Located in the suburb of Boralesgamuwa, just outside of Colombo, Bellanwila is one of the most sacred Buddhist temples. The Bodhi tree on premises is one of the 32 (thirty two) saplings which sprang from the sacred Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, which were distributed throughout the island over 2000 year ago.
There are no clear records when the temple was built, however according to the ancient texts Sinhala Bodhivamsaya the Bodhi tree was brought and planted in Bellanwila 2000 years ago. It is not certain why Bellanwila was selected to plant the Bodhi Tree, while scholars have forwarded various hypotheses, including that there might have been a hollowed shrine back in the day.
Bellanwila is mentioned in the literary works of the 15th century, during the Kotte period. Kotte was the capital of Sri Lanka during this time, under the reign of King Parakramabahu VI (1412-1467). He was the last native sovereign to unify the whole island. During his time Buddhism rose to greater heights. The temple however was neglected during the Portugese invasions in the latter part of the 17th century. In 1850 the temple was rediscovered by a monk known as Thengodagedara Hamuduruwo.
It is important to note that when you are visiting the temple to wear the Vatican dress code.
Esala Perahara / Esala Festival
The Esala Perahara (procession) of Bellanwila is one of the most famous annual festivals in Sri Lanka. The festival was started in 1947 under the instructions of Bellanwila Somaratana Nayaka Thera. The festival is held throughout a week during the month of August or September every year. If you are in Colombo during August this is a not to miss event.
The temple is located next to a lake known as Weras Lake, which is a popular attraction in the area. The walking / cycling trail around the lake is popular among locals. Weras Park has an outdoor food-court, a great hangout spot in Colombo.