Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dambulla The Golden Rock Temple

"Dambulla The Golden Rock Temple"

DambullaRajamaha Temple of Rangiri Dambulla (Golden Rock Temple) Located north of Kandy and considered by most to be the centre point of Sri Lanka. Dambulla is a town built around a vast isolated rock mass and a World Heritage City, declared by UNESCO.
The name Dambulla derives from Damba - Rock and Ulla - fountain. One sees the incessant drip of water from the fountain within the main image house.
This complex of caves at Dambulla is one of the most impressive Buddhist Temples in the world. It was here that King Dambulla Golden TempleVattagamini Abhaya (Valagamba) took refuge in the 1st century BCE. He later turned the caves into a rock temple. Later kings made further improvements, including King Nissanka Malla who had the temple interior gilded, earning it the name of Ran Giri - Golden Rock.
Dambulla Viharaya contains an abundance of valuable material from the very earliest times till the late eighteenth century, and shows the evolution of the Singhalese Buddhist art. Such vast material in one place, combined with a long history, is a rare find anywhere.
DambullaThe temples contain 153 Buddha images, 3 images of kings and 4 images of gods and goddesses. There are also 4 main monasteries and it was within this complex that the monks began the militant nationalist movement against the British in 1848.

Dambulla Caves

These 80 or more caves tell of the inhabitants dating back to the 3rd Century BCE. Five main caves hold the holy Buddhist shrines. The stupa was built in the 5th century AD and the caves contain precious paintings and innumerable Buddha sculptures. Among the paintings, two of the most magnificent depict the temptation of the Buddha by the demon Mara and the First Sermon of the Buddha.

Uda Walawe National Park

"Uda Walawe National Park" One of the best parks to view wild Elephants"

Udawalawe elephantUda Walawe lies South of the central hills of the island, and it surrounds the man made reservoir of Uda Walawe, which is part of the park. It is a mixture of abandoned teak plantation, scrub jungle & grassland. The dry season is best to watch the many herds of elephant that roam the park; which is usually between May & September.
Almost the entire park is covered with tall, reedy Pohon grass, which grows all year round, except during the months of June and October.
Uda Walawe is a superb place to watch elephants. An estimated 500 elephants in herds to up to 100 live here. One of the reasons is the elephant-proof fence that surrounds the perimeter of the park, which keeps the elephants in and the cattle (and humans) out

Udawalawe buffalo Udawalawe grey monkey Udawalawe lake
Udawalawe water birds Udawalawe fox Udawalawe peacock
Udawalawe scenery Udawalawe tortoise Udawalawe spotted deer
Udawalawe eagle Udawalawe land scape Udawalawe water birds



TissamaharamaThe small town of Tissamaharama is, unsurprisingly, usually just called Tissa. About 40km (25 miles) north east of Hambantota, it is the most convenient jumping-off point for Ruhuna National Park, to the east, and the Kataragama temple complex.

Right in the centre of the town is an enormous tank, said to have been built some 2300 years ago by the founder of the ancient Sri Lankan kingdom of Ruhuna, Yatalatissa, whose capital was here. Also in the center TissaMaharama Sun setof town are two large dagobas (Buddhist shrines) attributed to Yatalatissa's heir, Kavantissa

Sinharaja Rain Forest

"Sinharaja Rain Forest Sri Lanka"

