Iridescent Sri Lanka

the old and the new.. a Buddha temple between the lake and a skyscraper behind! a view of Colombo
the old and the new.. a Buddha temple between the lake and a skyscraper behind! a view of Colombo

The first thing that stuns you is the amazing natural beauty of the place. And second, the cleanliness. Though the feel of the place is very Indian, there is something distinct about Sri Lanka which endears it to you. The locals are friendly, the cities are clean (even the countryside) and the greenery is a feast for the eyes.

When we planned the trip of four days, we felt that it might be a tad too long, but I was mistaken. The more I saw, the more I wanted to see.

Sri Lanka is called the tear drop of India. Though not one among the most popular destinations for a family to travel as compared to Malaysia, Bali or Hongkong, it definitely has its own charm.It is comparatively unspoiled by consumerism like other tourist spots.

One of the most surprising and great things about Sri Lanka is its cleanliness. Through the trip we saw vast expanses of greenery and fertile land which, though inhabited by people, remained extremely tidy. No overflowing trash cans, no garbage on the roads, no spilling of plastic waste everywhere, no stray animals! This is true even in the most remote of the villages.

Our first stop was Colombo, the earlier capital of Srilanka, before it was shifted to Sri Jayawardhanepura kotte! I know, never heard of the place before, never saw it either! Unfortunately, it was not a part of the itinerary.

Sri Lanka became a democratic republic in 1972, and also at the same time, ditched its old name of Ceylon. ‘Sri Lanka’ apparently means ‘Auspicious Lanka’, which is the name preferred by the locals,  with reference to the Ramayana. Apart from Ceylon and Sri Lanka, this small island has many other names like Sinhaladvipa (Lion Island),Ratnadvipa(Island of gems),Tambapanni or copper water (signifying the copper color of the beaches), Zeylan (as called by the Dutch), Serendib(named by the Arabs, from which the word ‘serendipity’ – ‘happy discoveries by chance’ originated). Whew!

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Buddha, Buddha everywhere..

Colombo, home to about three million citizens of Sri Lanka, resembles most large cities. Chaotic, lots of traffic and people, with one side laced by long stretch of beach. The influence of Buddhism is seen everywhere. There are Buddhas of all sizes and shapes, gazing serenely at you around every corner. Apparently, Buddhism made an entry into the island in third century BC. The south of the island is populated with the Sinhalese who follow Buddhism,and the north (the infamous Jaffna strip, home to LTTE and Prabhakaran), is populated densely with Tamils.

elephants at Pinnewala, taking a bath break
elephants at Pinnewala, taking a bath break

Pinnewala elephant orphanage, is at half distance between Colombo and Kandy. It is the largest orphanage for captive and handicapped elephants in the whole world. It has to feed about 80 elephants every day, each one of them eating about 100 kilograms of food! The kids enjoyed the thrill of feeding milk in large bottles to elephants.

kids feeding elephants some milk
kids feeding elephants some milk

Kandy is famous for its Buddha tooth temple (Dalada Maligawa). It is home to Sri Lanka’s most revered relic -the tooth of the Buddha, which was smuggled from India in the third century BC. It is said that the tooth is kept on display only when the island is struggling with a bad drought. And every time that the tooth has been opened from its resting place, it pours rain within 24 hours. This has, according to our guide happened thrice in the past twenty three years!

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offerings for the Buddha
offerings for the Buddha

We next journeyed on to Nuwara Eliya, which is the highest town in Sri Lanka. It is home to old colonial buildings remniscent of British rule, a temple where Hanuman landed first in Lanka, another temple where Hanuman’s footprints are etched in a boulder near the temple. There are many references to the Ramayana everywhere. When asked how the Sri Lankans consider Ravana—we were told that he was a good king and kept his citizens happy. He was neither given an exalted status nor labelled a villain. His foibles were just considered a part of the excess which almost every rajah is supposed to have!

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tea estates, water falls and wonderful weather
tea estates, water falls and wonderful weather

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a break for tea
a break for tea

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Climbing down the mountainside swathed with picturesque tea estates, beautiful and bountiful waterfalls at every turn and vast expanses of farm land filled abundantly with colourful plump veggies, we reached a quaint tea house. It gave us the view of a water fall and had fragrant Sri Lankan tea served in a house with white picket fencing straight out of an Enid Blyton novel and a perfectly manicured garden. Loved it!Tea, samosas and french fries never tasted better! Somehow most of my favorite moments center around food and nature.

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In Bentota, at one end there is fresh water..
and one end is the sea
and one end is the sea

Bentota was one the place we got unlucky. Supposed to be the epicenter of beach tourism and water sports, we were met with a heavy downpour-screeching winds, torrential rain and swaying coconut trees—a little creepy and somewhat scary! What little time we got when the rain subsided was spent on the beautiful, unpolluted beach and building sand castles!

how often do you see a railroad, pavement and highway, next to each other and just jumping distance from the sea???
how often do you see a railroad, pavement and highway, next to each other and just jumping distance from the sea???

All in all, Sri Lanka threw us many surprises. I realized there was much more to see in this land filled with contrasts. In times of stress now, I close my eyes and picture the lushness of Sri Lanka and let out sigh of peacefulness.

we somehow zeroed in on this quaint, culturally as we1ll as geographically diverse land.

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