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August - September 2009


Travel

The Pearl Island: SRI LANKA

by Bajrang Bahadur Mathur


Sri Lanka is very much on the tourist map. It lies only 30 miles off the coast of India and is surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. It is said that Sri Lanka means ‘Splendid Land’. This small island is rich in culture with superb sightseeing. The Landscape is varied with tropical dense jungles, rolling lush green hills, terraced prime tea plantations, palm fringed sandy beaches, but most importantly it includes a wealth of ancient archaeological monuments, historic and cultural places. It is also famous for its Tea, Spices and gem markets. There are so many attractive places in Sri Lanka and in the short space of time of twelve days we managed to see quite few of them.


Lanka calling: The beaches are one of the many highlights of the island

Colombo: It is the Capital City and also a financial and commercial centre. The city displays a happy mixture of old and new buildings. The Pittah a is vibrant area in the old part of the town with attractive shops, Buddhist and Hindu Temples, Churches, Mosques, the Old Parliament Building, the Zoo and museums etc.

Anuradhapura: is the most celebrated ancient cities of Sri Lanka which dates back to 4th century BC. It was the original Capital of the Sinhalese Kingdom and remained so, for more than 1000 years. Historically and culturally the most important attraction of the city is a ‘Bo-Tree’. This tree has been grown from a sapling of a sacred tree in Bodh Gaya, Bihar in India, under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment some 2500 years ago. There are many other early monuments in and around the city including palaces, buildings containing Buddhist relics, pleasure gardens, ponds and decorative water tanks.


A royal bathing tank meant for the Queen

Polonnaruwa: became the 2nd Capital of Sri Lanka in medieval period. Its ruins tell the storey of the grandeur of the Royal Citadels, pavilions and water reservoirs including a lotus pond. Gal Vihar is a rock cut Buddhist shrine containing sculptures of Buddha carved out of a single block of single granite.


Peace here: The famous reclining Buddha statue

Sigiriya: The complex of Sigiriya consists of red stone central rock which is 600 feet high, and two large rectangular landscaped areas which are surrounded by moats and ramparts. This ‘Lion Rock’ dominates the surrounding floor of the rainforest which is teaming with wildlife and exotic flora. At the summit of the rock a fortress and a palace were built some 1500 years ago. Whilst going up, beautiful and lively fresco paintings can be observed in the niches of the rock.

Dambulla: is famous for well preserved cave temples. Some of the fresco paintings are 2000 years old. In addition there are numerous sculptures which depict the life of Buddha and Hindu Gods.


The ruins of a palace

Kandy: This is also an ancient city and it has preserved its colonial culture. This picturesque lakeside city is the 2nd largest in Sri Lanka as well as being its cultural centre. The Temple of the Tooth, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the main attraction. It is said that Buddha’s tooth was brought to Sri Lanka in the 4th century and ever since enshrined here in a glorified manner. The magnificent shrine is under a golden roof which gives prominence to the temple from all around. Religious service is held three times a day with traditional music. The Royal Botanical Gardens in Kandy with its superb Orchid House is considered to be one of the finest in the world.


A sketch of Mahaveli river in Kandy

Nuwara Eliya: is a beautiful hill station from the colonial times. There are manor houses, clubs, and gardens which were built by the British in the 19th Century in Tudor, Georgian and Victorian styles. The town is surrounded by lush green hills and valleys which are practically covered with Tea plantations. Finest and prime tea is produced here which is exported all over the world.


The taste of Sri Lanka: View of a tea plantation

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage: is situated some 80 Km to the north east of Colombo and was established by the Government in 1975 on 25 acres of lush green forest to house young and wild elephants who were either abandoned or injured. About 70 young and old elephants are housed here. It is now considered to be a successful breeding centre. This is a must see place where baby elephants can be seen being fed by bottle milk and herds of elephants are given a bath in the river.

Gale: is the historic fort where the Portuguese and Dutch Fort still dominates the skyline of the city.It has retained its harbour and the lighthouse. There is a turtle hatchery and a mask factory nearby which are worthy of a visit. Between Gale and Colombo There are quite a few beautiful beaches including Bentota and Beruwela.

In this small and glorious island there is so much sightseeing to do, but it is the historic places from the bygone era which impressed me the most.

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