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Exhibition of Serigraphs

Art & Culture

Your essential guide to Sri Lanka's art, culture and history

By Time Out editors

Art and Music

Art Painting

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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Sri Dalada Maligawa

Art Kandy

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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Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu Church

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Mannar

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

Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil in Jaffna

Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Jaffna

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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Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya

Art Boralesgamuwa

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

Paradise Road is a shop in Colombo
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Paradise Road

Shopping Art, craft and hobbies Colombo 7

Paradise Road is not only an exquisite homeware store, but over the years it has risen to the status of a tourist attraction, deservedly so. Paradise Road houses truly unique one-of-a-kind products, from rustic furniture pieces, to elegant porcelain, Paradise Road is an absolute delight to wander in and explore. The store’s interior channels a grunge Mediterranean atmosphere with dark corners, stone walls and seductive scents. The second floor has an extensive collection of linen products. Take note however that the prices here tend to be on the higher end of the spectrum.

©BT Images


Shopping Art, craft and hobbies Colombo 3

Conveniently located along Galle Road, Colombo, the intricate detailing of Plâté studio, from grand wooden stairways to the antique photographs that adorn the walls, gives the feel of a time capsule that exalts the colonial grandeur. The legacy of Plâté dates back to the 1890s, when a young European couple travelled to Sri Lanka. Enthralled by the island’s natural splendour and cultural heritage, they were inspired to pursue photography as a career and establish the studio. Plâté is a treasure trove, which preserves the aura of the colonial period. They have an array of vintage pictures in sepia tone that provides a glimpse of the bygone times. These photographs capture Ceylonese industries from historic places. One could easily be amazed by the collection at Plâté, as photographs of the same scene captured over a number of years give a perspective of how the island has changed over the centuries. Plâté’s collection of Chinese blue and white pottery ceramics and porcelain is an absolute delight. The products they provide vary from British art materials, to crochet works from the south, vintage timepieces to bohemian curios. Their traditional setting is maintained with classic furniture, expressive paintings and miniatures. Plâté offers a unique experience to their clientele with a cluster of antique and modern selection of mementos. It is a place one must visit to witness an intriguing fusion of the past and the pres- ent expressed through excellent artistry

Suriya Collection Sri Lanka
Viran de Silva

Suriya Home Décor

Shopping Home decor Colombo 5

Suriya Home Décor, one of Sri Lanka’s leading lifestyle stores, displays a timeless palette of innovative and locally-made products at its boutique store located in Layards Road. The store exudes a warm, homely, atmosphere with beautifully-crafted decorative household accessories and quaint curios. Created by traditional artisans and craftsmen, the Suriya Collection propagates the concept of tapping into Sri Lanka’s rich heritage and using everything that is local to blend with modern designs. With this fusion of Sri Lankan designs and contemporary craftsmanship, Suriya caters to the individual tastes of its customers. The custom-made furniture is available in a variety of exquisite finishes and bright colours to enliven any domestic interior. The intricate designs of home decor, including the comfortable sofas, authentic wooden sculptures and serene images of the Buddha, accentuate the flamboyance of the household. Suriya Home Décor, also offers a wide range of handloom upholstery and curtain fabric with doses of eye-catching hues that promise a visually-compelling space. The sleek tables and chairs made of jack and teak wood together with the antique- inspired recreations of temple art in the Pettagama range of chests and paintings radiate a pleasing contrast in the living space. Perceiving outdoor areas as extensions of interior living spaces, the store offers a range of outdoor decorations. Whether to lounge outdoors or dine al fresco, Suriya has authentic d

Selyn is a handloom store in Colombo
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Shopping Boutiques Colombo 5

Selyn features a collection of handloom products from textiles, sarees, curtain fabrics, bed linen to soft toys and much more. The flagship store is situated at a quaint corner in Fife Road and could be easily located. It is Sri Lanka’s only fair-trade guaranteed company. They also sell a rage of interior décor items, and the prices are moderate. Selyn is recommended for good quality products and unique designs. What’s more, the service is friendly and their staff is always obliged to help you and even offer suggestions on what’s best, if you require their assistance while shopping at the store.


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