Art & Culture

Your essential guide to Sri Lanka's art, culture and history
Exhibition of Serigraphs
By Time Out editors |
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Art, Painting

Art and Music

When in Colombo, do not miss visiting the art galleries – featuring some of the best exhibitions of paintings, jewellery and photographs – and the wide array of musical performances.

Art and History

Sri Dalada Maligawa is a temple in Kandy
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Art

Sri Dalada Maligawa

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Situated in Kandy, the last capital of the Sinhala monarchy, the Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Tooth Relic is considered one of the holiest places of Buddhist worship in Sri Lanka. It was built within the royal palace complex in the 17th century CE which, houses one of the two relics of the tooth of the Buddha.  The tooth relic is enshrined in an upper floor chamber, the door of which is covered with gold, silver and ivory. The tooth relic rests on a gold lotus flower and is encased in seven gold caskets studded with precious stones. The Esala Perahera is one of the most colourful religious ceremonies associated with the temple. This annual festival of yore, parades the streets of Kandy for ten consecutive days in August. Decorated elephants, princely men, and torch carriers accompany the tooth relic as dancers and drummers gyrate resplendently to the sound of drums. The Sri Dalada Museum is spread across two floors in the Aluth Maligawa, the latest addition to the Maligawa, and comprises of relics and gifts that were given to the temple

Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu is a church in Mannar
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Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu Church

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Amidst the many legends surrounding the origins of the church the most likely one is that the statue of the Virgin Mary carrying Baby Jesus, arrived in Mannar aboard a ship from either Portugal or Goa. The worship of the Virgin Mary, took root at this spot amongst a small community. In 1670, 20 Catholic families fled Mantai with the miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary amidst Dutch persecution. They had stumbled upon a forest hamlet named Maruthamadhu adjoining an ancient tank, where they had settled and were soon joined by about 700 other Catholics and seven priests fleeing from Jaffna. Among them was a Portuguese named Helena, who created a humble mud structure to house the statue. A strong community, devoted to the worship of the Virgin Mary, took root at this spot. The small church gradually earned repute for possessing the power of healing drawing more devotees to seek refuge. In 1705, it was renovated by Bishop Joseph Vaz who arrived from Goa in disguise to avoid persecution from the Dutch. The church gradually evolved in structure and its famous annual pilgrimage was initiated by the Oblate Bishop Christopher Bonjean, OMI, in 1872. He arrived in 1868, following his missions in India and discovered the small mud church in a state of ruin and extensive renovations were carried out some years later. The magnificent façade, a spacious presbytery, and the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament were added in time.  Every August, the small town of Madhu witnesses the arrival of h

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Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil in Jaffna
Sivashanthan
Attractions, Religious buildings and sites

Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil

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Built in 15th century CE, the Nallur Kovil in Jaffna is sacred to the Hindu believers of Sri Lanka. Incidentally, it was built by the adopted son of a Sinhala King, Parakramabahu VI of the Kotte Kingdom, who built it for the benefit of the Hindu populace of Jaffna after defeating the invading forces of the Vijayanagar Empire of South India. The original Nallur Kovil was razed to the ground by the Portuguese and later rebuilt in an adjacent location by the Dutch in 1734. The Nallur Kovil, set amidst the scorched terrain of the North, still has a sacredness that is radiated in the front courtyard, the Dravidian architecture and the majestic and ornately carved gopuram or tower at the entrance. There are many festivals at Nallur Kovil that attract Hindu devotees from around the world, in addition to the many spectators who take pleasure in the pomp and pageantry of the celebrations.

Bellanwila Temple is a temple in Colombo
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Art

Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya

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The Bellanwila Temple is situated in the suburbs of Colombo, in the village of Bellanwila, nearly three kilometres from the city limits. It has a long and hallowed history due to the narrative surrounding the origins of the sacred Bodhi tree in the precincts of the temple. The Sinhala Bodhivamsaya records that this Bodhi tree is one of the 32 saplings that had sprouted from the sacred Bodhi tree at Anuradhapura planted in the 3rd century BCE. It is believed that these saplings had been distributed at least 2000 years ago, making the Bodhi tree at the Bellanwila Temple even more sacrosanct. The sanctity of this hallowed ground is exemplified by the architecture of the temple, the paintings in the interior and the serenity of the images of the Buddha. It is a place of tranquillity and peace as one walks on the gentle sand beneath naked feet.

