. During this week people distribute, rice, drinks and other food items for free in dansal which means charity place. These dansal are popular amongst visitors from the suburbs.
Since there is a large number of Muslims in Colombo. Eid Ul Fitr and Eid Ul Adha are two Islamic festivals that are celebrated in Colombo. Many businesses flourish during the eventual countdown for Eid Ul Fitr which is a major Islamic festival celebrated by Muslims after a month long fasting. Colombo is generally very busy during the eve of the festivals as people do their last minute shopping.
Christmas is another major festival. Although Sri Lanka's Christians make up only just over 7% of the population, Christmas is one of the island's biggest festivals. Most streets and commercial buildings light up from the beginning of December and festive sales begin at all shopping centres and department stores. Caroling and nativity plays are frequent sights during the season.
The Sinhala and Hindu Aluth Awurudda' is a cultural event that takes place on 13 and 14 April. This is the celebration of the Sinhala and Hindu new year. The festivities include many events and traditions that display a great deal of Sri Lankan culture.
Several old clubs of the city gives a glimpse of the British equestrian life style, these include the Colombo Club, Orient Club, the 80 Club, the Colombo Cricket Club.
Colombo has several performing arts centers which are popular for their musical and theatrical performances. The most famous performing arts centers are the Lionel Wendt Theatre, the Elphinstone, and Tower Hall, all of which have a very rich history and made for western style productions. The Navarangahala found in the city is the country's first national theatre designed and build for Asian and local style musical and theatrical productions.
The Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre is a world-class theatre that opened in December 2011. Designed in the form of the Lotus Pond in Polonnaruwa, the theatre is a major theatre destination.
Museums and art collections
The National Museum of Colombo, established on 1 January 1877 during the tenure of the British Colonial Governor Sir William Henry Gregory, is in the Cinnamon Gardens area. The museum houses the crown jewels and throne of the last king of the kingdom of Kandy, Sri Vikrama Rajasinha
There is also the Colombo Dutch Museum detailing the Dutch colonial history of the country. Colombo does not boast a very big art gallery. There is a small collection of Sri Lankan masterpieces at the Art Gallery in Green Path; next to it is the Natural History Museum.
Undoubtedly the most popular sport in Sri Lanka is cricket. The country emerged as champions of the 1996 Cricket World Cup and became runners up in 2007 and 2011. In the ICC World Twenty20 they became runners up in 2009 and 2012 and winners in 2014. The sport is played in parks, playgrounds, beaches and even in the streets. Colombo is the home for two of the country's most popularinter national cricket stadiums, Sinhalese Sports Club's cricket stadium and R. Premadasa Stadium (named after late president Premadasa).
Colombo has the distinction of being the only city in the world to have four cricket test venues in the past: Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu Stadium, Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo Cricket Club Ground and Ranasinghe Premadasa Stadium. The Sugathadasa Stadium is an international standard stadium for athletics, swimming and football, also held the South Asian Games in 1991 and 2006. Situated in Colombo the Royal Colombo Golf Club is one of the oldest in Asia. Other sporting clubs in Colombo include Colombo Swimming Club, Colombo Rowing Club and the Yachting Association of Sri Lanka.
National Zoological Gardens
National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka (also called Colombo Zoo or Dehiwala Zoo) is a zoological garden in Dehiwala, Sri Lanka, founded in 1936. Its sprawling areas are host to a variety of animals and birds. The zoo exhibits animals but also places an emphasis on animal conservation and welfare, and education.
Visions for the zoo include, "To create one of the world’s outstanding zoological institutions, that is a centre of the excellence for conservation, research and education" and mission is "Resourceful conservation of animals by means of a learning, achieved through the exhibition of species which were adopted with loving care". The zoo has 3000 animals and 350 species as of 2005.
The zoo exchanges its residents with other zoological gardens for breeding purposes.
Sri Lanka has a history of collecting and keeping wild animals as pets by some Sinhalese kings as well as some British people. What is known today as National Zoological Gardens of Sri Lanka was founded by John Hagenbeck in the late 1920s. It was closed at beginning of World War II in 1939 because of the owner of that company was a German. After liquidation of Zoological Garden Company in 1936, the government acquired much of the collection and added it to the Dehiwala Zoo (Zoological Garden of Ceylon) collection. Although Dehiwala Zoo officially began operating in 1939, an impressive animal collection already existed there as part of Hagenback company's holding area, where public could visit.