Sinharaja rain forest reserve the best kept secret in Asia, is one of the least disturbed and biologically unique lowland rain forests in Sri Lanka. This rain forest covers an extent of about 11187 hectares from east to west of Sri Lanka. The length of the Rain forest is about 21km and width from North to South is about 3.7km. It was declared a National wilderness area in 1988 and lately a world heritage site in 1989. Sri Lanka has 07 world heritage sites. It is situated in the southwest lowland wet zone of Sri Lanka in the districts of Ratnapura, Galle and Matara. The average annual temperature of Sinharaja is 23.6 C. Rainfall figures show values Sinharaja Red-faced Malkoharanging from 3,700 to 5,000 in and around the Sinharaja forest. Average height of the trees varies between 35m – 40m.some individuals rise even up to 50m.The vegetation of Sinharaja forest is evergreen forest type with a high degree of endemism. In fact some families show an endemism more than 90%. The untapped genetic potential of Sinharaja flora is enormous.
Out of the 211 woody trees so far identified within the reserve 139 (66%) are endemic. Similarly, high levels of endemism are perhaps true for the lower plants like ferns, epiphytes as well. Out of 25 general endemic to Sri Lanka 13 are represent in Sinharaja forest.Sinharaja Yellow Bird
Studies on the fauna of Sinharaja have revealed that there is a high degree of endemism among the butterflies, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals are greater than 50%.The most common deer species is the Sambhur, The Monk deer and Barking deer are also found within the reserve. Leopards are very seldom sighted, but their frequent presence has been confirmed by tracks and other signs.
Out of the birds recorded in the western sector of the reserve, 72% were resident non-endemic and 13% migrant. The rare endemic birds to be seen in Sinharaja are the Red-faced Sinharaja water streamMalkoha, the Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, the Ashy-headed Barbbler, and the White - headed Starling and the Green – billed Coucal the rarest of Sri Lankan birds.
Among the snakes the green Pit Viper and Hump-nosed Viper are commonly found in this forest and are endemic to Sri Lanka. The amphibians are fairly well represented in the reserve and nine endemic species have been identified.
The below mentioned table of 262 vertebrate species has been complied which includes 60 species endemic to Sri Lanka. This gives an analysis of the fauna of Sinharaja Sinharaja Green Pit Viperforest in relation to the total fauna of the Island. From this Table it is evident that there is a high degree of representation of Sri Lanka fauna, particularly endemic species at Sinharaja Forest. At the moment, this check-list is the only one all the major vertebrate groups found in a single location

Vertebrate Group no. of spa. in Sri Lanka No. of sps. in Sinharaja % of sps. in Sinharaja No. of endemic sps. in Sri Lanka No. of endemic sps. in Sinharaja % of endemic sps. at Sinharaja % of endemics out of total in sinharaja.
Fish 59 11 19% 16 3 19% 27%
Amphibia 37 20 54% 19 10 53% 50%
65 16 25% 34 6 18% 36%
79 29 37% 38 15 39% 52%
Birds 384 147 38% 20 18 90% 12%
Mammals 85 39 46% 12 8 67% 20%
Total 709 262 36% 139 60 43% 23%


"Sigiriya The Palace & Fortress in The Sky"

Sigiriya, the spectacular 'Lion rock' fortress, stands majestically overlooking the luscious green jungle surroundings, and is one of Sri Lanka's major attractions.
SigiriyaThis was built by King Kasyapa, a son of King Dhatusena, by a palace consort. As legend goes, King Dhatusena was overthrown and walled in, alive by Kasyapa in 473 AD. Mogallana, Dhatusena's son by the true queen fled to India, vowing revenge.
Kasyapa fearing an invasion built this impregnable fortress at Sigiriya.
When the invasion finally came in 491, Kasyapa rode out to battle in his war elephant.In an attempt to out-flank his half-brother, Kasyapa took a wrong turn, where his elephant got stuck in the mud. His soldiers, thinking Kasyapa was retreating fled abandoning him, and he took his own life.
Sigiriya later became a monastic refuge, but eventually fell into disrepair.

Water Gardens

Sigiriya water gardenThe beautifully and elaborately landscaped water gardens, contain a complex network of underground water distribution system, which provides water to the Royal baths, the many little moated islands & fountains, some fountains still work during the rainy season! A superb view of the Gardens could be had from halfway up the rock.

Frescoes - The Sigiriya Damsels

Sigiriya frescoesAbout halfway up the rock is a sheltered gallery of frescoes painted on the sheer rock face. The 'Heavenly Maidens' are similar in style to the paintings of Ajantha in India. Some of them are still in remarkably good condition. Only 22 out of an estimated 500 pictures now remain. Flash photography is not allowed at this site.

