An Evening at Temple of the Tooth, Kandy

No visit to Sri Lanka especially Kandy, is complete without visiting the Temple of the Tooth. The temple is actually a royal palace complex, a former palace of the Kandyan kingdom, and it houses the relic tooth of Buddha. The relic is very significant in the politics of ancient Sri Lankan kingdom that whoever holds the tooth governs the country. The Temple of the Tooth is also a UNESCO world heritage site.

The first time I came to Sri Lanka in 2009, I had visited this temple during the day. Here’s the entrance of the royal palace complex.

But during this second visit in August 2014, it was different for a change to visit the temple in the evening. As we walked from the temple grounds to the main shrine, we could hear sounds of drums and trumpets, beckoning devotees to come to the temple. Sri Lankans, many of them dressed in white and carried flowers of jasmine and frangipani, hurried past us.

Unlike typical royal palaces (ancient included), the Temple of the Tooth palace complex is not elaborately decorated. The walls are white and are carved with openings which are filled with candles for special celebrations. I can imagine that they look simply beautiful as they glow in the dark, lighting the front entrance. The temple roofs are red. All of these temple buildings are clustered around Kandy Lake.

However, in contrast, the interiors of the temple are richly decorated with wood-carvings, ivory and lacquer.

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So what’s the story behind the relic tooth? According to legend, when Buddha died, his tooth was taken from him at the funeral pyre. It was then hidden in the hair of Princess Hemamali and smuggled to Sri Lanka. This was in 313 AD when the princess fled from Hindu armies who attacked her father’s kingdom in India.

The relic tooth then became an object of great reverence, brought out only for special celebrations and paraded on the backs of elephants. Amazingly, over centuries, the relic tooth had survived numerous attempts to capture and destroy it.

In the Temple of the Tooth, the relic is kept in a 2-story shrine fronted by two large elephant tusks. It is said that the tooth rests on a gold lotus flower, encased in jeweled caskets that sit on a throne.

The highlight of the year when the relic tooth is removed from its shrine and paraded to the public is during Esala Perahera, a 10-day parade of dancers, drummers and elaborately decorated elephants. However, due to the past civil war in Sri Lanka (the Temple had experienced bomb attacks before), the relic tooth is not brought out but only the jeweled caskets to symbolize the tooth.

Prior to our trip, we actually wanted to be in Sri Lanka sometime in early August to experience the Esaha Perahera which might be the largest Buddha celebration in the world. But tickets were expensive costing US$100 per person and hotel accommodation (including guesthouses, hostels) become very expensive. Later we learnt from our guesthouse host, George, that he could have arranged to have cheaper tickets for us, perhaps at US$65. Oh well…

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Useful Information:

Opening times: Temple 5.30am-8.00pm, Puja 5.30-6.45am, 9.30-11.00am & 6.30-8pm,

Entrance fees: LKR 1000

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If you have missed previous posts on Sri Lanka, please click Pleasant in Sri LankaIdyllic PeradeniyaDambulla CavesDreamy Galle Face GreenSigiriya and Polonnaruwa

Broken Bike

Whoa, what happened here? Found this motorbike abandoned on a sidewalk in Fountainhas, the old Latin Quarter in the city of Panjim, Goa. Apart from the missing rear tyre, my guess is, the bike is broken – from the way it was left callously on the sidewalk like bad rubbish. No use to the owner anymore.

(This post is linked to Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Broken)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction

Show us what “refraction” means to you. It could be an image taken in a reflective surface, it could be light bent from behind an object, or it could mean remedial math homework.

To be honest, I don’t know the meaning of refraction. I checked the dictionary and am still uncertain if I understand the meaning. Sounds too technical to me :-) But I gather it has something to do with light and what light does? Hmm, oh well, whatever.

So, here’s my interpretation of refraction. Hope it’s correct. And if it’s not, just enjoy the pics :-)

Pangong Lake, Ladakh

Pangong sparkles in the morning

Pangong sparkles in the morning

Senggingi Beach, Lombok

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Sunrise on Mount Batur, Bali

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Galle Face Green and the beach, Colombo

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In Pictures: Polonnaruwa…and Duran Duran

That got your attention, didn’t it? Well, hold that thought and I will explain shortly :-)

We were on the quest of visiting and exploring UNESCO heritage sites in Sri Lanka. There are numerous world heritage sites here but since we were not full-time travellers on a limited time-off-from-work period, we could only visit a few. The last heritage site we visited before returning to Colombo, was Polonnaruwa. After 2 days of visiting Dambulla Caves and climbing up Sigiriya the Lion Rock in the Central Province, our drive went slightly further up to North Central Province.

