Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Bijoy Singha's cousin in Sri Lanka !

 Tour diary of Sri Lanka

  

19.1.24 Kolkata (1910 hrs - IST) -Chennai (22 20 hrs - IST) 


20.1.24  Chennai (12 45 hrs - IST) - Colombo (02 05 hrs IST/SST) >Negombo Airbnb (0400 hrs)

20.1.24 Negombo temple >Pinnawala Elephant sanctuary>Dambulla Cave>Sigiriya Night Halt

21.1.24 Sigiriya>Anuradhapura>Pindu-rangala> Sigiriya Hotel Night Halt 


22.1.24 Hotel>Sigiriya > Nalanda Gedige > Hindu Temple >Gems Museum >Cultural Show>Tooth Relic Temple > Dinner> Kandy Hotel Night 
Halt

23.1.24  Hotel>Hanuman Temple > Ramboda Falls>Blue Field Tea Garden>Nuwara Eliya>Sita Eliya> Nuwara Eliya Hotel Night Halt


24.1.24  Hotel>Ambewela Dairy Farm> Strawberry Farm>Nanu Oya Train Station > Ella>Mini Adams Peak>Ella Hotel > Dinner>Ella Hotel Night Halt


25.1.24  Hotel>Nine Arch Bridge > Udawalawe National Park> Hotel at Galle fort > Dinner> Galle fort Night Halt


26.1.24  Hotel>Mirissa Whale watching >Coconut Hill beach > Parrot Hill > Lunch and Stilted fishing in Habaraduwa> Forest Beach Unawatuna >Galle Fort sunset > Galle fort Night Halt


27.1.24  Hotel > Ambalan-goda Mask Museum > Madu Ganga River safari > Lunch>Ahungalla Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Centre > Spice Garden at Bentota > Dinner>Colombo > Colombo Night Halt



28.1.24  Hotel > Colombo National Musuem > Park>Ganga Rama Temple > Mosque>Galle Sea Face >Dinner>Airport


29.1.24. Colombo Airport (0300 hrs)> Chennai (0805 hrs) - CCU (1020 hrs)


Prologue

Poet Michael Madhusudan Dutt had planned to write an epic poem narrating the heroic victory of Singhal (Sri Lanka) by Bijoy Singha. He had researched on the subject extensively and jotted down notes in English, but his untimely death put an end to his magnum opus. Most Bengalis are introduced to the heroic exploits of Bijoy Singha in childhood from the poems of Dwijendralal Roy and Satyendranath Dutta. Bijoy Singha is considered the first historical ruler of Singhal Dweep (Island). According to researchers, Bijoy Singha ruled Singala from 543 BC to 505 BC. However, no concrete details of his background, his birthplace, how he reached the island and his phenomenal rise to power etc can be traced and all we get to know are fantastic folklores that sing paean of his heroic deeds and his mythical rise to power.   Stories of Bijoy Singha’s miraculous feats are written in the ancient Buddhist literary collections, Maha-Vansha and Dweep-Vansha. Hiuen Tsang (also spelt Xuanzang), the Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler, and translator who traveled to India in the 7th century during the early Tang dynasty has mentioned ruler Bijoy Singha’s name in his works. Singhal’s monarch, Bijoy Singha’s exploits have been delineated in the frescos of Ajanta as well. 

Historians do not brush off everything that is written about the great ruler in the mythical stories. In fact, some of the incidents described bear close resemblance to historical facts. 

Maha-Vansha and Dweep-Vansha, the two books relate a similar tale about the origin and reign of Bijoy Singha. 

Sushima was a brave and independent princess of Vanga or Bengal. She was often ridiculed for her confidence and individuality. Saddened by such unfair criticism, Sushima quietly left the kingdom one day and went in search of a new abode. 

During her journey, she met a group of merchants who were heading to Magadh. She joined the group. The group was attacked by a hungry lion at Rarh Desh (roughly south and south-west part of present-day Bengal). The group disintegrated and all the merchants ran helter-skelter for shelter to save their lives. 

The lion carried Sushima to his den and they consummated their marriage. In time, Sushima gave birth to 2 children. Their son was named Singha-bahu and the daughter was named Singha-sibli. Dineshchandra Sen infers the ‘Lion’ that attacked the traders’ group was not literally a lion, but a very ruthless and terrifying dacoit titled ‘Singhawho had attacked the merchants.  

One day Sushima ran away from the lion’s den with her children and headed for her father’s kingdom. Her father, Bangeshwar had died by then and the kingdom was being ruled by Bangeshwar’s nephew. Sushima married him and became the queen. 

Meanwhile, her former husband, Singha reached the periphery of Bangladesh looking for her. He unleashed a reign of terror in the area so his son Singha-bahu was sent to contain him. Singha-bahu killed him in a war.  

Singha-bahu stayed back at Rarh Desh and became the new ruler there. Singhapur became his capital. He married his sister Singha-sibli and she became the queen of Rarh Desh. Singha-sibli had 32 sons and the eldest of them was Bijoy Singha. 

Bijoy was a spoilt brat who had a band of followers and they moved around destroying property, torturing and killing common people. 

The subjects sought the help of their ruler, Singha-bahu but the king failed miserably to leash his unruly son. A disgusted and frustrated Singha-bahu finally tonsured the heads of Bijoy Singha and his friends and drove them out of the kingdom. 

The exiled prince took 3 ships and ventured into the sea from Tamralipta Port (Tamluk in Medinipur) . Bijoy Singha and his 700 followers boarded the first ship, the second carried their wives and paramours and the third ship carried their children. 

Initially, the ships sailed smoothly but a sudden and severe sea storm sent everyone in a tizzy. The 3 ships lost track and each went in separate directions. 

The ship carrying children reached Naggagdweep or Naag Dweep, the one carrying the ladies anchored at Mahendradweep or Mahila Dweep and the one carring Bijoy Singha and his comrades reached Supparak or Suparadweep. 

The inhabitants of Supparak or Suparadweep were very good hosts and took utmost care of Bijoy Singha and his men. But as the saying goes – old habits die hard, Bijoy Singha and his goons unleashed a reign of terror on his hosts as soon as they all recovered. But they were outsmarted by the islanders and finally they had to concede defeat and leave the island.

They set sail again. This time the ship moved southwards. After sailing for days without any fixed destination, they realized their stock of food and water was nearing end and there was no sign of land in the vicinity.  They continued for days and then suddenly land was spotted. This was Ravana’s land, Lankadweep or Tamraparni.  

This land was at that time under the reign of Yaksharaj, Mahakalsena. According to Buddhist literature, the day Bijoy Singha’s ship anchored at Tamraparni, on that very day Gautam Buddha breathed his last at Kushinagar in north India.  

Meanwhile, King Mahakalsena was not at all welcoming and did not approve of Bijoy Singha setting foot on his kingdom.  However, his daughter, Kubeni, fell head over heels in love with Bijoy and she helped him kill her father and become the king of Tamraparni. Bijoy married her and made her his queen. They had two children. 

