Stupas, or dagobas, are very commonly found throughout southeastern Asia. I’d never seen one with legs before my visit to Sambodhi Chaithya, located on Marine Drive adjacent to the Harbor in Colombo’s Fort district.
Sambodhi Chaithya was built in 1956 on a platform supported by two massive interlocking concrete arches. No one is sure why it was designed in this manner, but likely so that it can be seen at a distance by ships as they approach the harbor. The stupa can be entered by climbing 11 sets of stairs (barefoot — no shoes allowed in a stupa — beware of burning your feet on a hot day!), and then crossing a steel bridge as you can see from the photo below. When I visited at dusk, the stupa was about to close for the day so I was spared the work of climbing these stairs after having already been on my feet all day. I imagine the views of the city, harbor and ocean from the top are spectacular.
A stupa is called a chaithya when it’s combined with a preaching hall (i.e. a place where Buddhism is taught). At Sambodhi Chaithya, this hall lies directly beneath stupa. At the base of the stupa, there are grounds you can wander which include a Bo Tree, a number of Marine artifacts dating to the era of Dutch occupation including old anchors, canons and large chains. The Chaithya is close to the Sri Lanka Ports Authority Maritime Museum housed in a former Dutch prison (built in 1676).
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance)