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© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Roadside Shrines

There are many roadside shrines  throughout Sri Lanka, where travellers make offerings of small coins to ensure a safe journey. This one is at the top of Ella Road leading down to the Low Country. Drivers and travellers ask for blessings before attempting the descent of the steep, narrow and windy mountain road down into the valley. There are often serious rock falls along this road, particularly after heavy rainfall.

Roadside shrine just outside Tangalle at beginning of  Hambantota Road. All vehicles stop here to pray and make the offerings of small change

A traveller making an offering at a roadside Ganesh shrine to ensure a safe journey. It is common for both Hindu and Buddhist travellers to do this.

(For  further information on the Deity Ganesh, see the section on Deities.)

Roadside Shrines dedicated to Ganesh

There is a famous shrine at Kalutera Temple (South of Colombo). All the buses stop for passengers to make offerings. Along this coastal road to the South there are numerous roadside shrines e.g. at Sennigama ( Hikkaduwa), at the Bodhi Tree Temple in Matara, Dondra Temple,  Dikwella Bodhi Tree Temple  and at  Tangalle at the beginning of the road to Hambantota to name but a few.

Shrine at top of mountain road, Ella. This road snakes dangerously down the mountain to the flat lowlands below. It is narrow, and there are frequent rock falls. Several vehicles have fallen off the side of the road - hence the Shrine. Sometimes a Buddhist monk is in attendance to bless travellers.

The view down the valley from the Ella Road Shrine.

Another roadside shrine in the Hill Country where a traveller is making offerings.

Especially in the Hill Country, North and East where many Tamils live, there are many roadside shrines dedicated to the Deity Ganesh. Hindus believe that the Deity Shiva, commanded his son Ganesh, to stand by the roadside and Ganesh is faithfully adhering to this command.

Travellers pause at these shrines making offerings to Ganesh seeking his  protection  and blessings for their journeys. These shrines are typically located under shady trees and often also have an image of Ganesh.