The Mirror Wall with Graffiti

Sigiriya mirror wallBeyond the fresco gallery, the pathway circles the the sheer face of the rock, and is protected by a 3m high wall. This wall was coated with a mirror-smooth glaze, in which visitors over 1000 years ago noted their impressions of the women in the gallery above. The graffiti was mostly inscribed between the 7th and 11th Century AD. 685 of them have been deciphered and published. The graffiti are a great source for the scholars to study the development of the Sinhala language and script.

Lion Platform

Sigiriya Lion platformThe Northern end of the rock the pathway emerges to a platform, from which the rock derives its name Sigiriya (the Lion Rock). At one time a gigantic brick lion sat at the end of the rock, and the final ascent to the summit was between the lions paws and into it's mouth! Today the lion has disappeared, only the paws and the first steps are visible.

The Summit

Sigiriya foundationsCovering an area of around 1.6 hectares, the remains of the foundations show that the summit would have been completely covered with buildings. The design, layout and magnificent views that it still enjoys to this day, suggest Sigiriya would have been more of a royal palace of pleasure than a fortress. A pond scooped out of solid rock measuring 27m x 21m, looks like a modern rooftop pool. A smooth slab of flat stone, often referred to as the kings stone throne, faces the rising sun.


"Ratnapura The City of Gems"

Ratnapura - JemsRatnapura lies 101 Km Southeast of Colombo. The scenic route takes you passing paddy fields, rubber plantations and tea estates.
Throughout history, Sri Lanka has been known as a land of gems. King Solomon was said to have procured a great ruby for the queen of Sheba from Ceylon (Sri Lanka's former name). Marco Polo (1293 AD) wrote about the ruby that once graced the Ruwanweliseya Dagoba at Anuradhapura..."a flawless ruby a span long and quite as thick as a man's fist".
Sri Lanka has produced three of the world's largest blue sapphires, including the 'Blue Bell' which adorns the British crown and the 'Star of India', displayed at the New York Museum of Natural History.
A visit to one of the museums or many gem workshops will give you the opportunity to see a variety of precious stone, such as rubies, sapphires, cat's eyes, alexandrites, aquamarines, tourmalines, spinels, topaz, garnets, amethyst, zircons etc. You could also visit one of the gem mines.
Temple in the sky
Adams - PeakRatnapura is situated at the foot of the 2243 metre high Adam's Peak. All four major religions claim Adam's Peak as a holy mountain. Buddhists call the mountain Sri Pada (the sacred footprint), or Samanalakande (Butterfly Mountain) and believe the Lord Buddha has visited the mountain and set his sacred footprint. Hindu's say it's Lord Shiva's and Muslims believe that it is the place where Adam first set foot on earth, after being cast out of heaven. Catholics say it is of St. Thomas' the Christian Apostle who preached in South India.
Ratnapura is also the staring point for the 'Classic' Hard route up Adam's Peak, via Gilimale and Carney estate. The Pilgrimage season starts on Poya (full moon) day in December and runs until the start of the South-West Monsoon in April. It has been a pilgrimage centre for over a 1000 years. King Parakramabahu and King Nissanka Malla of Polonnaruwa provided ambalamas or 'resting places' for weary pilgrims along the mountain route. The other more popular route is through Dalhousie (pronounced 'Del-house') close to Dickoya.
Other routes to Adam's Peak.


"Polonnaruwa The Medieval capital of Sri Lanka"

The history of early Sri Lanka was very carefully recorded and written down by monks.
The Mahavamsa (Great Chronicle) records the earlier period of the Sri Lankan, and Chulavamsa (lesser Chronicle), gives an accurate picture of the 'Polonnaruwa' period.

