Steve and I arrive in Sri Lanka to spend Christmas and the New Year with my family and also to attend a long awaited reunion with my high school girl friends. It is a busy time of year to be here and I am excited at the prospect of introducing Steve to the sub continent.
My mum has organised a 6 day trip to the cultural triangle and we leave the day after we arrive. She has organised a very comfortable van, and Naufer, the man who drove me around the last time I was here will be our chauffeur again.
Our first stop will be Anuradhapura, our ancient capital from the 4th Century BCE to 10 AD. It is a city with many ancient temples and religious devotees clad in white intermingling with the Buddhist priest in their bright orange garb. We happen to arrive on the day the President of Sri Lanka has come to visit, so the place is a hive of activity and men in army fatigues poke their face at us from behind every tree.
Culturally, Sri Lanka is a very religious place…and religious beliefs intermingled with superstitious practice seems to dictate how life is lived. It is very much a society that conforms to the practices that have been handed down for generations with little questioning or curiosity of discovering other belief systems…or exploring new ideas.
During our drive we come across a water buffalo who has just given birth to a baby. We watch in fascination as the little guy struggles to his feet, part of the placenta still attached and takes his first faltering steps. It reminds me, how close to the natural world rural life is.
The little boy in the picture above has come to donate a coconut plant to the temple to fulfill a vow made by his mum when she came here to ask for a son. Flowers are a common offering and the look of complete devotion and piety on the faces of the people above is not uncommon whether it be a Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim place of belief.
We also visit the Bodhi tree, grown from a sapling brought to Sri Lanka from India. Every temple complex has 4 main elements; a Bo Tree, the temple itself or Dagaba; statue of Buddha and the monks residence.
We visited an amazing monastery, where humongous rice and curry bowls carved out of rock give us an idea of the hundreds of monks who once lived here.
This ancient city is steeped in history and I try to imagine the splendour of this capital and what life might have been like more than 2000 years ago.
“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made, and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Nelson Mandela