Bijoy changed the name of the kingdom from Tamraparni and renamed it Singhal, in his family dynasty’s name. 

Meanwhile, Kubeni’s happiness was short-lived. Bijoy was not content with Kubeni and wanted to marry a true blue-blood princess and proclaim her his queen.  He got the opportunity soon and seized it to marry the daughter of the Pandya ruler of Madurai and drove away Kubeni. 

Kubeni went back to her Yaksha family with her children but they did not forgive her betrayal and  killed her. 

Bijoy Singha ruled Singhal for 38 years until his death but he died without any successor. Soon anarchy reigned in the kingdom. Before his death, Bijoy wrote a letter to his twin sibling, Sumitto in Singhapur, requesting him to take over the reins of ruling the island kingdom from him.  

But by then, Sumitto was already the ruler of Singhapur and advanced in years. 

So, he sent his youngest son, Pandu-vasudev to Singhal. Pandu-vasudev reached Singhal and became the next king. Their dynasty ruled the island kingdom for the next 600 years.

(https://www.getbengal.com/details/bijoy-singha-the-prince-of-bengal-who-was-once-the-ruler-of-sri-lanka )

 

Day 0 : 19.1.24 (Fri) CCU- CMB (20.124) – Indigo 6E 1171  @0205 hrs  

 Night Halt at Negombo Airbnb 

Airport pick up @6000 LKR/1500 INR from airport 

(Driver Samantha’s number  +94 76 996 8895 ) 

I  went  to airport straight from office and reached Chennai. In Chennai we had Masala Dosa for around Rs 300. Then we took the flight at 1250 from Chennai for Colombo.

Upon arrival at the Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) airport, Samantha (Driver, arranged by our Airbnb)  dropped us (Arindam and our family) at Negombo Airbnb on 20.1.24 at 4.00 am  (8 Km from Airport). The Plane of Debdatta and Italians was late and they came separately. After dropping us, Samantha again went to the airport to pick them up. We are 10 people - 6 Indians and 4 Italians.



Although it is called Colombo airport , it is around 35 km from Colombo and in fact it is near Negombo. That is why most people from India (taking night plane)  stay at Negombo, on the date of arrival.

Know Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka 75% are Sinhalese and 20 % are Tamil (Hindu + Muslim). The size of population is 22 Million or 2.2 Crore. However density of population of India is only 25% more than Sri Lanka.

70% are Buddhist, 12.5% Hindu and 9.5% Islam

Accordingly to our driver  Rahamath, Hindus are invariably Tamil..

The per capita Income (nominal) is 3,200 USD , which is more than 20% of India, even after the great economic crisis in 2022. Before 2020 it was  almost more than 50%.

The area is 65,00 Sq Km compared to 88,000 Sq Km of West Bengal and 130,000 Sq Km of Taila Nadu.

1 INR=4 LKR. That does not mean things are cheaper than India.

I found Sri Lankans very gentle natured. I have not come across any quarrel, shouting, very few honking of cars and throwing garbage on the street. If truth be told, they are very civilized people, unlike...........We did not understand even for a minute, that there was such a huge economic crisis in Sri Lanka,1.5 yrs back

 

Day 1 :  20.1.4 Negombo > Dambulla>Sigiriya   

Night Halt  at Sigiriya Airbnb owned by Sisira  (Driver accommodation at 1500 LKR)

Leave Airbnb at 0900 hours (Driver Rahamaths’s number - +94 77 754 3463)

We booked the car from Flywings Holidays. Rahamath is the owner of  Flywings Holidays and driver of our car. He is an exceptionally sober driver. I am yet to see a better driver in so many years of travel. He did not lose his temper even for once - though we were very demanding and were not very disciplined .He has exceptional rating in Tripadvisor.We paid him only after reaching Sri Lanka.We paid 60 USD per day plus tips plus his accomodation.

We did  a Half day Negombo tour. We went to Angulimala Temple in Negombo (entry fee LKR 500 or INR 100). We did not have time for Negombo Fish Market and St Sebastain Church or Negombo beach

Breakfast at a restaurant

Some of the group members visited privately owned Millennium Elephant foundation and others visited Government owned Pinna-wala Elephant Orphanage, which has been looking after orphaned or injured elephants. 

In private one, Millennium Elephant foundation, elephants are bathed in turns and the entry fee is 15 USD for all (Saarc + Non Saarc countries) and you can  wash the elephants and ride the elephants. But they have only 6 elephants. There is a canal, where the elephants are bathed.You can even wash the elephants.

In Government run Pinna-wala Elephant Orphanage (within 2 km from each other) you watch the elephant’s bath in the river -  elephant bathing two times in a day 10-12 morning, 2-4 afternoon. But you cannot touch the elephants nor ride the elephants. But there are 20 elephants and area is huge. It is 10 USD for Saarc countries.



 Travel distance between Negombo and Pinnawala : 77 Km

Then we visited the Golden Cave Temple at Dambulla. Dambulla cave temple , also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, is a World Heritage Site situated in the central part of the country.

Dambulla is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock towers 160 m over the surrounding plains. There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over 5 caves, which contain statues and paintings. There are images of the Lord Buddha  as well as various gods and goddesses. 

It is different from Ajanta caves.

Prehistoric Sri Lankans would have lived in these cave complexes before the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka as there are burial sites with human skeletons about 2700 years old in this area, at Ibban-katuwa near the Dambulla cave complexes. It has 5 caves under a vast overhanging rock, carved with a drip line to keep the interiors dry. Inside the caves, the ceilings are painted with intricate patterns of religious images following the contours of the rock.

The Dambulla cave monastery is still functional and remains the best-preserved ancient edifice in Sri Lanka. This complex dates from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, when it was already established as one of the largest and most important monasteries. Valagamba of Anuradhapura is traditionally thought to have converted the caves into a temple in the first century BC. Many other kings added to it later and by the 11th century, the caves had become a major religious centre and still are.



After having dinner at a very nice restaurant in Dambulla ,we left for Sigiriya, which is within 20 minutes from Dambulla. Near the restaurant one shop was selling mask - slightly overpriced.

 Travel distance between Pinnawala and Dambulla:     85 Km

 Highlights of the day

  • Negombo city tour : Angulimala temple
  • Pinna-wala Elephant Orphanage and Millennium elephant Foundation
  • Dambulla Golden Cave Temple

Day 2 :  21.1.4  Sigiriya > Anuradhapura >Sigiriya 

Night Halt  at Sigiriya Airbnb owned by Sisira 

BREAKFAST  PROVIDED

 

8.30 am - Sigiriya to  Anuradhapura   


Officially the entry cost to Anuradhapura is $ 30 USD - which will get you admission to all the sites on the day of purchase. Tickets are available from 8:30 am. There are no demarcation points at the entrances to the old city, so it is possible to enter without a ticket. There are however road blocks around the city - where you will be asked to show a ticket. I have learnt from a blogger from Tourplanner (Fb group)  person without ticket were landed in deep problem. He has advised to buy the ticket on your own.