Major Aubrey Neil Weinman, OBE was the first Director of the Dehiwal Zoo. During his period various programs were developed, such as introducing more native and foreign species, educational and conservation programs, improving the facilities and infrastructures and more.
By 1969, half of the collection consisted of native species including virtually all of the mammals represented. In 1973, the zoo had 158 mammal species, 259 bird species, 56 reptile species and 7 fish species. However, not much has been reported on Zoo progress until the 1980s.
Dehiwala Zoological Garden is one of the oldest zoological gardens in Asia. It has a substantial collection of worldwide animals. It is open all year long and can be reached by public transportation. Diversity of the zoo is indicated by the presence of an aquarium walk through aviary, reptile house, butterfly garden and many cages and enclosures.
The zoological garden has a small, but picturesque butterfly garden which is decorated with small shrubs, trees, creepers and small streams. Internal temperature and humidity of the house is controlled by artificially created mist. The butterfly garden exhibits 30 species of butterflies with their all stages of life cycle for educational purposes.
Dehiwala Zoo has been designed into a beautiful landscape of colourful flowers, foliage and water fountains, the zoological garden is probably one of the few remaining places in the country where nature blends with a large variety of animal life.
The zoo has dense tree coverage and well landscaped gardens. To provide more natural habitats some lawns of the Zoo have been converted into small forest patches which are rich in rare plants. Valuable medicinal plants are prominent among the trees in these patches.
The zoo consist of shady pathways with arched cemented bridges are classic ways to cross an animal enclosure although there are plenty of equal attractive alternatives.
The elephant's performance are held at elephant arena with certain time table. Pachyderms in shows perform antics such standing on their heads, wiggling their backs to music, hopping on one foot and standing up on their hind legs.
Educational Programme on Chimps
One of the main attraction of Dehiwala Zoo is "Sanju" - a baby Chimpanzee. Sanju was hand raised and now its show is exerted as educational programme about the chimpanzee's behaviors . People can enjoy Saju's daily routine performances according to a time table.
Sea Lions' Performances
The sea lions' performance are displayed daily at the sea lions' pool according to a time table. Two California sea lions are fed by their keepers during this wonderful moment.
The Zoo consist of diverse indigenous as well as foreign wildlife including mammals, reptiles, birds and fish. Every year the Zoo exchanges some of its animals with other Zoos worldwide to enlarge the diversity of its animals and introduce new species of animals as well.
Dehiwala Zoo always trying to introduce new members to their animal collection to expand it. In 2008, 3 month old seal has been brought to Sri Lanka from the Krefeld Zoo in Germany.
A green anaconda (Eunectes murinus) which was brought to Sri Lanka some five years ago along with a male of the species, has given birth to 23 baby anacondas in the Dehiwala Zoo in 2008, and 20 of them had survived. This was a very rare occasion of giving birth while in captivity, especially in a relatively unfamiliar territory.
Ongoing animal breeding program is helpful for increasing the population of some animal species in the zoo and it also important forconservation of the endangered species in the world.
Facilities for Visitors
Elephant rides, Pony rides and souvenir shop are available facilities for the visitors.
Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara
The Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara or Kelaniya Temple is a Buddhist temple in Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, seven miles from Colombo
Buddhists believe the temple to have been hallowed during the third and final visit of the Buddha to Sri Lanka, eight years after gaining enlightenment. Its history would thus go back to before 500 BCE.
The Mahawansa records that the original Stupa at Kelaniya enshrined a gem-studded throne on which the Buddha sat and preached.
The temple flourished during the Kotte era but much of its land was confiscated during the Portuguese empire. Under the Dutch empire, however, there were new gifts of land and under the patronage of King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha the temple was rebuilt. It was refurbished in the first half of the 20th century with the help of Helena Wijewardana.
