About six miles from Colombo, the Kelani Vihara derived its sanctity in the Buddhist era 2531, with the third visit of the Buddha to this country. By the time the Portuguese conquered the country and destroyed the temple built on the spot, considerable land had been donated by the kings to the Kelaniya Vihara. In 1767 the Dutch permitted King Kirthi Sri Rajasingha’s to develop Kelaniya Vihara. The existing paintings and sculptures are recent possessions, belonging to the 18th century and early 20th century.
The temple is a splendid example of Buddhist architecture and art. Hindu deities carved into the rock surface. Ancient Sinhala designs, patterns and carvings, illustrating garlands of flowers, decorate the pillars. The walls are embellished with murals from the life of Lord Buddha, Buddhist legends, and history.