However, Sri Maha Bodhi (not sure, if it is free), Ruwanwelisaya (Free) and Isumuruniya (200 lkr) are outside and are also the most significant sights in Anuradhapura.  They are not part of 30 USD combined ticket.


Anuradhapura was founded in the 5th century BC and was the Sinhalese capital of Sri Lanka, from the 4th century BC until the 11th century AD, when invasions from South India forced the shifting of the capital. 

Pandu-kabhaya, King of Upatissa Nuwara and the first monarch of the Anuradhapura Kingdom and 6th over all of the island of Sri Lanka, since the arrival of the Vijaya, reigned from 437 BC to 367 BC. According to many historians and philosophers, he is the first truly Sri Lankan king since the Vijayan invasion, and also the king, who ended the conflict between the Sinha clan and local community.


We hired a guide for this tour and paid 5,000 LKR. We first went to Isuru-muni Vihara. Since we did not have enough time, we decided not to go to Citadel and pay super expensive 30 USD (non Saarc) for Anuradhapura. Isuru-muni Vihara is cheaper and has a separate entry fee. The ancient Megha-giri Vihara is presently identified as the Isuru-muni Vihara. (Entry fee is 200 LKR)


It was built by King Devanam-piya Tissa (307 BC to 267 BC) , who ruled in the ancient Sri Lankan capital of Anuradhapura. [Devanam-piya Tissa is a Sinhalese King of the Maurya clan. His links with Emperor Asoka led to the introduction of Buddhism by Mahinda (son of Asoka) in 247 BC. Sangamitra, (sister of Mahinda) brought a Bodhi sapling.]. It is renowned for its stone carvings of which the most famous is one known as the “Isuru-muniya Lovers”. The other carvings are of the Horseman, Elephant, Pond and the Royal Family.  Connected to the Temple is a cave with a cliff above it. A small Stupa/ Dagoba was built on this cliff during a later period. At the picturesque entrance to Isuru-muniya, a rock can be seen on either side of a crevice, and this rock seems to rise out of a pond.

Then we saw Sanda-hiru Seya Stupa or Dagoba (on the way to Sri Maha Bodhi Tree) . The stupa was built in commemoration of the fallen war heroes of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces in Sri Lankan Civil War, which was ended in 2009. It is a white washed stupa. There is no entry fee.

Our next stop is the famous Sri Maha Bodhi. It is a historical sacred bo tree (Ficus religiosa) in the Maha-mewuna Garden in historical city of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.  There is probably no entry fee. We did not pay.  This is believed to be a tree grown from a cutting of the southern branch from the historical sacred bo tree, Sri Maha Bodhi, which was destroyed during the time of Emperor Ashoka the Great, at Bodh Gaya in India.


While entering the tree complex, you will see Moonstone. This is an elaborately carved, half-circled stone adorning the entrances of ancient Buddhist temples and buildings in the early kingdom city ruins of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.


Then we saw Ruwan-weliseya stupa across the wall from Bodhi Tree complex. It is one of the largest stupas or dagobas, which is in the heart of the beautiful heritage city of Anuradhapura. This magnificent stupa was built by King Dutuga-munu, who was hailed to be the hero of the island.

Today the Ruwan-weliseya stupa stands tall with a height of 338 feet and a diameter of 951 ft. However it is a whitewashed stupa. It looks new ! My Italian friends aptly said they do not know the difference between Restoration and Renovation. 

Till today, there are many renovations which have taken place from time which has made the Ruwan-weliseya stupa, one of the most revered and influential areas of worship for the Buddhists in Anuradhapura. 

From the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree complex, we could see Jeta-vana-rama stupa.  Jeta-vana-rama or Jeta-vanaramaya is a stupa or Buddhist reliquary monument, located in the ruins of Jeta-vana monastery in the UNESCO world heritage city of Anuradhapura. At 122 metres (400 ft), it was the world's tallest stupa and the third tallest structure in the ancient world (only behind the two great pyramids: Great Pyramid of Giza and Pyramid of Khafre) when it was built by King Mahasena of Anuradhapura (273–301).

With the destruction and abandonment of Anuradhapura kingdom in the 11th century, the stupa with others was covered by jungle. 
King Parakrama-bahu in the 12th century tried to renovate this stupa and it was rebuilt to the current height, a reduction from the original height. Today it stands at 71 metres (233 ft). 


Anuradhapura does not warrant so much time. It is renovated and not restored. It looks new. The real ruins are basically some scattered bricks. Now I realize, we should have used the time to go to Polonna-ruwa - which is nicer. But my sister who went to Sri Lanka just after me, said  Polonna-ruwa should not be missed. (It has a fascinating history and UNESCO heritage site. The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa is a World Heritage Site and the second capital of Sri Lanka. It was the royal capital of both the Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms for three centuries. Polonnaruwa was first established as a military post by the Sinhalese kingdom. It became the residence of Sri Lanka's kings in 368 AD and succeeded Anuradhapura as the capital in the 8th century. The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa lasted from 1055 to 1212 : source : Gemini)Raja Raja Chola I, built Vanavan Mahadevi-svaram, a Shiva temple at Polonnaruwa named after his queen, which presently is known as Siva Devale.The temple among other contained Ganesha and Parvati statues of bronze. The North and Central parts of Sri Lanka, was under this period ruled under Rajendra Chola I directly as a Chola province (wiki). 


Do not listen to those, who says if you love history go to Anuradhapura. In fact if you do not love history then you will not come to Sri Lanka in the first place (unless you want to go to beach and forest only). Plus it is expensive.


Then we left for Pidu-rangala Rock. On the way we had lunch.  When we reached it is already 4 pm. We decided to go to  Pidu-rangala Rock instead of Sigiriya - because if you’re standing on top of Sigiriya, it means you’re unable to really see how beautiful it is. Moreover it's entry fee is 1/10th of Sigiriya. The two rocks are within 2 Km distance. Hiking to the top is possible for both of these rocks, but hiking to the top of Pidu-rangala Rock is a real adventure and difficult. Sigiriya is easier to climb. Among my group members I was the only one who climbed. Italians friends of course climbed. We saw a nice sunset from the top. From Pidu-rangala Rock you have a wonderful view of Sigiriya. There were many people on the top of Pidu-rangala . Almost all of them are Europeans. Pidu-rangala has an incredible 360-degree viewpoint located opposite the world-famous Sigiriya Lion Rock  (which is only 1 meter taller). Pidu-rangala Rock is an almost 200 m tall rock. It will take around 1 hour to go up.


When I got down,with the help of Giacomo (going down was not easy either), it was dark. 

We had dinner before reaching the hotel.