The drive from Peradeniya to Polonnaruwa was about 3-4 hours. For this excursion, we had to wake up earlier than previous days, thus we set off at 7am. We stopped en route to have breakfast, and thank goodness, we did as the exploration of this world heritage site required hours under the hot sun and and in a dry environment.

Polonnaruwa was the royal capital of Sri Lanka in the 11th century AD but its origins could be traced even much earlier to 2nd century BC. The capital was strategically important to defend the kingdom of Anuradhapura from foreign invaders so much so it was known as the Fortress City. Based on a pamphlet which I bought from the museum gift shop, Polonnaruwa was at its highest glory due to 3 rulers: Vijayabahu the Great, Parakrambahu the Great and Nissanka Malla. These rulers promoted the growth and development of irrigation works and the overall agriculture of the province; religious activities namely the restoration of numerous shrines; city planning and architecture; and medicine and medical science.

Before we started exploring the sites, we bought entrance tickets at the museum. Ticket costs US$25 and all visitors are required to visit the museum first. I highly recommend this as the museum gives you an introduction to the ancient city, and summarises the historical background of the heritage site. Also, upon leaving the museum, do drop by the gift shop and purchase the “World Heritage Site of Polonnaruwa’ pamphlet because it contains a map of the city. It makes exploration easier particularly for those who do not wish to hire a guide. We chose not to hire a guide as we wanted to travel within our budget. Our driver knew where to take us and although each site has a plague providing information, the pamphlet helped us in getting our bearings right – names of various sites, and the directions on what to see and where we were going next.

It took us about 5 hours to explore the most visited sites. There were many others but were left as crumbling ruins or just an empty shrine. Here are the various photographs I took at Polonnaruwa:

Potgul Vihara Monastery built by King Parakrambahu

It was said that the statue was carved in the image of King Parakrambahu.

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Royal Palace of King Parakrambahu

Shiva Devale No 1

The builder of this Hindu shrine is unknown but it is believed to be dated back to 13th century. The main object of worship still left behind in the shrine is the sacred Shiva lingam stone.

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Dalada Maluva & Hatadage

A quadrangle area containing some of the oldest and sacred monuments in the ancient city. This area was built by King Nissanka Malla and had been used to keep the relic of the tooth of the Buddha.

Rankoth Vehera Stupa

The largest stupa in ancient Polonnaruwa and the fourth largest stupa in Sri Lanka.

Gal Vihara

Commissioned by King Parakrambahu, there are 4 images of Buddha carved out of a single large granite rock. And this is considered some of the best examples of ancient Sinhala carving and sculpture.

Tivanka Image House

Built by King Parakrambahu to house 3 images of Buddha but unfortunately, they are almost destroyed. The inside walls of the building are decorated with frescoes and in bad condition. Hence flash photography is not allowed to preserve what’s remaining of the frescoes.

Ok, so what’s the connection between Polonnaruwa and Duran Duran? As I was doing a little research when writing this post, I found out that Duran Duran filmed the video clip “Save A Prayer” in Sri Lanka including Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa! Duran Duran was my favourite band when I was in primary school (love John Taylor and his hair!) and I have always liked their songs.

In the video clip, the part where they sang on top of huge rock with a flat top – that’s the Sigiriya the Lion Rock – and scenes of the large Buddha statues are from Gal Vihara of Polonnaruwa.

Admittedly, the video clip looks so cheesy now but back then, it was cool and artsy :-) Enjoy!

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If you have missed previous posts on Sri Lanka, please click Pleasant in Sri LankaIdyllic PeradeniyaDambulla CavesDreamy Galle Face Green and Sigiriya

 

 

 

Sigiriya The Lion Rock

Picking up from where I left off in chronicling the Sri Lanka holiday – we saw the beautiful Sinhala frescoes and Buddha statues in Dambulla Caves – we continued to move on to Sigiriya, only just 30 minutes drive from Dambulla.

Sigiriya is a massive rock of 600 feet high and top of the rock was once a palace of King Kasyapa dated back to 5th century, The King built a gateway to his palace in the form of a lion, hence Sigiriya is also called the Lion Rock in Sinhala.

