Romantic Sri Lanka
We are almost empty nesters now. Probably, this must be one of the reasons, apart from our love for the world history, that my husband and I, begin to get restless in the solitude of our home, after every two-three months and we sit with our atlas, to discuss, sketch and plan yet another journey, to savour the taste of rich heritage and culture of faraway lands. After Europe and South- East Asia, this time we converged our desire on “The tear drop of India”, which is also known as “The pearl of the Indian Ocean”. I know you guessed it right! Yes, that’s Sri Lanka!
Before embarking upon any journey we have a habit of doing a lot of home work and research. As usual, this time also, we did an intensive study on Sri Lanka and it was decided that from Colombo we’d take The Cultural Triangle, which included Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Neuwara Elliya, Kandy, Galle and back to Colombo, from where our flight back home would be scheduled.
Sri Lanka soon became a live topic of discussion with our friends and folks. Our growing passion must have been infectious because it soon roped in our friends into the loop. One of them happened to be an architect by profession and a traveller too. He became the architect of our tour to Sri Lanka. Well read and researched young man is a great photographer also. Whenever we go through those thousands of snapshots now, we are amazed by the fact that he actually took immense pains, all by himself, to click almost every moment of our stay. An enterprising young man with extensively vast knowledge and great depth, happily assuming the role of our tour guide, what else we wanted, we were on cloud nine! The other friend of ours was a couple with a golden heart. Their sense of humour kept us high spirited throughout the tour and their sense of responsibility, care and compassion, punctuality, prudence and warmth of heart enabled us to gather around each other emotionally as well. The generosity of their hearts is indeed powerful, it enabled us to reorient ourselves and improved our functioning as an indispensible group. Their very presence made this our dream trip. Really it’s the heart that is important.
This year in February, we set out on our planned trip to Sri Lanka with great enthusiasm. We had heard of heavy rains there in the news, the night before. We were also aware of the mosquito menace there. We knew that the Lankan food is unusually hot and spicy. But our spirit and passion was so high that nothing could dampen our zeal. I would say, our life condition was so high that it compelled the protective forces of the universe to watch over us and to ensure that we had a safe, happy and a comfortable stay.
We touched the Sri Lankan soil at Colombo as tourists. They welcomed and pampered us with warm smiles as precious guests and we travelled the length and breadth of this island country as travellers. Never before we had ever felt like a tourist, a guest and a traveller, all at the same time. It was an incredible experience.
The details of our ten days trip are difficult to summarize in words because each place is as huge as the civilization itself, where every sand particle has a story to tell. Moreover, I am too insignificant and ill equipped to do so. These factual details can be read on the internet anytime. Still I’ll surely touch upon some of the important places we visited with my limited resources of knowledge. You might ask “What compelled you to write then?” Our experience! Traversing through the serenity of the ruins, unspoilt beaches, rare scenic beauty, wide-smooth roads, low population density, we felt a sense of bliss. It was all so real, so magical and mystic that we wished to offer our debt of gratitude by portraying the essence and the spirit of this majestically mystic island country and its beautiful people, as our tribute that not only enriched and enlightened us but also left us speechless, spellbound and bedazzled.
.We would call “Sri Lanka – The true wonder of Asia!” Do you know why? Because of its people! We found Sri Lankan people good, honest, very friendly, hospitable and warm but what drew us towards them was their Smile. We felt that they had an urge for this lovely welcome smile, which was quite infectious too. We also discovered their innate willingness to lend a helping hand, no matter what. No wonder Sri Lanka is declared as “The Most Preferred Destination in the world!”
