Exploring from Tangalle Part I: Big Buddha Temple

On the morning that we changed accommodation in Tangalle from the Lonely Beach Resort to the Coppenrath Guest House (find out here why we decided to change) our tuk tuk driver came to pick us up. I had called him the evening before to negotiate a price and to book him. He was there at our door at 9am sharp.

We had agreed that he would take us to Dikwela to see the Big Buddha Temple, and the Dikwela Blowhole and then to take us to Goyambokka Beach for a swim and to see where we would have been staying if we had stuck to our original plan.

big buddha temple dikwela

Big Buddha Temple, Dikwela

What Dilantha didn’t know was that first he was taking us to our new place! He wasn’t expecting us to be ready and waiting with our big backpacks but his face lit up when we told him where we were going.

“My friend owns Coppenrath,” he said excitedly. “We were in school together for five years. Good place.”

So he was more than happy to take us to drop our bags before we set off for Dikwela. Plus it meant he wouldn’t have to negotiate all the pot-holey lanes on the way back.

Big Buddha Temple

Once we had dropped our bags off at Coppenrath, it took us less than half an hour to reach the Big Buddha Temple at Dikwela, an exceptionally weird place that looked like a cross between a place of worship and a building site.

The site is known as Big Buddha Temple locally but is actually called Wewurukannala Vihara. I think it is clear why it is just referred to as Big Buddha Temple, then!

There was no one manning the ticket kiosk so we just wandered through. We were soon stopped and dragged to the makeshift ticket desk inside the main temple where we were made to stump up 200rs per ticket and where I was forced to cover my shoulders with a scarf and my knees with a sarong – good thing I’d come prepared.

Wewurukannala Vihara, Dikwela

Wewurukannala Vihara – the main temple

We were actually both completely blown away by the main temple. I had read a little about it but I was still very surprised at how amazing it was. Toni, who wasn’t that excited about this little excursion, and who would have been just as happy to spend the day on the beach, was equally gobsmacked.

The main room of the temple contained an enormous reclining Buddha statue and a very large seated Buddha as well as many more brilliant statues.

seated buddha, Dikwela

The outer chamber, which was a corridor right the way around the main room, was full of magnificent statues including another large reclining Buddha.

reclining buddha, Dikwela

It was worth the 200rs just to come in this first room. But the ticket included the rest of the complex too.

The Tunnel of Hell

Wewurukannala Vihara, Dikwela

The Tunnel of Hell

Heading towards the Big Buddha itself we came upon a very strange room: it was all concrete and it was long and windowless like a subway (as in underground pedestrian passage under a road, not as in underground train and not as in fast food chain). It was a long, narrow, dingy concrete tunnel. It didn’t stink of piss like the subways from my childhood but there was a nice dog-do on the floor just waiting for a bare-foot visitor to step in – nice. No word of a lie.

At the entrance to this subway-like passage were life-sized statues depicting different forms of torture. One helpful local pointed out that the scenes were representing hell. Yeah thanks, but I think we would have reached that conclusion without any help.

The statues were being punished in the most gruesome of ways: one was being sawn in half by two demons, another had a stake right through the middle and another was having his limbs chopped off. The images were horrifying but it was actually well done.

Wewurukannala Vihara, Dikwela

After the statues, there we pictures on the walls all the way down the long corridor, which were just as graphic as the statues, depicting sins and punishments too.

It was quite an eye-opener. And a million miles from the carefree, sunny day we had left just a few moments earlier.

The Big Buddha

The big buddha

The Big Buddha that gives the temple its nickname

Next we went into another nondescript concrete building. This consisted of small square rooms on top of each other going up and up and up, each connected by a concrete staircase. This building had about as much charm as a multi-storey car park. But covering the walls from top to bottom were paintings in a sequence like a comic strip, depicting different stories.

On the top floor of this concrete box we found ourselves outside, behind the head of the massive seated Buddha which dominates the whole temple complex and gives it its name. We could peer inside the head and see different offerings. It was more than a bit bizarre. The best thing about being at the top was the view.

When we came back down all the steps were were hopping and skipping barefoot across the baking floor tiles when we saw the temple’s elephant chained up around the back playing with a stack of palm leaves.

elephant sri lanka

An unexpected treat!

It was completely unexpected and was a beautiful moment for us but still sad to see such a majestic creature chained up alone like that.

After this visit we went to meet Dilantha again to continue to the Dikwela Blowhole and Goyambokka Beach. But we’re out of time today so I’ll tell you the rest next time. Tune in on Thursday.

I would like to remind you that all the photos used on InMyShoesTravel.com are my own unless otherwise stated.
You can see my whole collection of Travel Photos here.

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About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

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