King Aggabodhi IV

PolonnaruwaFrom this chronicle we learn that Aggabodhi IV (667 - 685) AD was the first Sri Lankan King who lived in Polonnaruwa, and the town came gradually to become the 'Country Residence' of royalty. Anuradhapura, the formal and administrative capital, was already a thousand years old, and kings increasingly favoured the new city of Polonnaruwa, and developed it. However it was the Cholas of South India who made Polonnaruwa the capital after looting and burning Anuradhapura in 993 AD.

King Vijayabahu I

In 1070 AD the Sinhala King Vijayabahu I liberated the country by defeating the Cholas, and kept Polonnaruwa as his capital. Vijayabahu succeeded in repairing much of the irrigation system in the island, encouraged trade and brought some prosperity back to the country.

King Parakramabahu I

PolonnaruwaKing Parakramabahu I (1153-86) raised Polonnaruwa to its heights. He erected huge buildings, drained swamps and planted vast areas with crops, planned beautiful parks, created wildlife sanctuaries, restored earlier monuments & even undertook military expeditions against Burma and India.
However his crowning achievements were the creation of the 2400 hectare tank (about 15 Km2), so large it was named the Parakrama Samudra (Sea of Parakrama); and the unification of the three orders of monks, the Maha vihara, Jetavana and Abhayagiri into one Sangha or 'Supreme Order of Monks'. The greatness of his achievement was to ensure the survival of Buddhism in the dark centuries ahead.
Parakramabahu was the last great king of Sri Lanka.

King Nissankamalla

PolonnaruwaKing Nissankamalla (1187 - 96), although claimed himself to be a great builder, was not. And squandered most of the country's wealth trying to match his predecessor's deeds.

The decline of Polonnaruwa

After Nissankamalla's death, Polonnaruwa went to decline, civil war, lawlessness and constant invasions from the South Indian Chola Empire, and Malay barbarians who sacked the city several times, virtually destroyed the social structure and religious order of the country. A whole century after this were the 'Dark Ages' of Sri Lanka, a century from which few historical records survive.
The capital was shifted to Kurunegala, and Polonnaruwa returned to the jungle; it's great reservoirs survived as a series of swampy lakes, and its large brick buildings became lost under thick tropical forest. The Portuguese are said to have raided and looted Polonnaruwa, but by the early nineteenth century the site was completely lost.
In the early years of this century the main monuments of the ancient city were uncovered. Today, conservation and excavations continue, as part of the work of the Cultural Triangle.

Nuwara Eliya

"Nuwara Eliya The mountain resort"
Nuwara EliyaBlessed a with salubrious climate, breathtaking views of valleys, meadows, mountains and greenery; it's hard to imagine that Nuwara Eliya is only 180 Km from the hot and humid Colombo.
Nuwara Eliya (City of Lights), also known as 'Little' England', was the favourite hill station of the British who tried to create Nuwara Eliya Nuwara Eliya Post officeinto a typical English Village. The old brick Post office, country house like hill club, with it's hunting pictures, mounted hunting trophies and fish, and it's strict formal dinner attire; the 18 hole golf course, race course etc., all remind you of 'England'.

Places of interest in and around Nuwara Eliya

Gregory's Lake - Nuwara Eliya

This lake was fashioned under orders of British Governor Sir William Gregory in 1873. A boat yard now allows visitors to go boating and rowing. Hakgala

Hakgala Botanical Gardens

The Gardens was firs established in 1861 under the curatorship of three British of the same name - William Nock, JK Nock and JJ Nock. It lies under the Hakgala Peak, between 5000 - 6000 feet in elevation - the highest set Botanic Gardens in the world. It boasts 100 year old Monetary Cypress trees from California, Japanese Cedars, Himalayan Pines and English Oak.

Horton Plains

Horton Plains is a National Park and the highest plateau in the island consisting of grassland interspersed with patches of forest, with some Horton Plainsunusual high altitude vegetation. The Plains are a beautiful, silent, strange world with some excellent walks.
The most stunning place is the World's End, where the southern Horton Plains suddenly ends, and drops off to nearly 700 Metres, which is an awesome sight indeed. This is a favourite place for trekkers, as there are plenty of soft and hard trails.