The temple is also famous for its image of the reclining Buddha and paintings which depict important events in the life of the Buddha, in the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, also incidents from the Jataka tales. It is the venue for the Duruthu Maha Perehera procession each January. An 18-foot stone statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara has been erected at the temple.
National Museum of Colombo
National Museum of Colombo, also known as the Sri Lanka National Museum is one of two museums in Colombo. It is the largest museum in Sri Lanka. Its is maintained by the Department of National Museum of the central government. The museum holds contains a collections of much importance to Sri Lanka such as the regalia of the country, including the throne and crown of theKandyan monarchs as well as many other exhibits telling the story of ancient Sri Lanka.
The Colombo museum as it was called at the beginning was established on 1 January 1877. It founder was Sir William Henry Gregory the British Governor of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at the time. The Royal Asiatic Society (CB) was instrumental in bringing to the notice of Gregory on his appointment as Governor in 1872 the need for a public Museum with much difficulty the approval of the legislative council was obtained within a year. The Architect of the Public Works Department, J. G. Smither was able to prepare the plans for new structure on Italian Architectural style. The construction was completed in 1876 and the Museum commenced it functions in the following year.
The construction of the Museum was carried out by Arasi Marikar Wapchie Marikar (born 1829, died 1925, aka Wapchi Marikar Bass, who was descended from the Sheiq Fareed family who arrived in Ceylon in 1060 AD), paternal grandfather of Sir Razik Fareed, Kt., JPUM, OBE, MP (born, 29 December 1893, died 23 August 1984). Wapchi Marikar Bass was the builder of the General Post Office in Colombo, Colombo Customs, Old Town Hall in Pettah, Galle Face Hotel, Victoria Arcade, Finlay Moir building, the Clock Tower, Batternburg Battery and many other buildings that are still standing today (2011). The Old Town Hall in Pettah, which is now a busy market, was built on a contract for the sum of 689 Streling Pounds.
In January 1877, the completed building of the Colombo Museum was declared open by Governor Gregory, in the presence of a large crowd, amongst which there were many Muslims present. At the end of the ceremony, the governor asked Arasi Marikar Wapchi Marikar what honour he wished to have for his dedication. He asked the same question of the carpenter who assisted Wapchi Marikar with the woodwork of the Museum, who requested and was awarded a local rank. Wapchi Marikar requested that the museum be closed on Fridays, the Muslim sabbath; this request was granted and maintained, although the Museum later much opened on all days except public holidays
When the throne of the last Kandyan King was to be exhibited at the Museum, the then Prime Minister, Mr. D.S.Senanayake, obtained the consent of Sir Razik Fareed, Wapchi Marikar’s grandson, to keep the Museum open on the intervening Fridays only.
During the period between 1877 and 1999, the authorities of the museum took various steps to display the cultural and natural heritage of the country for this purpose. Several other wings were added from time to time under the direction of Dr. Arthur Willey and Dr. Joseph Pearson new structures were built during the period of Dr. P. E. P. Deraniyagala, Dr. P. H. D. H. de Silva and Sirinimal Lakdusinghe. One of the natural history museum, and yet another consists of the auditorium. These buildings would facilitate the extension of the library ethnological and Anthropological studies, etc.
Developments after 1940
The museum was given the status of a national museum during the period of P. E. P. Deraniyagala. He opened branch museums in Jaffna, Kandy, and Rathnapura and a fullly-fledged department of national museum was established in 1942 under the act No. 31. Nine branch museumss were ultimately opened, and a school science programme and a mobile museum service are also in operation.
The museum has a copy of the Statue of Tara, a three-quarter life size statue of Tara currently held in the British Museum. The crown jewels and the throne of the last King of Kandy, which were returned to Sri Lanka by the British Government, were added to the museum collection. Ground floor galleries are arranged in historical sequence, and upper galleries thematically.
A library was also established on 1 January 1877. The government Oriental library (1870) was incorporated into Colombo National Museum library, and served as the nucleus of the library collection by collecting the local publications of the past 129 years; the library has been functioning as an unofficial national library in Sri Lanka, and became the first legal deposit library in the island. From its inception, special attention was given to building up of a collection related to Sri Lanka, Orientation and Natural Science.