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Historical Sri Lanka
On the Southern side of the Parakrama Samudra (Polonnaruwa) is a striking stone statue of a bearded man holding in his hands what seems to be book (written on palm leaves). The care-worn expression hints at royalty and popular belief identifies it as a statue of Parakramabahu the Great.

Parakramabahu the Great - Polonnaruwa

Photo: Mortlake Press


Kelaniya Temple
The traditional Sri Lankan dagoba (from which the word "pagoda" is derived) is a hemi-spheric or bell-shaped structure of bricks and earth sitting on a square platform. At the peak of this structure is a tapering spire topped by a gilded ornament. The whole structure is usually surrounded by a walled courtyard containing statues of Buddha and his deciples, various deities, places to offer flowers, and large empty area for religious gatherings. In the same property there generally is a sacred Bo (peepul) tree as well.

Cut from a single granite wall, the statues of Lord Buddha, at Gal Vihara (rock shrine), in Polonnaruwa, rank among the finest in Sri Lanka. The statues were carved out in 12th century B.C., and has weathered the elements remarkably un-touched. The statue shown here is that of the seated Lord Buddha.

Gal Vihara at Polonnaruwa

Text: Siri Ekanayake
Photo: Udeni Alwis


Trincomalee is a natural deep-water harbor, on the north-east coast of Sri Lanka. On the east side of the town of Trincomalee, on a cliff known as Swami Rock stands one of the oldest Kovils (Hindu temple) in Sri Lanka. The present day Tirukonesvaram Kovil was rebuilt on the site of the Dakshana Kailayam (temple of 100 pillars) - that was destroyed by the Portugese in the 17th century. The restoration work was completed in the 1960's, and it is a "must see" site, for the visitors to Trincomalee. Friday evening Puja (offerings) services are specially colorful.

Tirukoneswaram Kovil in Trincomalee


Photo: W. P. Sugathadasa


Isurumuniya temple, in Anuradhapura, built in the 3rd century B.C. is noted for its rock carvings. The best known among these is the "Lovers". Many a poet and song writer has taken inspiration from this carving to write their masterpieces. It is believed that the carving may represent Saliya, and the low-caste maiden whom he loved. Saliya was the son of the great king Dutugamunu.

Isurumuniya Lovers - Anuradhapura

Text: Siri Ekanayake
Photo: Lalith de Silva


A guard stone at Thuparama, in Anuradhapura. North of the famous Ruwanveli Seya, Thuparama is considered to be the oldest dagoba in Sri Lanka and is believed to enshrine the collar bone relic of Lord Buddha. The guard stones like these are generally found in pairs at the entrance to temples, palaces and other revered sites.

A guard stone at Thuparama - Anuradhapura



City of Kandy with the lake in the foreground

Kandy, the last capital of Sinhala kings, nestled in the foothills of the Hill Country, with its beautiful lake at the center, is the center of traditional Sri Lankan Culture.
Kandy, the anglicization of the Sinhala word kande, meaning "hill" is about 1600 feet (488 meters) above sea level and is the favorite city of travelers from all over the world. The sacred tooth of Lord Buddha is preserved here in it's own temple "Dalada Maligawa" ( The temple of the Tooth ) and a replica of this holy relic is paraded around the city, on the back of the chief elephant "Raja", for two weeks every year during the month of August. Esala Perahera or the parade during the month of Esala is a spectacle not to be missed, with hundreds of brightly decorated elephants, dancers and singers from all walks of life, who turn this normally quiet small town to into one enormous festival, during those two weeks.
Photo: Juergen Scheiber

This 42 1/2 feet (13 meters) high statue carved out of solid granite, goes back to the 5th century, to the reign of King Dathusena. On a rainy day, it is said, that one can see droplets of water falling off the tip of the statue's nose hitting the ground exactly between the toes.- a testament to the architectural accuracy of the sculptor. Aukana is about 32 miles south-east of Anuradhapura. Several years ago authorities decided that the modern day pollutants are taking its toll on this ancient statue and erected a brick enclosure around and above it. To this day, this remains somewhat controversial.

Aukana Buddha


Photo: Mortlake Press


Popularly regarded as the greatest, and certainly the most popular among the Buddhists, of the stupas at Anuradhapura, Ruwanveli Seya, is the pride of the Great Emperor Dutugamunu. Raised in the 2nd century B.C. this dagoba is supposed to have the perfect water bubble shape. There are four gate houses marking the outer walls of this magnificant structure, and within the courtyard a receantly built "elephant wall" upholds the dagoba platform. Among the many statues in the courtyard there is one that is of a larger-than-life man. This is considered to be the king himself watching his work from a respectable distance.

Ruwanveli Seya - Anuradhapura

Text: Siri Ekanayake
Photo: M. S. Weerakoon


Fortress from the sky - sigiriya

The rock fortress Sigiriya, rises some 600 feet above the scrub jungle plain in the north central part of Sri Lanka. It is this very feature that drove young prince Kasyapa, after his father King Dhatusena, by entombing him alive, to this lonely rock in the jungle to hide from his older brother who was gathering an army to retake the throne. Kasyapa while in self imposed exile made his new kingdom as liveable and pleasant as possible by surrounding himself with his loyal followers, and for his personal enjoyment, what could only be described as "pinups". These frescos are to this day preserved in a grotto in the sheer west face of the rock.

The top of the rock in itself is a marvel of agro-engineering. About 3 acres in area, every square foot was utilized. Bathing pools were cut out of living rock and every drop of (rain) water was used and re-used. Sigiriya (lion's throat) was so named because the visitors had to go through the throat of a lion to get to the top of the rock.


Another view of the Statues of Gal Vihara at Polonnaruwa. The standing figure some 23 feet (7 meters) high is believed to represent Arahath Ananda, Lord Buddha's favorite deciple. The reclining statue, some 46 feet (14 meters) is believed to be that of Lord Buddha at the moment of his entry into parinibbana (death).


Photo: Lake House


Photo: Tom Tidball

Photo: Juergen Schreiber

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