Colombo, Sri Lanka

The earliest written mention of the port of Colombo may be that of Fa-hsien, a Chinese traveler of the 5th century CE, who referred to the port as Kao-lan-pu. The Sinhalese called the port Kolamba, meaning “port” or “ferry.” In the 8th century CE Arab traders settled near the site of the modern port. From the 16th century onward the port was developed by the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the British, who each in turn established themselves on the island. In 1815, when the Sinhalese chiefs deposed the king of Kandy in the heart of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and ceded his territory to the British, Colombo became the capital of the island. Western influence in the city has diminished since Sri Lanka gained its independence in 1948. The oldest districts of the city, which are nearest the harbour and north of Beira Lake, are known as the Fort and the Pettah (a name deriving from the Tamil word pettai, meaning “the town outside the fort”). The Fort is still a focal point of government and commercial activity, although less so than in the past. The Pettah has become a district of small shops, markets, and sidewalk stalls. [—Text adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008]


A square in Pettah (1, 2)

Mosque in Pettah (more)

Courtyard of the mosque (inside)

Tropical fruits

Hindu temple in Pettah (1, 2)

Sculpture on temple tower (more)

Priests cleaning the statues

Inside the temple (1, 2)

Street in Pettah (1, 2)

In a lane off Sea Street, a
Tamil majority neighborhood

In a lane off Sea Street, a
Tamil majority neighborhood

A tiny temple on Sea Street

Fort Railway station (more)

Colonel Henry Steel Olcott

Breakfast w/ string hoppers,
sambhar, chutneys, vadas

Beans, lentils, pastas, etc.

In the lanes of a Tamil majority
area, Colombo 11 (1, 2)

A temple conducting a puja

With customary fuss and fanfare

To the sound of drums
and nadaswaram

A grocery store

Window shopping in Pettah

Savory snacks

Music CDs for sale

St. Anne's Catholic church

St. Anthony Shrine (more)


St. Thoma's Anglican church (more)

A neighborhood in Colombo 11

Garlands for sale

In a Tamil neighborhood

Hindu temples on Sea Street (more)

Hindu temple on Sea Street

Sweet coconuts

Presidential secretariat office

Office buildings in Fort district

Old Dutch Hospital (more)

World Trade Center

A street in Fort district

Chaitya Road, Fort district

Fort from Galle Face Green

Kids on Galle Face Green (1, 2)

A school picnic

South of Galle Face Green

Food stall on Galle Face Green

Food stall on Galle Face Green

Toys on Galle Face Green

Kids on Galle Face Green

Sunset on Galle Face Green

The National Musuem (more)

Envisioned by "The Right Honorable
Sir William Gregory, K.C.M.C,
Governor of Ceylon 1872-77"

Buddha of Toluvila (800 CE),

Buddha of Toluvila (800 CE),
Anuradhapura, 9-10th cent. CE

Durga of Anuradhapura
10th cent. CE

Vajrapani Bodhisatva of Kurunegala,
Bronze solid cast, 9th cent. CE

Tara of Trincomalee,
Gilt bronze, solid cast, 9th cent. CE

A decorated pillar,
Anuradhapura, 7-8th cent. CE

Sundaramurtiswamy of Polonnaruwa
Siva Devale No 5, 11-12th cent. CE

A Saiva Saint of Polonnaruwa
Siva Devale No 5, 12th cent. CE

Siva-Nataraja of Polonnaruwa
Siva Devale No 5, 12-13th cent. CE

Durga of Anuradhapura
10th cent. CE

Stone toilet with a place for
a water vessel in front (info)

Urinal stone with a Prasada
design, 8th cent. CE (info)

Toilet stone (info,
Anuradhapura sanitation)


Padma-nidhi Vamana Guardstone
Gneiss, 8th cent. CE (info)

Model of an ancient terrace

Fragment of a Buddha head
with halo, 4-6th cent. CE

Samples of foot prints of the
Buddha (info)

Jyestha, an odd sculpture

A pair of surgical scissors and
scalpel, 8th cent. CE

13-14th cent. CE (info)

Bodhisattva Sandals,
9th cent. CE (info)


Throne of the last king of Kandy


Designed in collaboration with Vitalect, Inc.