Gangaramaya was originally a small hermitage on a piece of marshy land within the municipal limits of Colombo.
It was transformed into a fully fledged Maha Viharaya with national and international recognition by Venerable Dewundara Jinaratana Nayake Thera, a pupil of Venerable Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera.
Venerable Jinaratana Nayake Thera was liked and admired by Buddhists and non-Buddhists in the area and was able to transform the avasaya into a large temple complex within a very short period. Today, Gangaramaya is a popular place of Buddhist worship with the three main features, Sharirika Dhathu (Physical remains of the Buddha), Maha Bodhi (The Sacred Bo tree) and Buddha Rupa (Buddha images).The main features of the temple include the Viharaya (The main temple), the Chetiya (Pagoda) Bo tree, Vihara Mandiraya, Seemamalakaya and the Relic Chamber. In addition a museum, a library, a residential hall, a three storeyed pirivena, an educational hall and an alms hall are also in the premises. Sri Dalada Kolamba Perahera is conducted in August immediately after the Maligawa Esala Perahera in Kandy
Navam Perahera, which was originally known as Kolamba Perahera is conducted annually during the month of Navam (February) at Hunupitiya Gangaramaya Viharaya and Perahera arrangements are made by Gangaramaya temple and the entire organisation is handled by the young people associated with the temple under the able direction of the chief incumbent of the temple, venerable Galaboda Gnanissara Thera. Originally Kolamba Perahera was conducted in August immediately after the Sri Dalada Maligawa Esala Perahera in Kandy. The occasion for conducting the Navam Perahera was to commemorate the first sermon of Gautama Buddha “Dhamma Cakka Pavattana Sutta” at Isipathanaramaya.
Origins of Navam Perahera
In place of the former Kolamba Perahera an annual pageant was conducted during the month of Navam (February) beginning in 1979 with state patronage of the then Prime Minister, R. Premadasa. The objectives of this pageant are varied. Primarily, it is to venerate the Triple Gem, Buddha, His doctrine -Dharma, and Buddha’s disciples Sangha. Another objective is to commemorate the appointment of Arahants Sariputta and Moggallana by the Enlightened One as his chief disciples (Agra Sravaka). The two most important positions in the Order of Maha Sangha were conferred on Arahant Sriputta (Dakunath Suw) and Arahant Moggalyana (Wamath suw) by the Enlightened One at the first congregation on Navam Full moon Poya day after the Enlightenment
Appropriation and sustenance of traditional dancing and other forms as well as Sinhala culture
Navam perahera is also for the appropriation and sustenance of traditional dancing and other forms as well as Sinhala culture. It is also to encourage talented artistes and to keep their arts alive and be known. Thus Gangaramaya Navam perahera emerged during a time when no Buddhist pageant was conducted within the metropolitan area of Colombo. The Gangaramaya Perahera comprises a multitude of participants who in unison make the pageant magnificent.
"Navam Perahera, which was originally known as Kolamba Perahera is conducted annually during the month of Navam (February) at Hunupitiya Gangaramaya Viharaya and Perahera arrangements are made by Gangaramaya temple"
Various kinds of performers make the pageant colourful. In addition to electric lamps in the streets and special illuminations of the festive days there are torch bearers who provide not only light but also colour to the pageant. Copra or dried kernel of coconut is put into flambeaus and lit to emit flames in order to illuminate the surroundings.
Whip crackers serve a number of purposes. Firstly it is a means of clearing the way for the main perahera. Spectators confine themselves to the pavement and leave the road entirely for the procession to pass without any disruption. Secondly it is a signal that the main procession is approaching. It is also an offering made by sound indicating the majesty of the procession. It is said that even celestial beings hear the sound which is an invitation to watch the procession. Devotees young and old including schoolchildren walk behind the whip crackers some of them carrying flags and banners and trays of flowers.
A significant feature of this pageant is that it is planned and organised in an excellent manner. The perahera parades they a number of streets and the main road in front of Gangaramaya Viharaya and along the Lake Beira - Navam Mawatha. Seating accommodation is provided for the spectators. The Perahera route is determined and the places where elephants, dancers, drummers and torch-bearers, Maha Sangha, office bearers and others who partake in the pageant are well directed. Nothing is left disorganised.
The perahera arrangements are made by Gangaramaya temple and the entire organisation is handled by the young people associated with the temple under the direction of the chief incumbent of the temple, venerable Galaboda Gnanissara Thera- the popular “Podihamduruwo”