  

Route : Sigiriya -Anuradhapura - Pidu-rangla-Sigiriya

Highlights of the day

  • Sigiriya
  • Anuradhapura
  • Pidu-rangla

Itinerary : Sigiriya - Anuradhapura (Isuru-muniya-Shri Mahabodhi- Jetavanarama Dagoba) -Pidu-rangla-Sigiriya

 

Day 3  : 22.1.24  Sigiriya to Kandy 

Night Halt  at Hotel-Travellers Nest Kandy 

BREAKFAST  PROVIDED

Sigiriya Lion Rock has a lot of interesting history because it used to be King Kashyap’s palace. Its beauty ( incredible murals, gardens, and ruins) and history led it to be awarded UNESCO world heritage status. There’s even a swimming pool on top of the rock! 

Our Italian friends left the hotel at 5.30 am to Climb Sigiriya Rock. It is around 2.7 Km from our Airbnb. And it will take around 1 hour to go up. It is difficult for me to keep their pace and derail the days plan - so I skipped the hike. But my sister who went to Sri Lanka just after me, hiked both (Pindurangala and Sigiriya) and told me Sigiriya is stunning and should not be missed. 

The downside is that, the rock formation itself is the most impressive part, but because you’re standing on top of it, it means you’re unable to really see how beautiful it is. Additionally, the entrance fee is on the high side, priced at 30 USD (50% for Saarc countries) vis a vis 3 USD (1,000 LKR for non-Saarc countries) in Pidu-rangala. 


According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Cūḷa-vaṃsa, Sigiriya area was a large forest, then after storms and landslides it became a hill. Sigiriya, site in central Sri Lanka, was inhabited since prehistoric times. There is clear evidence that the many rock shelters and caves in the vicinity were occupied by Buddhist monks and ascetics from as early as the 3rd century BC consisting of the ruins of an ancient stronghold. 


Sigiriya was built in the late 5th century AD, on a remarkable monolithic rock pillar. The rock, rises to an elevation of 1,144 feet (349 metres) above sea level and is some 600 feet (180 metres) above the surrounding plain. The Sinhalese King Kashyap I built a palace in the shape of a monumental lion on the several acres of ground at the summit, intending it to be a safeguard against his enemies and made his new capital. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock, he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure Siṃhagiri the Lion Rock. The spectacular terraced summit of the rock covers 1.6 hectares. 


Visitors begin the final ascent to the top through the open paws of the lion, one of the few remaining portions of the palace that are still intact. An open-air spiral stairway leads to a long, sheltered gallery in the sheer rock face with 21 rock paintings/ colourful frescoes of buxom women , popularly believed to represent either apsaras (celestial nymphs/ singers and dancers or King Kashyap’s concubines). Protected from the sun in the sheltered gallery, the frescoes remain in remarkably good condition, their colours still glowing. Modern theory suggests the female forms represent aspects of Tara – a bodhisattva and one of the most important figures in Tantric Buddhism. They are similar in style to the rock paintings at Ajanta in India, but have a specific character in their classical realist style. No one knows the exact dates of the impressive frescoes, though it’s unlikely they date as far back as the 5th century (when King Kasyap reigned).

The Cūḷa-vaṃsa describes King Kashyapa as the son of King Dhatusena. Kashyapa murdered his father by walling him up alive and then usurping the throne in 477 AD which rightfully belonged to his half-brother Mogga-llana, Dhatusena's son by the true queen       
( Kashyap I, is the king’s son by a non-royal consort). This is thought to be the site chosen by King Kashyap for his fortified capital after he had assassinated his father. Today only the low foundations of structures exist, and the remains are visually unimpressive. The capital and the royal palace were abandoned after the king's death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

Mogga-llana fled to India to escape being assassinated by Kashyap, but vowed revenge. In India he raised an army with the intention of returning and retaking the throne of Sri Lanka, which he considered to be rightfully his. Expecting the inevitable return of Mogga-llana, Kashyapa is said to have built his palace on the summit of Sigiriya as a fortress as well as a pleasure palace and moved the capital and his residence from the traditional capital of Anuradhapura to the more secure Sigiriya.

During King Kashyap’s reign (477 to 495 AD), Sigiriya was developed into a complex city and fortress.Most of the elaborate constructions on the rock summit and around it, including defensive structures, palaces, and gardens, date from this period. 

Moggall-ana finally arrived, declared war, and defeated Kashyapa in 495 AD. During the battle Kashyapa's armies abandoned him and he committed suicide by falling on his sword. 




After breakfast we called our Italian friends and met them near the entrance. We decided to do a short tour outside the Sigiriya by auto rickshaw or Tuk Tuk. We took a nice picture of Sigiriya.




 

Travel distance:     63 Km

 

Then we left for Dambulla. On the way to Dambulla, we visited Nalanda Gedige. Nalanda Gedige is an ancient stone temple near Matale, Sri Lanka and its original site is considered the geographical centre of Sri Lanka. The building was constructed between the 8th and 10th centuries with dravidian architecture in (Pallava style) and is believed to have been used by Buddhists.


A pillar inscription of the 9-10th century A.D. that was unearthed from the site revealed Nalanda Gedige was a Buddhist monastery. Also some scholars describe this building as a dravidian architecture dedicated to a Mahayana cult with pronounced Tantric learning and known as an ancient monument of  Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhist affinities.Nalanda Gedige is a curious hybrid of Buddhist and Hindu architecture.There are erotic but eroded Tantric Buddhist carvings, much like the famous ones at Khajuraho in India.

Nalanda Gedige is designed on the lines of a Hindu temple with a mandapa, an entrance hall (originally roofed).

A limited number of the original Hindu deity statuettes exist within the temple, however, a statue of the God Kubera appears on the south side of the tympanum, a feature that can only be seen in Sri Lanka.


After that, we visited a Hindu temple. Muthu-mari-amman Temple or Sri Muthu-mari Amman Kovil is a Hindu temple in Matale, Sri Lanka. The prefix "muthu" literally means pearl. "Mari" means rain and "Amman" means mother in Tamil language. The temple is dedicated to Mariamman, the goddess of rain and fertility.  The land was originally part of a paddy field and was gifted by the owner in 1852.


The current temple was built in 1874, funded by the Nattu-kkottai Chettiar. This temple is used by both Hindus and Buddhists. The temple was originally a small statue under a tree prayed to by the Hindu people, but has been developed by the people in Matale.

Since we had some time, we visited a Gems Museum and Workshop. It was nothing great. The evening Kandyan cultural dance performance started at 5 pm and continued till 6 pm. It was interesting. Then we went to see the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic nearbyIt was the time of evening worship (at 6.30 pm) and it was full of people. You can see the Kandy lake from the temple.


Then after having dinner, at a nearby restaurant (some of us had Indian food), we checked in our hotel.