It’s the people, who are the basis of every culture. They are the protagonists of every society and nation. When they align their hearts and minds with the spirit of creating constructive values of cooperation, mutual prosperity and respect for life, in “Be it yours or mine” attitude, then even the harsh brute realities begin to give way to spiritual upheaval. That’s how we found them....truly, truly spiritually liberated souls! Throughout the island, the influence of Buddhist heritage was vividly alive and visible. The islanders practice Theravada Buddhism. Every religion and its philosophy are profound and respect worthy. We believe they exist to give direction, meaning and a sense of purpose to our lives. Sri Lankan people taught us how to uphold religion and its philosophy in one’s own life, in all its merit. We felt that they walked on their legs with Shakyamuni Buddha and his teachings in their heart. The outcome had to be so fantabulous. The majestic expression of their living humanism came straight from their hearts and illuminated the environment around them. We salute them and their purity of spirit with deep respect.
From the ancient times of the silk route through the world war-II up till today, Sri Lanka with her deep harbours has been a place of strategic importance. No doubt the unique sight of attraction in Colombo was none other than the Indian Ocean. Such aquamarine blue waters lent a mystically romantic sight. On the embankments of Galle Face Green we stood still for quite a while, to deeply breathe in the smell of its soil, to hear the whispers of the thunderous heart of the ocean. So vast and infinite,,, and eternal. It roared, it sparkled, it greeted us in all its glory. The waves emerged from its bosom in great excitement and it appeared, as if they were running towards us to hold us in their embrace. The ocean also seemed to say, “I think I matter. My actions matter. I love to be me. I roar to express the magnificence I possess”. How true! With my hand on my heart I bowed before its greatness, in reverence. In case you happen to visit Sri Lanka, do stand still on the shores of Indian Ocean, I’m sure you too will enact the same drama.
The next day we left for the 2000years old ruined city of Anuradhapura. UNESCO has declared it “An Ancient Historical City.” It was the spiritual heart of The Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. For 1200 years it survived as the capital of this island country, from 3rd century B.C to 993 century A.D., till it was destroyed by the Cholas. It used to be Asia’s great metropolis, had vast monasteries, elaborate palaces, huge water tanks and large dagobas. Though the palaces and monasteries are all in ruins today but when we saw that there still exist places of religious worship amid decay and destruction, it brought the twinkle back into our eyes. We found that Anuradhapura wasn’t just about monuments it was the spiritual hub and even today remains a sacred place of spiritual tidings.
The Golden Dambulla Rock Caves at Dambulla has five caves built into the rock. These rock cave ceilings are colourfully painted with intricate patterns of Buddhist images following natural contours of the rock. The golden sheen of these paintings illuminates the rock. The access to these caves is through a flight of say about two hundred steps and almost eighteen terraces. The panoramic view of the surrounding dense forest, rain water reservoirs, flat land and Sigiriya, from the uppermost terrace is breath taking.
At Sigiriya – The Lion’s Rock Fortress was simply an amazing sight. The climb takes more than two hours, which is not only exhaustive but also dangerously obstructive, due to the presence of many bee hives. It is said it’s still worth the effort and pain. The surrounding network of gardens, reservoirs and other structures are reflect the harmony between Life and its Environment.
Kandy, lies almost in the centre of The Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka.It is the second-largest city of the island and the capital of Central Province of modern Sri Lanka. It is the last kingdom of the country. It was conquered by the British around 1815. Kandyans are proud of their heritage. They uphold Buddhist values and as it lies in the cultural triangle the authorities try to retain the values as much as possible. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It has a beautiful lake in the centre.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is an orphanage, nursery and a place of
captive breeding at Pinnawala village through which the Oya river flows. The orphanage is very popular among local and foreign tourists. The main attraction is the opportunity to observe the bathing of the elephants in the broad river bank. It’s also the time when the herd interacts socially, bathing and playing. It’s a great sight.
As we were coming towards the end of our tour, I was constantly reminded of these lines which I had read sometime back, “I am the traveler. I am the path. I am the destination. I can’t afford to lose my way to myself.” So I asked myself “What am I carrying back home apart from Ceylonese tea?” My heart said “Ceylonese captivating SMILE!” I’m sure along with me; our entire group must have brought back home your spirited smiles. Wearing it most of the time now makes me realize how beautifully it can put everyone at ease and also can open the door of friendship.
Keep smiling O My Romantic Sri Lanka! May you be at peace from within and without!