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The entire site was built as a palace and fortress. There were gardens, moats, mirror wall with frescoes. The Lion Gate was built at a mid-level terrace and the palace itself was on the flat top of the rock. Sigiriya is a UNESCO site and apparently was one of the best examples of urban planning in ancient times. Unfortunately, the fortress and the palace were abandoned after the king’s death.

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We arrived there in the afternoon and boy, it was hot. And I wasn’t really in the mood of climbing rocks or hills in that kind of heat but we went anyway. Our host, George advised us that we might not be able to climb all the way to the top as 12 tourists were attacked by wasps 2 days before. We didn’t think much about it – perhaps we were hoping no wasp attack on our day – but we saw signs at the ticketing booth cautioning visitors about the attack. Regardless, we went ahead, hoping that things would change once we arrived at the Lion Gate.

While I climbed up the rock a little slower than my friend who is more, erm, agile than me, I managed to take some pictures of the site and the magnificent view from above.

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Mirror wall with frescoes

Mirror wall with frescoes

My friend urged me to carry on to Lion Gate, and I would never forget her comment, “C’mon, Kath, let’s go all the way to the top! If the old aunty can walk up without any shoes, then we can definitely do it!” I love her optimism :-)

And so we did reach at the Lion Gate…but there was some kind of restlessness going on at the mid-terrace. The authorities had set up a shack containing hooded jackets. The jackets must be given to visitors who wished to continue to climb to the top, knowing full well that there were many wasps flying around. We saw visitors climbed up the stairs but hesitated and stopped halfway. Some came down immediately. Those already at the top wanted to climb down but waited too. And it was all because of the wasps. There were many wasp nests on the rock – huge ones (see black dots on the rock in pic) – we overheard conversations from those who gave up climbing that they could not continue because the wasps were flying straight at them.

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My friend desperately wanted to climb while I opted to wait for her at Lion Gate – under the shade :-) She took the hooded jacket and waited for the right moment to climb. But when she saw people stopping half way and returning back, she didn’t want to take the risk. As optimistic as ever, she said, “It’s ok, perhaps next time!”

P.S. I still prefer the Dambulla Caves visit in the morning…hahah!

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Useful Information:

Visiting Hours: 7.00am-5.30pm daily

Entrance Fee: US$30

It takes about 3-4 hours to climb the rock.

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If you have missed previous posts on Sri Lanka, please click Pleasant in Sri LankaIdyllic PeradeniyaDambulla Caves and Dreamy Galle Face Green

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Dreamy on Galle Face Green in Colombo

This week, we’d like to see an image that looks dreamy to you.

I was contemplating whether I should scour my archives for “dreamy” photos or feature the ones from my recent trips. I have had been travelling quite a bit these past 3 months – jet-setting to Bangkok, Sri Lanka, Mumbai, Aurangabad and Goa – and have only returned to home yesterday. As such, dirty clothes are in the wash, luggage bags still unpacked and photographs not filtered (especially the bad ones to be deleted).

After much contemplation (while catching up on blogs I follow), I have decided on newer photos – the “dreamy” photos of Galle Face Green in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Galle Face Green is a park which faces the Indian Ocean and is located in the heart of the financial and business district of Colombo. Every evening the Green is crowded with locals enjoying the waves and sea breeze, watching the sunset, flying kites and picnicking.

I still remember that evening at the Green. It was 6pm local time on a Thursday. Sri Lankans from all walks of life came to the Green to wind down and relax. Here’s the scene: Families have picnics. Kids fly kites or play catch. I hear laughter and giggles. Kids run around with not a care in the world. Office workers in their shirts, ties and laptop bags, stroll down the promenade. Some walk alone with ear-phones plugged in, perhaps listening to music. Or some walk in groups of friends. Couples hold hands, watching the sunset and feeling the sea breeze (or love, I should say :-)) Joggers and brisk walkers get their exercise on the promenade. More people are at the beach – children make sand castles or jump when the waves roll in and crash at the shore, monks also enjoy the good fun even though their saffron robes get wet from the ocean waves. Tourists, like us, admire this care-free environment, smiling and laughing, wishing we could have the same lifestyle back home.