Distance between Dambulla to Kandy: 86 km

 

Travel Time: 2 hr 30 min

 

Highlights of the day


o    Nalanda Gedige

o    Hindu temple

o    Gem Museum and Workshop

 o   Traditional Kandyan Cultural Dance Performance

o    Kandy city tour  (  evening worship at tooth temple)



Day 4 :  23.1.24  Kandy to Nuwara Eliya 


Night Halt  at Carnation Rest, Nuwara Eliya

 Driver accomodation provided

BREAKFAST  PROVIDED


After breakfast, one can go to the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens in Kandy, before continuing to Nuwara Eliya. We skipped it due to lack of time and one of my friends said you can skip it, if you have seen Botanical gardens in India..

On the way, falls Hanuman Templewhere Hanuman "first came after reaching Lanka ". It is located in a very beautiful place. It is absolutely neat and clean - unlike what you see in India. The view from the temple is breathtaking.



Then we visited Ramboda Falls. There is small entry fee of 100 LKR. You have to hike a little to reach there. It is quite nice.

Our next destination is Blue Field Tea Gardentea factory cum plantation. It was a nice experience. Ranked as number 2 things to do in Nuwara Eliya, in tripadvisor, this tea plantation will not disappoint you.

Upon arrival, guests will be greeted by a uniformed guide who will then begin the  tour. The first stage would be where the tea leaves are plucked and guests will observe the raw leaves, and the buds, being loaded into a machine, in order to  trough / dehydrate it - 25%. The identifiable odour of tea-leaves will be evident once the process is complete.

The withered leaves will then be rolled over and spread on fermenting beds for fermentation process. Next the fermented tea leaves will be dried before entering a firing machine and the leaves are ‘fired’ or exposed to heat in a process called ‘firing, after which they are sorted into various batches depending on quality. Finally the assorted teas are packaged and organised according to their flavours and qualities.

Then we went to the plantation nearby to pluck the tea leaves in the basket. This is not allowed in India. Sri Lanka is definitely a much more tourist friendly country.

At the conclusion of the tour, all the guests are greeted to a complimentary cup of tea at the in-house restaurant. We bought few packs of tea. However it is nowhere near our famed Darjeeling tea. 




Guests can also order various other kinds of tea as well, but for a price. The restaurant also serves a variety of snacks . We had a very nice buffet lunch at the restaurant for a reasonable price. Bluefield Tea Factory is located in Rambado town located 28 kilometers away from Nuwara Eliya City. 

After reaching Nuwara Eliya we went to see the famous colonial era Post Office and posted a letter (Post card+ stamp) to India for 110 LKR.  This is one of the oldest Post Offices of Sri Lanka. One gets transported to the bygone era. The Tudor-era design of the Nuwara Eliya Post Office building, constructed in 1894, is consistent with the creation of many other colonial structures in the town. The structure, which boasts a red brick exterior and a clock tower , offers a glimpse of old-world Ceylon and is a popular tourist destination in this “Little England.” This place is located in the heart of the city, very close to Victoria Park entrance 2.

After that we went to see Seetha or Sita EliyaThis place is believed to be the site where Sita was held captive by the Ravana, and where she prayed daily for her husband Rama to come and rescue her as per Ramayana. There is a stream, by the side of the temple, where that runs from the hill nearby, and said to be formed for the needs of Sita (Devi) during her days at Ashoka Van or Vatika. It is also considered that Sita had taken bathe in this stream. On the rock face across the stream are circular depressions, that are regarded to be the "footprints of Hanuman". In other words this is the place Hanumjan met Sita in Ashok Van. Sita is referred as Sita Devi by Rahamath.


If you have time, you can go little further away on this road and reach Hakgala  Botanical gardens.

On the way back we saw Gregory Lake. It has a steep entry fee and only 15 minutes was left to be closed (7 pm). We skipped it and went back to the hotel to check in and then had dinner in a market place around 10 minutes walk from our hotel.

In the market we met a remarkable person (grocer), who  knows about Mamata Banerjee. If that is not enough, he knows about Nano factory which resulted in Didi's coming to power and even knows about Somnath Chatterjee.

Distance between Kandy to Nuwara Eliya: 77 km

Travel Time: 3 hr.

 Highlights of the day

  • Hanuman temple
  • Ramboda Falls
  • Tea Plantation and Tea Factory
  • City Tour (Sita Eliya or Ashok Bon  or Sita temple - Gregory Lake  )


Day 5 : 24.1.24. Nuwara Eliya to Ella   


Night Halt  at Ella South Star 


BREAKFAST  PROVIDED 


Today we went to see  Ambewela Dairy Farm and Strawberry farm. It is 35 km from Nuwara Eliya. On the way to Ambewela Farm we saw picturesque rolling hills.  Ambewela is a small town in Nuwara Eliya. It’s also a well-known dairy company. The weather in Ambewela is very suitable for dairy farming. This area is also sometimes called the ‘Little New Zealand’ . You pass through the lovely grasslands with the cows from New Zealand grazing freely in the rolling hills - it’s a beautiful sight.  I have not seen this in India.




 
Because of the great climate in the hill country, different types of cattle can graze freely.  The farms have pure bending cattle from New Zealand. The largest grasslands of Sri Lanka also can be found in Ambewela farms. In addition to the cattle, it has rabbits, pigs and goats.

You can have a glass of fresh milk in the Ambewela cafe in the middle of the farm. You can also buy different types of cheese. They are usually cheaper than the supermarkets. 
On the way back, we saw a strawberry form. It was a let down. Most part of the farm is not open to public. They sell pricey ice cream, Waffle etc. We stopped for some time at another tea garden very near to Nanu Oya , from where  you can take the train journey from Nuwara Eliya (station name is Nanu Oya) to Ella. 
The 1st class tickets are booked within minutes 30 days before the date of journey.  It is difficult for a foreigner to buy train tickets. So we have given the task of buying the ticket to our driver.But he failed. So we bought the tickets, over the counter - 3rd class. I did not find much of a difference between the two. The 3rd class seats were not bad. But I travelled the whole 2.15 hours standing. Since I was standing just in front of the door, I could enjoy the beautiful scenery, for which it is so famous. We passed by many tea gardens and tunnels to reach Ella. I am not too sure, if it is more stunning than Darjeeling / Shimla / Araku valley/Konkan Toy Train. I have only faint memory of Darjeeling Toy Train.

 Some of our group members travelled in our car, instead of crowded train and met us at the station. We immediately left for hiking to the Little Adam's Peak in the evening for the  sunset point.

Ella is a hiking hotspot in Sri Lanka. Some of the views from hikes in Ella are phenomenal. The region is well known for its tea plantations and spectacular mountain ranges. If you want to enjoy some of the best views, without needing to hike for hours, Little Adam’s Peak hike is the perfect trek, especially for an unforgettable sunset. This is much easier compared to Sigiriya or Pidurangala. On the way to the peak you will see the tea garden, zipline and a giant swing. The Little Adam`s Peak got it`s named, after it`s big brother, the Adam`s Peak, because of the similar shape. Adam`s Peak is further west in Sri Lanka, close to Nuwara Eliya, and is 2243 m high and a much more exhausting and more challenging climb! 

