You can ignore the quality of the water. What you can’t ignore is the serenity that surrounds you, however brief your stay may be. On the calm waters of Beira Lake is an oasis that offers you some respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. A quiet place to retreat, rest and reflect – Seema Malaka.
A bit of history
The temple was initially constructed in the late 19th century. Sadly, in no part thanks to the marshy ground underneath the lake, it was always doomed to go down under, eventually sinking completely by the 1970s.
Then, in 1976, it was left to the expertise of Sri Lanka’s best-known architect to come to the rescue. Geoffrey Bawa, a strong advocate and proponent of tropical modernism architecture, was hired to construct a new design that would be able to survive the marshy waters. For inspiration, he looked to the ancient monasteries of Anuradhapura, with his own modern touch.
He proceeded to build the temple on three floating platforms, with each platform connected to each other and the mainland by pontoon bridges.
Exploring Seema Malaka
On the central platform, you also get excellent views the lake, with the skyscrapers that seem to be slowly creeping up across Colombo, acting as a backdrop. Irrespective, with the Buddha statues set on the edge of the platform, it makes for an excellent photo-op.
While you are on courtyard platform, you can’t miss the statues of four Hindu gods that Buddhists worship as devas. They are housed in small rooms in each corner of the platform. There is also a Bodhi tree, taken from a branch of the of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura.
The third, or northern platform, is sadly off limits to visitors. It houses several Buddhist manuscripts and only monks have access to this area.
On your way out, there is a trinket seller who sells white threads and a few other religious items. If you feel, for just LKR 50, why not take back a bit of Sri Lanka with you and ask him to tie a pirit nul – a blessing thread. It is a white string which he will tie on your wrist while chants a set of verses. Apparently, it is a reminder of the Buddha’s protective power.
Information you can use
Since I had already purchased an entry ticket when visiting Gangaramaya Temple a short distance away, it allows you entry to Seema Malaka too. Make sure you have your ticket handy, else be ready to pay LKR 300.
To move around, we had hired a tuk-tuk for that afternoon for about six hours. We had negotiated a price of LKR 2,000 with him, which I thought was good value for money.