This magnificent shrine is located at Adhikari Pattu in Siyane Korale in the Gampaha District and is close to Colombo. Situated in a cradle-like area that feeds on the coolness of the Kelani River, this shrine is revered not only by Buddhists but also by foreign tourists. This beautiful “Kelaniya” is one of the most important shrines in Sri Lanka, spreading the perpetuation of the Buddhist lineage throughout Sri Lanka by polishing the Sinhala Buddhist culture. The Mahavamsa states that Kelani is the oldest city among the cities. The Supreme Buddha came to Sri Lanka for the third time on the full moon Poya day of May in the eighth year of his enlightenment. The Kelani Temple was built in the holy land consumed by the god “Mani Akkitha”.The Kelani Temple was built around the 3rd century BC during the reign of King Yatalatissa by sixty cubits. It was rebuilt by Choratissa, Vijayabahu III, and Parakumbha II. The Kelani Viharaya which belongs to the “Solosmasthana” is also known as “Rajamaha Kelaniya”
During the reign of King Devanampiyatissa, Dhamma activities had a special place. Prince Uththiya then ruled the southern part of the country and this king carried out restoration work. After Uththiya, his cousin Prince Yatalatissa built a five-storied palace in this temple.
During the reign of King Kelanitissa, an Arahant was put to death in a drip of hot oil. The king is angry and has committed this crime on suspicion of having an illicit affair with the queen. It is said that because of this, God became angry and the great sea flooded, the king and the earth sank. When King Dutugemunu ruled Anuradhapura, he made a great contribution to the development of Kelaniya. The Mahavamsa states that when King Dutugemunu died, 500 monks lived there. King Kanittatissa built a shrine in the Kelani Vihara during the period 223-224 AD and offered it. An army camp was established in Kelaniya during the reign of King Parakumbha, that is, from 1153-1186 AD.
Also, King Vijayabahu III built a temple here in his own name. Also, the dagoba destroyed by the Tamils was rebuilt. Kings have always worked for the protection of this temple.
A Faculty of Higher Education named “Gathara Pirivena” has been established under the leadership of Sri Parakrama Walgammul Sangaraja Thero. It was later renovated by Ven. Mapitigama Buddharakkitha Thero.Later, in 1920, the shrine was renovated by Mrs. Helena Wijewardena at the Sedawatte Palace. The precious frescoes of this temple were made by Mr. DR Wijewardena, the second son of Mrs. Wijewardena. These excellent paintings were drawn by Mr. Solius Mendis.
The Buddhist symbol of the Kelani Vihara is displayed and the artistic talents of the Sinhala artist are displayed. There is a reclining Buddha image in this shrine which has enlightened the minds of the Buddhists and made them pure. As soon as a person enters the Buddha’s house through the door, he sees the reclining Buddha statue on the right side of the Buddha house and for a moment he feels that the Lord Buddha is sleeping alive. The new temple and the Vibhishana Devalaya are also very famous places here.
Considering the modern condition of this shrine, there are two beautiful streets. When you enter it and walk around the courtyard, there is a dagoba on the side. Its height is 90 feet. The circumference is 180 feet. This has a moderate Buddhist shrine. Next to it is the Bo tree. On the other side of this ancient Bo tree is the decorated monastery.
An annual procession is held in January at this temple, which is adorned with ornate paintings, stone pillars, and various artists. This spectacular cultural procession is enjoyed by Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike as well as foreigners. The Kelani Temple is believed to be a place of pilgrimage at least once in one’s lifetime and is a popular destination for both local and foreign tourists.
Access to – Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya
The Biyagama road from Peliyagoda on the Colombo-Kandy road can be reached by traveling about 5 km.