The Japanese Peace Pagoda, Galle

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January, 2022

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Whilst staying in Galle, we visited the Japanese Peace Pagoda, one of only five in Sri Lanka. It’s located out of town on Rumassala Hill, so your own transport is required as from the main road, it would be a good 20-minute walk up a steep narrow track, particularly in heat. Situated on either side are Jungle Beach and Unawatuna Beach.

The pagoda was built in 2005 by the Japanese order of Buddhist Monks, Nipponzan-Myōhōji, as part of a plan to build temples promoting peace in conflict zones (the Sri Lankan Civil War was raging at the time). It was designed to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds and unite them in their search for world peace.

As at all Buddhist temples, we removed our shoes at the entrance and immediately wished we’d worn socks as the tiled floor had become hot in the sunshine. The towering white stupa was stunning against the blue sky and sea, and we had wonderful views across the bay back to Galle and the fort.

As we circled the stupa, with its four golden Buddha statues, signs in English told the story of the birth of Prince Siddhartha, His Enlightenment and finally, the attainment of Parinibbana, or nirvana after death.

Below, and to the right of the pagoda, was a marble monument in two-tone grey – a memorial to lives lost in the 2004 tsunami. However, it didn’t seem easy to climb down to, so we didn’t explore further.

Nearby was another temple, Sri Vivekaramaya of Rumassala, where underneath a painted wooden construction was a statue of Hanuman, the Indian monkey warrior god. In the right hand he held aloft a piece of the Himalaya mountain – according to the Indian epic poem, the Ramayana, Hanuman went to India for medicinal herbs but unable to find them, he brought a part of the Himalayas which he accidently dropped at Rumassala.

Whilst this was an interesting excursion if you are passing or are using the nearby beaches, it is probably not worth trekking just to see it.

Helen Jackson

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