Religious Rituals in Sri Lanka

  • Anuradhapura Sri Lanka
  • ancient city sri lanka

Sri Lanka Religious Places & Events

While Sri Lanka is famed for its beaches and wildlife, there is also another facet of this remarkable island that needs to be explored. Religious monuments, particularly in the cultural triangle – which is formed by connecting the magnificent ancient capitals of Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Kandy, with Sigiriya in the center for good measure – are places of pilgrimage, worship and hold various forms of literature and artifacts that give one a glimpse of Sri Lanka’s millennia old civilization. There are also many other religious sites dotted around the county where local and international Buddhist devotees and other multi-faith visitors can pause to reflect and take note.

Adams Peak, also known locally as ‘Sri Pada’, meaning ‘holy footprint’ is a summit that seems to be one of the local sites that has superseded any one religion and now belongs to the universe. Buddhist pilgrims claim the 1000 year old site holds the footprint of the Buddha, while some Christians believe that it is in fact the imprint of St.Thomas’ one of the twelve apostles disciples by Jesus Christ. Those of the Hindu faith believe the site to hold sacred foot print of Lord Shiva.

Despite the multitude of claims, the pilgrimage to the top is a charming and beautiful one. The majority only tread this journey after dusk to the summit, and in season the pathway is lit from the base to the summit by thousands of lights carried by devotees that form a Jacobs ladder. During off season, you would have to carry a torch/flashlight to light your way.

There are many other religious festivals and holidays in Sri Lanka that are generally celebrated by its peoples, such as Vesak (commemorating the birth, death and enlightenment of the Buddha), Poson (the introduction to Buddhism to Sri Lanka) as well as Diwali (the Hindu festival of Light), Thai Pongal (the Tamil harvest and thanksgiving festival), Ramadan (a celebration to signify the end of the month of fasting for those following Islam), and the Easter and Christmas celebrations, that are usually quite commercialized.

An unexpected treat in Galle is the Dutch Reformed Church which was initially built in 1640. The building standing in the church yard is the ‘newer’ church which was constructed in between 1752 and 1755. With its paved gravestone flooring (some of them date back to 1662) courtesy of the Dutch cemetery the caretaker will give you a mini-tour and point out all the places behind blocks of wall and floor where there are human relics entombed. The church organ dating back from 1760 is still in service in the church.

One of the major annual celebrations is the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year, which is honestly not limited to Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindu’s. A list of traditions are followed according to a pre-declared ‘nekath welawa’ or precise times that are astrologically declared as ‘good times’. During the last few years, religious festivals and holy days have been declared as days when there will be no sale of alcohol or fresh meat (no animal slaughter), to keep in line with the island nations religious ideals.


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