After spending some time at the top, we checked in to our resort. Then around 8.25 am we left for dinner. Please remember , everything start closing in Sri Lanka after 8 pm. We made this mistake many a time.

We had our dinner at Fish & Chips restaurant at the main touristy road of 
Ella. It is here (2 shops on RHS of the restaurant is the super market ) where you can buy famous Sri Lankan masks for a good price. But the real value for money shop, was the one in the basement behind the billiards table (towards the left of the restaurant) . On an average, we paid around 400-750 INR for the masks. I bought many masks. It is one of the reasons, why I went to Sri Lanka ! After travelling 34 countries, I think you get the best maks in Sri Lanka. Somewhat close competitor is Bali and Masai masks.

Then we left for our hotel at 10 pm.

 Distance between Nuwara Eliya to Ella: 55 km

 Travel Time: 2 hr.

 Highlights of the day

  • Dairy Farm and Strawberry farm.
  • The train ride to Ella
  • Little Adam’s Peak


Day 6 : 25.1.24.  Ella to Galle  via Uda-walawe National Park


Night Halt at Shoba Traveller's Tree, Galle 


BREAKFAST  PROVIDED

Today our Italian friends left for hiking to Ella Rock after having their breakfast. After some time, we left by our car to see the famous 30-meter high Demodara Nine Arch bridge. The train passes through the bridge at 9.30 am. There were many people waiting there. With a small 15-minute walk through the jungle, you will reach a piece of beautiful architecture . It is allowed to walk on the bridge and it’s one of the things you must do in Sri Lanka.You can also take an auto to reach near the spot or hike.It came little late at 9.35 am. 

The stone train bridge, with its nine beautiful arches, built by local P.K. Appuhamy along with support from the British, is located between Ella and Demodara station. The train ride in the highlands with the Kandy to Ella train is named one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. 


After that we went to the main road of Ella, where we had our dinner yesterday, to meet our Italian friends. While waiting for them, we bought some more masks !

After that we hit the road at 12 pm for  a safari at Udawalawe National Park. The evening safari will start at 2 pm and end at 5 pm. We had our packed lunch inside the car. Our safari started little late at 2.30 pm, since we were late. Our driver arranged the safari car through his contact. The car hing for 6 Person was 12,000 LKR (or  38 USD) and entry fee per person was 11,000 USD. So it was quite expensive. In a car 6 people can sit.

We did 3 hour safari (for us it is only 2.5 hours) at Udawalawe National Park. The safari is not very well organized in Sri Lanka. Unlike India, it is controlled by Pvt companies. Doing a safari is super easy in Sri Lanka. We informed our driver only 1 day back. It is difficult to talk to a driver. He sits in a cabin. It is like our Tempo. He has to take his head out of the car to talk to us ! There is not much to see other than elephant. There is no leopard here. There is no tiger or lion in Sri Lanka ! We saw some common birds like bee eater, eagle and Rhesus Macaque.

But my sister who went to the most famous one , Yala, said it is good. It is little South West of Sri Lanka. 

 Distance between Ella and Udawalawe National Park : 90 km

 Travel Time: 2 hr.

Finally it was time to leave for Galle.  

When we reached Galle Fort it was already 8 pm. Galle  is the most ancient and important harbour of the country, until the Colombo Harbour was established. Galle is identified as the ‘Tarshis' of the Bible. This was captured by the Portuguese in 1587 A.D, Dutch in 1640 A.D, and British in 1796 A.D. Most of the existing buildings dates to Dutch Period. The Bastions are still using Dutch names. It is also famous for lace making, Ebony carving, Gem cutting & polishing. 

Our hotel looks like a curio shop /art gallery and a lady was make lace.

We (Mohua and I ) had dinner at a restaurant, where they make wood fired Pizza, overlooking the sea on the1st floor.

Distance between Galle  and Udawalawe National Park : 128 km. 

 Travel Time: 2 hr 30 minutes

 Highlights of the day

  • Ella Rock
  • Nine Arches Bridge at 9.30 am
  • Uda-walawe National Park

Day 7 : 26.1.24.Galle - Mirissa – Galle 

Night Halt at Shoba Traveller's Tree, Galle 

BREAKFAST  PROVIDED


We left at 5.30 am to watch Blue whales at Mirissa. Mirissa has some of the best marine life in the whole of Sri Lanka. It’s especially famous for its whale population, which can be seen from the end of November until March. This is the period when whales migrate from further south.

We bought the ticket from Kumara and whales , recommended by Lonely Planet. We got a bargain price of 37 USD because were were 5. The standard rate is 50 USD. The boat will take you out into the Indian Ocean to see whales, dolphins, and turtles. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a big blue whale – the largest animal on the planet! We saw dolphin, mating of Olive Ridley Turtle and whale from a distance twice. It is difficult to take a picture. The best time  to watch whale is probably February.  They tried their level best to show whale. The normal tour starts at 7 am and ends at 10 am. Since we could not see whales from near, they extended the tour till 1145 hrs. They also give breakfast in the boat.

Our Italian friends did not join us, they went to Unawatuna for swimming. After whale watching Debdatta da went to swim in the sea. In the mean time, we saw some two nice beaches - Coconut Tree Hill and Parrot Rock. We  did not have time to go to Turtle beach in between these two or  'Secret Beach'

Then we picked up Debdatta da.  On the way back we saw Weligama. Weligama is a small beach town that’s widely known as the capital of surfing. Surfers flock here from all over the world to enjoy the fantastic waves and beautiful white-sand beaches. 

Then falls Ahangama beach, followed by Habaraduwa beach. We had our lunch at Habaraduwa at a very nice , but basic restaurant just beside the sea. From there we were able to witness the stilt fishing. It has become somewhat touristy, since they charge from the tourists to do it. In our case, we did not pay anything , since the restaurant is located just beside that fishing area.



Stilt fishing is special to Galle district and is mainly confined to Kathaluwa and Ahangama, two villages in Habaraduwa Secretaries Division which is the eighth largest of the 16 D.S. Divisions in Galle district. There are about 500 fishing families in the coastal belt of Habaraduwa D.S.Division.  

The fishermen sit on a cross bar called ‘petta’ tied to a vertical pole planted in the coral reef
and carry out rod and line fishing. Sometimes 2 or more stilts are joined together to form a fence or ‘wata’ so that more than one fisherman can fish at the same time. The fishermen hold the stilt by one hand while seated and carry out rod and line fishing with the other hand. They usually sit against the wind. The stilt is made by tying two sticks on to a pole 3 — 4 m long. These two sticks are tied at a height of about 2m. The free ends of the two sticks are tied to another stick, which in turn is tied to the main pole to support the cross bar. This forms a triangular structure. One or more shorter sticks may be tied below the ‘petta’ to serve as steps.