My friend and I were asking ourselves, what would Malaysians do at 6pm on a Thursday evening? Since we both live and work in Kuala Lumpur, we knew that 6pm on a weeknight, Malaysians would be stuck in a traffic jam. Or still stuck in the office due to meetings or choose to stay in the office or go to a pub to have a tipple while waiting for traffic to subside. A tipple sounds like a better idea but to do that in the long run costs money! And as for Malaysian kids flying kites or playing catch? I haven’t seen that for a long time especially in the city. I reckon they are too engrossed in Ipads or Iphones.

We were very grateful for that evening at the Green. We were very pleased to see this in Colombo…in Sri Lanka the island where it had gone through many decades of civil war and strife. The war is indeed over, and many Sri Lankans are looking forward to the future but at the same time, perhaps they are also catching up on what was lost – innocence and happiness. We, on the other hand, come from a country which is losing its innocence and happiness due to rapid urban development and the social ills that, unfortunately, come along with the rat race.

The moments at Galle Face Green made me feel “dreamy” for the future, not only for Sri Lanka and Malaysia, but for the rest of the world.

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Dambulla Caves: Buddha Statues and Impressive Sinhala Art

We felt fresh in the morning – had a good night sleep and ate a hearty breakfast of toast, egg roti and a cup of tea (lots of tea here in Sri Lanka!) – and most of all, we were excited. We had read quite a bit on the UNESCO sites prior coming to Sri Lanka and it was our intention to see these places. We discussed with our host’s daughter, Michelle, the evening before, and she offered to arrange for a private car and driver to take us to Dambulla Caves, Sigiriya and Kandy city for US$65 a day. As it turned out, the driver was our host himself – George – we finally met him at breakfast.

George has been in the tourism industry for almost 20 years now, and he is actively running Kandy Guesthouse and Michelle Tours. George and Michelle made every effort to ensure their guests are well taken care of in the guesthouse and provided excellent service in their tour excursions for guests, not only within the nearby province but pretty much everywhere in the country. If you would like to know more about their tours, please click Michelle Tours and their reviews on Tripadvisor.

The journey from Peradeniya to Dambulla was about 2 hours (or perhaps a little longer as we stopped for more tea!). The first UNESCO site we visited was Dambulla Cave Temple. Situated in the central province of Sri Lanka, it is the largest and most well-preserved cave complex in the country. The main attraction is the 5 caves which contain statues and paintings so well-preserved in terms of design, pattern and vivid colours but according to Wikipedia, there are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. The statues and paintings are related to Buddha and his life.

Golden Temple Sri Lanka

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Ideally, we should have hired a guide but decided not to as we wanted to appreciate the incredible Sinhala art frescoes in the caves by ourselves at our own pace. However, I have read the historical facts about the caves, and here’s a summary:

-          The caves were converted into temples by kings way back in 1st century B.C. It was also believed that the caves became an established monastery by the 2nd and 3rd century B.C.

-          Kings continued to build temples and added statues in the caves as centuries went by, thus by the 11th century, the caves became a major religious centre.

-          By the 18th century, Kandyan Kings restored and painted the caves.

The most impressive is the 5 caves under a huge overhanging rock and they were converted into shrine rooms. To access these caves, we climbed up Dambulla Rock – the climb was not steep, instead it was gradual (some locals especially old men and women climbed up bare feet!), and the view was amazing. We saw a panoramic view of the surrounding flat lands of Dambulla. Although the weather was hot and humid, there was some breeze, thus giving us some respite from the heat.

Dambulla Cave Temple

Cave No.1 (Dev Raja Viharaya or Temple of the King of the Gods)

Cave No. 2 (Maha Raja Viharaya or Temple of the Great King)      

Cave No. 3 (Maha Aluth Viharaya or The Great New Temple)

Cave No. 4 (Pascima Viharaya or The Western Temple)

Cave No. 5 (Devana Aluth Viharaya)

Is the smallest of all shrine rooms of the Dambulla Cave Temple

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If you like to read more in detail about each cave, please click The Rock Temple.

As we continued to travel for the next couple of days, we found that, overall, the Dambulla Cave Temple was the real highlight of our  trip, and it was a real treat. :-)

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Useful Information:

Visiting Hours: 7am-7pm daily

Entrance Fee: LKR 1,500 (US$11.50)

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If you have missed previous posts on my Sri Lankan travels, please click Pleasant in Sri Lanka and Peradeniya