Thinking of visiting the beautiful island of Sri lanka the images that come to mind our evergreen forests, beaches and sun, tropical fruits and spicy food.
The architecture of this island was heavily influenced by Buddhism. Lanka’s most renowned architect Anjalendran says, “Good architecture has the power to heal wounds and inspire”. The Ancient Sinhalese boasted of construction of tanks (Wevas) or reservoirs, dagobas (or Stupas) and palaces.
Parakramabahu I of Polonnaruwa,one of the kings of Ceylon was determined in constructing the reservoirs as he believed that “not even a little water that comes from the rain must flow into the ocean without being made useful to man”.
If one doesn’t research on the architecture, the buildings and temples found will remind most of those found in India and Nepal.
Buddhism has left its mark on the architecture as it was introduced to Ceylon in the 3rd century BC. One could not miss out on the earliest cave temples found was Mihintale in Anuradhapura. Other cave temples such as Dambulla, Situlpahuwa, Mulkirigala demonstrate rudimentary architectural developments of the island. Some of these cave temples were later turned into image houses.
In Anuradhapura which was the capital in times of monarch, one can find the majestic stupas whose purpose was to enshrine Buddhist relics. The Jetavanaramaya is a stupa, located in the ruins of Jetavana Monastery in the sacred world heritage city. It is significant as it was not only the tallest building before the Pyramid of Giza but it was built in place of the Mahavihara, a monastery representing Theravada Buddhism.
Abhayagiri vihāra(ranked fifth) and Ruwanwelisseya ( seventh highest stupa) and located in this city. The Bo tree, under which Buddha meditated and received enlightenment, was brought to the city in 288 BC under Buddha’s orders. The tree lives and flourishes making it one of the oldest attractions around.
One of the grandest occasions in Colombo, Lanka’s present capital is the annual event of Gangaramaya Navam Perahara at Hunupitiya by Beira Lake. The event would include 100 colorful elephants parading the streets with Buddhist monks, performers following them.
Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque built by the Pettah Muslim Community is one the most visited tourist spots of Colombo. One look at the mosque would remind anyone of the domed structures in Moscow.
Thanks to the Dutch presence in Lanka, a 36-hectare Fort that is visible in the beautiful city of Galle is marked today as a World Heritage Site.During British rule, the Galle fort was very well preserved and was used as Galle’s administrative centre.
An important masterpiece from the history of Galle is the Dutch Reform Church. It was built in 1640 however completed only in 1755 and services are still held each week.
One of most ancient spots to visit is Sigiriya located in the central matale district of Lanka. It means Lion’s rock and is a large stone and rock fortress. The structure was built by King Kashyapa in 477 BC. The place is also one giant cave of paintings which are termed as frescoes. The frescoes mostly depict beautiful women pointing towards the Kandy Temple considered scared then.
But the most exciting as most tourists have witnessed is visiting the national parks. Elephants are considered scared and mighty. They were cared for by Buddhists and became a part of their culture. Ancient coins were found that depicted the elephant in most of them. Each coin of a different dynasty or area had a Raja-ankha or a heraldic emblem signifying them. About 10,000 Sinhalese coins were found with a svatiska as raja-ankha. The emblem was a religious symbol as well as a good luck charm. These coins were mostly of stone. Gold coins were also used and known as Rankahawanu that carried a symbol of ‘Kuvera’ on both sidesSri Lanka has an elephant orphanage called the Pinnawala elephant orphanage that started out as conservation centres rescuing four baby elephants. Now they’ve expanded and allow those visiting to get an up close and personal interaction with the beautiful animals.