Laksapana Falls

Laksapana Falls rise from the Laksapana estate and plunges into the Maskeliya Oya via Maoussakelle. Viewing this fall is easy if you camp down at Upper Glencairn, Dick oya.

Lover's Leap - Nuwara Eliya

This is off the Nuwara Eliya - Kandapola Road. The waters are taken to brew the famous Nuwara Eliya Beer. It is said how an eloping couple, pursued by an irate father, threw themselves over the falls.

Devon Falls

Devon FallsDevon Falls drops 97 metres and is named after Devon, a pioneer coffee planter. It is 6 Km west of Thalawakelle and there is a special parking and viewing spot at the 20th mile post.

Oliphant Estate - Nuwara Eliya

A visit to this estate, entrance from the road at the Ramboda end of Nuwara Eliya, is significant because it was here that the first thirty tea plants sent from China to Sri Lanka were planted by Mr. Laurence Oliphant, increasing his tea acreage to 100 acres.

The Ceylon Breweries - Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara EliyaThe brewing of beer was started in Nuwara Eliya by Sir Samuel Baker in 1881 at Lover's Leap. It is an interesting visit, for the brewery is one of the finest in the island. It's been in business since 1884.

Adam's Peak - The Pilgrim Path

This is through Gampola and Ginigathhena and you will find the story of this old path carved on two rocks off the 28th milestone on the Nawalapitiya - Ambagamuwa road. The spot is called Akuruketupana and the inscription dates to around 1100AD. Today there are four other roads to the peak, the shortest being via Maskeliya and the most popular. Other roads are on the Sabaragamuwa side.

The Nissangala Lena on the road to Adam's Peak

Nuwaraeliya - HattonThis is believed the cave in the mountainside, where King Keerthi Sri Nissanka buried a great treasure, including his regalia. It is only after one passes this cave and enters the forest that one comes to the Sita Gangula, a holy river of ice cold water, where pilgrims bathe and put on white garments, before continuing their journey to the peak.



The best cinnamon in the world originated from Sri Lanka and the most prized variety in the island came from the coastal stretch along Negombo. The Portuguese grabbed the coastal area with the aromatic spice groves and built a Negombo fort around them.
The Dutch managed to oust the Portuguese in 1644 and improved the fort and fortified the town further. The British gained the town without resistance in 1796.
The northernmost resort on the west coast, and a large fishing town, Negombo has an old world atmosphere of 17th century churches and forts, and is also often called 'little Rome'.
A fine example is St.Mary's church in the town centre.
The little island of 'Duwa' - attached to Negombo by the lagoon bridge - is famed for the country's only Passion Play. This involves the entire village and is staged throughout the Christian Holy Week. The ruins of the old Dutch fort, and a Dutch cemetery and green are near the mouth of the lagoon.
A Fishers' festival is also held here in late July. The catch, which includes shark as well, is not always from the sea and very often includes lobster, crab and prawns from the lagoon.
Negombo The beach here is quiet and peaceful, and the sight of the fisher folk out as sea on their oruwas (outrigger canoes) is a particularly charming sight. It is not always safe to swim here, but diving enthusiasts can explore the wreck of a World War II British cargo plane in nearby Marawila.
A jungle boat trip down the Kalu Ganga (Black River) will reward you with the sighting of monitor lizards and flocks of migrant birds.
The Munneswaram Hindu temple is 20kms away, and can be combined with a tour of the famous fish market in the seaside town of Chilaw. The larger hotels in the area also have equipment and facilities for water sports such as windsurfing, sailing and skiing.