The history of stilt fishing is not clear. According to the information gathered from elderly
fishermen of the area, stilt fishing started about 50 years ago after the Second World War. Earlier, fishermen fished from rocks that protruded above the sea surface. Since not enough such rocks were available for all the fishermen, some fishermen used discarded ‘iron poles’ or G.I. pipes to make stilts, by planting them in the reef. They thought that only iron poles were durable enough to be planted in the reef.

But since iron poles were scarce, a few fishermen started planting pointed timber poles after making a hole in the reef with a crowbar. This was a success and other fishermen
followed suit. These timber poles were more durable than the iron poles and could be shifted from one place to another easily, because they were lighter.

Then we picked our Italian friends from Unawatuna  Beach and went to Jungle Beach in Unawatuna area. To reach Jungle Beach, walk through a dense jungle and up steep cliffs, but the sight of the beach made it all worthwhile. Jungle beach got its name for reason. No matter which way you head, you have to trek through the Jungle to reach it. The stunning scenery were straight out of a postcard.

When we reached Galle Fort it is 4 pm. Since we were staying in Galle Fort area (Galle Fort, on the Bay of Galle on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka), I started walking around Galle Fort. In the 18th century, the Dutch built their headquarters, Galle Fort, on the Sri Lankan coast, taking over from Portuguese rule (who constructed it) since the 16th century. They fortified Galle, leaving behind beautiful European-style buildings still there today. Later, the British took over the town until Sri Lanka became an independent nation once again. The ancient fort town is a melting pot of culture, having survived the PortugueseDutch, and British invasions. It’s the perfect place to spend the afternoon, shopping at the cute boutique shops and admiring the charming, traditional buildings. Because of its extraordinary history, the fort is recognized as a UNESCO Heritage Site . 

Nowadays, the beautiful old buildings are transformed into trendy shops, cafes, and restaurants. From shopping, exploring the history, or sunset at the fort’s wall, you could spend an entire day exploring the beauty of Galle Fort. But if the truth be told, it is quite expensive to buy souvenirs here. It is better to buy it in Ella , as mentioned before. You can only enter Galle Fort from the main gate side, and it takes about 3-3.5 hours to walk around the whole fort.

Since I ran out of money , I exchanged some Sri Lankan at a money exchange office.  We (Arindam and I) watched the sunset from the Galle Fort wall, near Galle Light House. Enjoying the sunset on the Fort’s wall is one of the top things to do in Galle Fort. Both locals and travelers grab a spot alongside the wall and watch the sun disappear into the sea. Galle Fort’s wall is where you can  enjoy the beautiful view of the city and the sea. Best of all, you can walk along the perimeter of the fort, gaining various perspectives of the town.

Then we saw clock Tower, beautiful Meeran Jumma Masjid (built in the 1750s) -Aurora Bastion, Old Dutch hospital shopping arcade,  Dutch Reformed Church, Amangalla Hotel, Dutch Bellfry. I did not have time to go to National museum or Maritime museum.

After some time, Mohua  joined me and Arindam went back to the hotel to pick up Rumi. There was a major problem on the Peddlar Street - Transformer caught fire, beside one of the major hotels. There was load shedding for some time. We visited a Galle Literary festival was going on near Old Dutch hospital shopping arcade.

In Galle you could easily forget you are in Sri Lanka. There’s a uniquely European feel as you wander among Dutch-style buildings . Galle should notbe missed at any cost in Sri Lanka and try to stay near the Galle Fort.






Today we had dinner at the same place. When we reached, we saw Arindam and Rumi are also having their dinner.

·   Distance between Mirissa and Galle : 35 km

Travel Time:  50-55 minutes in the morning

Highlights of the day

·         Watching Blue whales from Mirissa as early as 6:30 in the morning.·         

  • Parrot Rock 
  • Coconut Tree Hill
  • Habarduwa
  • Unawatuna Forest Beach
  • Galle Fort, museum, Galle Clock Tower-Meeran Jumma Masjid-Moon Bastion-Star Bastion-Old Dutch hospital shopping arcade -  Dutch Bellfry-Dutch Reformed Church-Amangalla Hotel- Galle Light House.

Day 8 : 27.1.24 Galle – Colombo

Night Halt at Colombo Airbnb 




Today we left for Colombo. We saw tSunami museum from the car (just after Hikkaduwa) . This is a must visit for anyone. It's a very small museum which shows how the 2004 tsunami struck and the devastation it left behind. It is 22.3 Km from Galle.

Then we stopped at Āriapāla Mask Museum (and workshop cum shop ) at Ambalangoda. There is no entry fee. There are some other mask shops too like Ariyapala Traditional Masks & Museum. But Āriapāla Mask Museum seems to be biggest one with workshop and museum. But the prices are quite expensive compared to the one in Ella. It is only 32 Km from Galle. 

 Then, we went to Balapitiya town’s picturesque Madu River to take a boat ride. It is only 6.4 Km from Ambalangoda. The Madu Ganga (Ganga means river in Sinhalese) is a shallow river with marshlands and islands. This boat ride takes you through beautiful mangrove tunnels. Something we should mention is that this is a boat ride and NOT a cruise, though most operators choose to call it a cruise. This is somewhat similar to backwater ride in Kerala. But it will be fun. Try and make it in the morning to avoid the harsh sun and spot some birds. The first boat stop is the Cinnamon Island where you can understand the process of cinnamon making and sip on a cup of hot cinnamon tea. Then we went to the fish farm in that Island - where you can get a fish massage/pedicure and then finally to a buddhist temple. Then they will finally take you to an estuary. It is a 2 hour tour. We saw monitor lizard and some birds too (bee eater, Cormorant)

For 10 people they charged 100 USD or 10 USD per person. For 1 person it is apparently it is 35 USD.

We had our lunch in a restaurant and then went to Ahungalla Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Centre. It is only 6 Km from  Balapitiya town. There is an aquarium too. We saw the aquarium first.  Then we went to see the Turtle. The guide comes free with the entry fee of 15 USD (quite expensive). Since many of us have exhausted our funds, only 3 of us went inside.  We were told the difference between tortoise and turtle. 

Turtle and tortoise essentially belong to the same family, however, turtles, in general, are adapted to an aquatic or at least semi-aquatic life, while tortoises are predominantly terrestrial.


Turtles are generally larger than tortoises. The largest turtle is the leatherback turtle. It can weight anywhere 300 to 700 kilos.

The largest tortoise is the Aldabra giant tortoise, with adult males weighing an average of 250 kilos.

Tortoises are herbivorous and they subsist on grasses and leafy vegetables.

Turtles, on the other hand, are omnivores. They have been observed to eat jellyfish, urchins, molluscs and seaweed.

Most turtles have an average lifespan of about 10-150 years. It also depends on the species. The leatherback has a lifespan of about 150 years.

The lifespan of tortoises are usually longer than that of turtles. However, it strictly depends upon the species. An Aldabra giant tortoise was found to be over 225 years old.