Places to shop for Arts and Crafts

Shopping, Art, craft and hobbies

Anuradha Ceramics & The Pottery Shop

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On the second level of the upscale shopping mall Majestic City, one comes across the simple yet aesthetically pleasing outlet of Anuradha Ceramics and The Pottery Shop. One of a kind, the store easily catches the eye of the passer-by, tempting one to stop and browse through the abundance of collectibles. With its warm and homely ambience, the store is an ideal place at which to mingle among a soulful collection of handcrafted products. Ajith Mohan Perera, counting many years of experience, is the founder and designer of Anuradha Ceramics, which offers a charming and wide range of handcrafted earthenware. The company also has a clientele of hoteliers to whom it supplies hotelware as well as spa and bath amenities. At the store, most products are pleasingly arranged on wooden racks, but when going through the items, do not forget to look up at the whimsical wind chimes hanging overhead. The lamps and oil burners are delicate and exudes simplicity. The tasteful array of jewellery is not only authentic in terms of design and concept, but also creates a bold, bohemian statement. The meticulously etched features and effort put into producing the elephant collection promote the necessity for protecting wildlife. The outlet has a range of exquisite mementos, from vases, design plates, cups and saucers to ornaments. One could easily pick up a gift from a range of items to suit the taste of a person who loves exquisite details or is an admirer of minimal embellishments. Inspired b

Country Life is an antique store in Kotte
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Shopping, Gifts and souvenirs

Country Life

icon-location-pin Ethul Kotte

Offers a selection of household and gift items that would enliven your living spaces. What is unique about this store is that it is designed in a manner in which all merchandise are strategically placed to offer a good insight to the customer on everything they have to offer. You can choose your pick from the range of wooden furniture, cement ware, wooden carvings and temple art paintings. This is also the place to go, if you are looking for handloom furnishings and accessories.

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Shopping, Showrooms

EastStar Handloom

They are dedicated to serve a range of quality handloom products. Their collection includes fabrics, sarongs, sarees, shawls, ladies top and beach wraps in an array of colours to aesthetically mix and match. One can choose from a range of soft fabrics with bold and vibrant colours against elegant stripes. Ladies can browse through a range of exclusive silk sarees, cotton sarees, silk cotton sarees, glossy cotton sarees as well as Elenna tops. While men can avail themselves to a fine collection of vibrant sarongs and shirts. EastStar also displays bags, slipper and necklaces to complement the outfit.

Hermitage is a popular antique store in Colombo
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Shopping, Art, craft and hobbies

Hermitage

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Cultural pieces such as beds from Indonesia, mediums of inscription carved into wood, rustic medicine cupboards, printing presses, cart tables converted from actual and ancient animal driven carts brought down from aged alleyways of India are some of the fascinating artefacts that could be found at Hermitage. Valuable art that adorns the walls and the antiques, collectibles and ornaments compete for space and attention at every turn in the labyrinth of rooms of this former house turned shop on Gower Street.

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Shopping, Art, craft and hobbies

Kalaya

icon-location-pin Pelawatte

Every sense, from sight to smell, is touched by the rustic creativity and heritage artistry at Kalaya. The outlet in Pelawatte, Battaramulla swirls with the scent of exotic candles, earthenware and linen. ‘Kalaya’, which means the water pot in Sinhala, was once an essential utensil at homes in Sri Lanka. Similarly, from the logo to concept, the store presents an assortment of tasteful home décor that enhance the unique aesthetics of living spaces with tradition. Kalaya has a wide range of products including furniture, floor mats, linen, outdoor décor and lighting. Each item is unique, inspired by local handcrafts from Sri Lanka and throughout Asia. In terms of the furniture collection, Kalaya has an extensive array that will suit any individual’s taste, be if for an admirer of rustic simplicity or some- one who lives life with a touch of quirkiness. Their ‘Outdoor’ range offers decorative cement-made products. ‘Déco’ features a beautiful selection of vibrant cushion covers, tableware and tea sets with a contemporary twist as well as exquisite ornaments. To add a touch of character to your home, choose from their wide selection of elegant table lamps and novel wall art. The flamboyant block-printed linen bedspreads, colourful table runners as well as rugs are amongst many artistic products displayed at Kalaya. The store also offers a selection of stylish sarongs in stunning geometric designs, each unconventional, versatile and comfortable. For a rustic, artistic sho

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