"Muthurajawela the Swamp of Royal Treasure"

Negombo - MuthurajawelaThe name Muthurajawela has been derived from Sinhalese language which the majority of Sri Lankans use to communicate. The meaning can be translated in to English simply as “Swamp of Royal Treasure”. Treasures of kings in olden days are believed to be buried in that area.
         Muthurajawela Marsh is situated towards the southern part of Negombo. The boundaries span from Negombo lagoon which also helps to create a costal eco system, and Kelaniya River situated at the northern tip of Colombo. Muthurajawela is in close proximity to Colombo.
         Muthurajawela Marsh is said to be the island’s largest saline peat bog. It is believed to have originated about 7000 years ago. There are some residuals which extend up to 500 years towards the history from now.
         Muthurajawela bears staggering species of flora and fauna. Numerically 192 flora and 209 fauna, excluding 102 species of birds have been discovered. Some indigenous floras and faunas have also been found in Muthurajawela marsh. Visitors may see water birds such as herons, egrets in abundance in the lagoon and the marsh. It is also a residence for 40 different species of fish, of which 15 falls under the category of indigenous fauna. The nocturnal animal, slender Loris, which is believed to be endangered, can be seen once in a blue moon.
         Muthurajawela marsh has been declared as s sanctuary by the government in 1996 due to its vast bio diversity. Visitors may be assisted by the Muthurajawela marsh centre. The centre educates people about the importance of Muthurajawela. The staff at Muthurajawela marsh centre is available everyday except Monday; from 7.00 a.m to 6.00 p.m. Visitors may be given well trained guide. Also a boat ride will be given for visitors through the marsh and lagoon. Visitors will not only be able to travel on water, if they are interested, they can walk on the land and view the natural greenery. Early mornings or evenings are the best times to view, Muthurajawela. Late mornings and afternoons should be avoided in order to get rid of harsh sun rays.

Kandy Sri Lanka - The Hill Capital

"Kandy Sri Lanka - The Hill Capital"

Dalada maligawa kandy sri lanka129 Km away from Colombo and 465 metres above sea level, is Kandy, the charming hill capital, cultural centre of the island and a World Heritage City. Nestling amidst low hills, and looped by the Mahaweli river, Sri Lanka's largest, Kandy is still the home of the arts and crafts, music and dance and song which flourished under the patronage of the Kandyan Kings.
The city was born in the 14th century and became the capital of the Kandyan kingdom in the 16th century.
It was the seat of much of Sri Lanka's culture. The Royal City fell to the British in 1815, when the last Kandyan King, Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe was captured.
Dalada maligawa paintingsFor Buddhists, Kandy is the sacred city. The focal point is the Dalada Maligawa also known as the temple of the tooth, where the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha is enshrined. There are many shrines and temples in and around Kandy, where you will see rare paintings, frescoes, wood and stone carvings.
The highlight of the year is the Kandy Esala Perahera, when a replica of the relic casket is taken in procession accompanied by exotically Esala peraheracostumed drummers, dancers and about 80 - 100 caparisoned elephants during ten glittering nights in July/ August.
The beautiful city, surrounded by hills and valleys, rivers, lakes and cascading waterfalls, boasts of the Royal Botanical gardens at Peradeniya .
Kandy is an exciting place for shopping with souvenirs of wood, copper, silver, brass and bronze. Ceramics, lacquer work, handlooms, batiks, jewellery, rush and reed-ware too could be purchased. While in Kandy, an outing to a tea factory as well as a tea plantation should also be made to witness first hand, the process that leads to the creation of the famous 'Ceylon Tea'.



Beruwela BeachThe starting point for a major beach resort area on the south coast, Beruwela is believed to be the first Moorish settlement on the island, established by Arab traders around the 8th century AD. A large population of Sri Lanka Moors, many of them gem traders, still live in this area, particularly in the "China Fort" district. The oldest mosque in Sri Lanka - the Kachchimalai Mosque - is built on a rocky headland overlooking this town.
There are some small islands out at sea that are worth investigating, and a reef-protected slice of sea that makes swimming safe virtually all year round. Deep-sea fishing is possible here, as well as windsurfing.