List a few turtle species we saw are Olive ridley turtle, green turtle, leatherback turtle. There isa rookery too.

Our Italian friends went for swimming in the beach just behind the Ahungalla Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Centre, instead of going to the museum.

There is another Sea Turtle Hatchery & Rescue Center ( 7 Km from here) - one which is quite famous - Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project https://www.kosgodaseaturtle.org/From Kasgoda famous Bentota beach is  8.2 Km or 72 Km from Galle.

Then we saw the  Spice and Herbal garden near Bentota. They explained the medicinal benefits of locally found herbs and spices. They served us free cinnamon tea. There is a sales counter where you can buy some products. We had some famous king coconut just opposite the Spice and Herbal garden. The price seems to be very high.

Then we stopped at a place to buy some spices. It was expensive by any standard. We stopped at a food corner at Colombo for dinner.

Finally we reached our airbnb in Colombo at around 9.30 pm. It is a very nice house. We booked the whole house for around Rs 11,000 (INR) for 10 people plus driver.

Distance between Colombo and Galle : 129 km

Highlights of the day

·          Āriapāla Mask Museum at Ambalangoda

·          Madu River Safari

·           Ahungalla Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Centre.

            Spice and Herbal garden


Day 9 : 28.1.24.Colombo – No Night halt

BREAKFAST PROVIDED

We check out from airbnb in the morning and started our Colombo city tour. 

Colombo is the business and commercial center and the new capital is Sri Jayawardhanapura Kotte, only a few miles away. Colombo was only a small seaport, which came into prominence in the 16th Century with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1505 and the development to fit as a major Harbour took place during the British period. 

Colombo became the capital of Sri Lanka in 1815 after Kandyan Kingdom was ceded to the British. The remains of the buildings during the period of the Portuguese, Dutch and British rule are found in every area of the city. 

None of the Portuguese & Dutch fortifications are found today but some of their buildings and churches could be seen in the Fort & Pettah areas.

First we went to see the the Colombo National Museum. This is one of the main museums in the country. this delightful Colombo museum sprawls across a gleaming white, neo-Baroque building constructed for the purpose by William Henry Gregory, Governor of Ceylon, in 1877. Rooms take you through each of Sri Lanka's historical kingdoms, with display boards explaining interesting details such as the significance of the mudras  (gestures and poses) of Sri Lanka's Buddha statues.  It houses exquisite artifacts acting as the evidence to rich Sri Lankan heritage. The ground floor displays the artifacts belonging to the Pre and Proto-Historic, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy and Transitional periods and the first floor contains paintings, ancient textiles, pottery and ceramics, coins and currency, art and crafts, arms and armaments, presentations of traditional agricultural methods and traditional rituals . 

The National Museum Of Natural History is the house of endemic species of Sri Lanka. There are vast collections of specimens of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, fish, amphibians of various kinds of plants and geological rocks are on display.

These 2 museums are in the same complex. The combined entry fee is 1500 LKR or approx Rs 375 (INR). I think you should see these two museums first. These 2 museums will give you give you great insight of history, art, sculpture, flora and fauna.. You will be able to appreciate the history and meaning of different postures  - which you will see later. In fact it is true for any museum - like Egyptian museum in Cairo. Just outside the musuem the artists were selling their art.

Not all the members of our group went to the museum. They went to the  Viha-ramaha-devi Park, previously called Victoria Park. It is a large, beautiful space just opposite the Parliament building / Town Hall/Museum. There is no entry fee, making it a great place for locals and tourists to sit or lie on the well-manicured lawns under large trees and simply unwind. A large golden statue of Buddha are two of the landmarks in the park. 

Our next stop was Gangaramaya Temple .Gangaramaya Temple is one of the most important temples in Colombo, Sri Lanka, being a mix of modern architecture and cultural essence. The temple's architecture demonstrates an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian, and Chinese architecture. Located on the Beira Lake, it was completed in the late 19th century.


The temple’s most distinguishing feature is its treasure-trove museum that holds an innumerable number of Buddha statues from all over the world along with statues of Hindu gods, old watches, Dutch coins and many other antique collectibles.

Most of the bejeweled and shiny trinkets here are gifts from devotees to the temple…. visitors can marvel at the collection of old Rolls-Royces and Mercedes, including Sri Lanka’s very first Mercedes.

The entry fee is 400 LKR. Then we visited the other part of the temple on Beira Lake, down the road. You will be able to enter by presenting the same ticket you paid for at Gangaramaya Temple.

Then we visited Jami Ul Alfar  the Red and white Mosque. One of the most popular places to visit in Colombo is the Jami ul Alfar mosque, more popularly called the Red and White Mosque. This stunning piece of architecture towers over the chaotic market.Interestingly, it was created by an unqualified architect, commissioned by South Indian traders. It draws elements from Indo-Islamic architecture that combine Gothic revival and Neo-classic styles. You can enter the mosque from Gate 3 between 4 PM – 10 PM when there are no prayers going on. Remember to dress conservatively. Most of the members (girls and boys) of our group were required to wear the dress given by the mosque. 

Then we went to see the Pettah market. Since it was Sunday , most of them were closed. It is opposite Fort Railway station (the other station within Colombo is Mardana station). However some shops were open - where they were selling some masks at reasonable price.

What I find interesting is there is a road called Bankshall Street.

Finally we went to visit Galle Face Green. There is not much to do here except sit on the grass and watch the sunset . The street food vendors sell crabs as well as prawn skewers among other things kept in the open on display. I had some prawn, which was okay. I met a Bengali jewellery worker  from Medinipur. He said jewellery is cheap in Sri Lanka. That is why many people buy jewellery here.

Galle Face Green had barely a couple of meters of beach stretch below, which isn’t really accessible. 
If you cross the road you will see  massive, upscale mall complex that had stores selling branded apparel, alongside grocery stores, cafes, ice cream vendors, and more.

After spending 1 hour , walking along the promenade, we took the car to go to Independence square -  it was already dark. Finally we got down at the airport .


Highlights of the day

·         Colombo National Museum  

          Viharama-devi Park

·         Ganaga-Ramaya  Temple

·         Beira Lake (Buddhist Temple)

·         Pettah Area

           Galle Sea Face Green Sea Beach

         Independence Square /Independence Memorial Hall

·        09:30pm - transfer to airport to connect with the departure flight.

Day 10 29.1.24.Colombo 

Night Halt at Kolkata

Departure : Air India AI 274 - @0300am from CMB (29th Jan 2024).We took the flight from Chennai at 8.15 am and reached office at in Kolkata at 11 am.

Source: 

wikitravel

wiki
https://yuganthijayasinghe.blogspot.com/2013/07

https://aravindgundumane.com

www.saltinourhair.com

www.nomadicmatt.com

www.adventurouskate.com
https://the-shooting-star.com
www.thatgoangirl.com

Tourplanner group in facebook


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