Temples and Rock Fortress

April 5, 2008

Tom – brief descriptions of an interesting day!


Sri Muthumariamman Thevasthanam – Hindu temple in Matale, it is noted for the ceremonial chariots pulled along by people during an annual festival.


 I think this picture of children preparing to pray is an interesting one.



Rock Monastery of Aluvihara – is situated among and in large rocks at the base of a mountain.  It is noted for its murals on the walls and ceilings of the caves as well as the monastery where monks are still working to replace the Tipitaka which was first transcribed on palm strips from oral and Sinhalese sources into Pali text in the first century BC.  The Tipitaka and other manuscripts were destroyed in 1848 when British troops burnt the library when putting down a revolt.  The manuscripts are hand written on palm strips called “ola” by an interesting process of preparing the strips, engraving them and then filling the engraving with an ink like substance. 


Notice the mural figure of a creature with an elephant nose, crocodile teeth, monkey eye, pig ear, horse leg, fish skin and peacock tail (with variations, used extensively in Buddhist art),

 also the ceiling mural of the astrological signs. 


There is a large bell donated by Korea outside the monastery.


 New Paradise Spice and Herbal Garden – I believe a young man at the Rock Monastery scammed us for an unnecessary $10 donation for entrance.  He also recommended a visit to this spice and herbal garden “free” as part of the same donation.  I was suspicious but agreed with Helen that we should try it out anyway.  Well, the owner gave us a very nice and informative tour of the garden, first cups of cocoa tea and later cups of spice tea, then massages by his employees, and then pressure to buy products before we left.  Helen bought some hair removal cream, spice tea and what was labeled saffron.  She now believes the saffron is really turmeric and has called trying to get her money back and threatening to report him to the Ceylon Tourist Board.  As far as I am concerned, the $60 I spent was well worth the experience.


 Umbrellas for shade in wagon as we pass


 Nalanda Gedige – is one of the earliest stone buildings constructed in Sri Lanka by Hindus (8th century) but later used as a Buddhist temple.


 Dambulla Royal Rock Temple – Initially a gaudy entrance for the Golden Temple and large Buddha but up the mountain five interesting cave temples. 


 Sigiriya (Lion Rock) A UNESCO World Heritage Site – this was the highlight of our day. 


The official story, told by our guide, is that it was a palace fortress built in the 5th century and there is surely evidence to support this claim.  However, a recent theory hypothesizes that it really began as a Buddhist Monastery in the 3rd century BC.  In any event, we had an interesting tour of the royal gardens (water gardens, boulder gardens and terraced gardens) and it was fun climbing the 1200 stairs to the top of the rock. 


The female frescoes found in a niche half way up the rock are considered a national treasure. 


The ascent continues and goes through the “Lion’s Mouth” (see the paws in the picture) to the top.



Sunset at the Polonnaruwa Rest House

 Helen – EVERYTHING LOOKS BETTER IN THE PLANNING!!  This weekend Tom planned another trip to some historical sites supposedly within a few hours of Kandy.  We always begin being cordial to each other and looking forward to another adventure with map in hand.  Within the first hour, I misread the map (those names are hard to decipher) and there were no signs so we ended up on the wrong road.  Tom was ticked because he can’t read the map and watch the crazy traffic…I on the other hand, am upset because I thought I was doing a good job.  That mistake took an hour.  Now we are not on very friendly terms as we stop to visit the first temple or the second one where we have to climb many stairs to see the rock (cave) temples.  It is so hot and the venders at every bend in the trail get your dander up shoving their trinkets in front of your face.  We pick up a couple of vegetable rottis (I am getting hooked on these bad for your health treats) and ate them in the car as we continued to the main focus of the day. 


We get to Sigiriya which is a huge rock outcrop in the middle of a flat landscape.  One of the kings built a palace on the very top so that he couldn’t be attacked and of course made enough room for himself, his several wives, and his 500 concubines.


At first we thought we would do it without a guide but because of the time crunch we reconsidered and hired a nice man with good English.  We told him that we only had two hours to complete the tour/climb because we needed to get to our lodgings while it was still light.  He was very accommodating, took us to all the sites and even included a couple of rock sites (which looked like enormous elephants) usually omitted by other guides.  We hoofed it quickly up the cliff which had stone and metal stairs, depending on the incline, to see the frescos of some of the 500 concubines (the king had each one painted in the cave like indentures in the rock or on what they called the mirror wall.  On we went up to the very top to see the remains of the palace and baths.  The views from the top were very beautiful and it was worth the effort to get there.  We came down pretty quickly, passing the slower Asians who were blocking our path and finished the entire climb in ONE hour…the man was impressed with us and we were all pretty sweaty when finished.


Tom had booked us a room at the Polonnaruwa Rest House, which is owned by the Ceylon Hotel Corporation (It is government run and they have many lovely hotels around the country), which was situated right on Topa Wewa Lake.  It also backed up to some of the archeological sites we were to explore the next day.  There were only a few people there (because of the war and terrorist activity) and we occupied one of the six rooms booked for that weekend.  Too bad we were number six, because the first 5 had balconies with better views of the lake.  Anyway, we had a chance to clean up and have dinner.  We were the only ones in the dining room and we had grilled chicken, green beans with carrots, french fries, and fruit for dessert.  The hotel would have been quite lovely but it has been neglected.  It would be amazing what just paint would accomplish!!

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