Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka is an island situated in the Indian Ocean just south of India. It has a coastline of 1,340 km and a terrain made up of central highlands, lowland plains and coastal belt. There are dense evergreen rain forests in the south-west and although there are a few deep-water bays and many rivers, there are no natural lakes. The climate is warm subtropical with high humidity in the lowlands. Monsoonal rainfall is generally sufficient for agriculture except in the north of the island.
Rice & Curry is the main food of Sri Lanka andSri Lankans enjoy some of the spiciest foods in the world. Meat fishand vegetables are prepared as curries, sliced onions, green chilies,black pepper, cinnamon, cardomons, cloves, nutmeg and saffron are usedto add flavours. Today rice and curry has shifted from being thepopular breakfast to the essential lunch.A basic rice and curryrequires one fish (or beef or chicken) curry, two different vegetables,one portion of fried crispy stuff like ‘Pappdam’, a ‘mallun’ of choppedleaves and coconut and a gravy or ‘hodda’ of spiced and cooked withcoconut milk.
Hoppers Hoppers are much like sour-dough pancakes or muffins.The The Batteris terminated in the traditional way with a little palmtoddy which acts as the ‘rising agent’, it also gives the hoppers adelicious liquor tang. The batter is left to rise overnight, thenthinned with coconut cream and baked in a round cast-iron pan. Thehopper has a soft, fluffy, well-risen centre, a golden brown crispborder and is lightly flavoured with a hint of palm toddy and sesameoil with which the pan is greased. An egg is sometimes baked into thecentre, sunny-side up. Hoppers are equally good with hot sambals a hotsharp ‘relish’ of ground chilies, grated coconut’s shallots and curedfish or curries or with jam. The cardinal rule is to eat them hot andcrispy.
JakThe intriguing jak fruit is extremely nutritious andmedicinal. Jak (Arrtocarpusreterophyllus) comes in two varieties in SriLanka. They are soft or ‘vala’ and hard or ‘waraka’. The latter is morepopular than the soft. The bark of the Jak tree is used mainly formedical purposes including sprains and fractures.Tender Jak which is known as ‘polos’ ; can be made into a deliciouscurry and, in the diet of ancient Lankan royalty this was a dish thatwas rarely absent. Nursing mothers are given polos and boiled jak toincrease milk .Polos curry also helps those recovering from diarrheabecause ‘vala’ or the soft ripe jak is a laxative which can be eaten asit is. It helps clear the bowels and assists in digestion. It alsohelps relieve bronchitis when kept in bees honey and given to thepatient each morning.’waraka’ or the hard jak varieties beneficial todiabetic patients. The leaves are dried, powdered and made into acoffee-like drink to be given to diabetics. According to an ancientrecipe the ripe jak leaves are pounded and fried in gingili (sesame)oil and given to the diabetic patient each day. It is hard to imaginethat such a simple recipe can be a cure for diabetes but the fact thatit has been mentioned often in ancient books is proof of its efficacy.
Sigiriya, in fact, should have been classed as one of the Wonders of the Ancient World, long ago, and there is now a proposal to name it as the Eighth Wonder of the world. Perhaps, it is better late than never!
Sri Lanka's ancient architectural tradition is well portrayed at Sigiriya, the best preserved city centre in Asia from the first millennium, with its combination of buildings and gardens with their trees, pathways, water gardens, the fusion of symmetrical and asymmetrical elements, use of varying levels and of axial and radial planning. Sophisticated city planning was at the heart of Sigiriya, this royal citadel of ancient fame from the days of Sri Lanka's memorable past.
The Complex consists of the central rock, rising 200 meters above the surrounding plain, and the two rectangular precincts on the east (90 hectares) and the west (40 hectares), surrounded by two moats and three ramparts. The plan of the city is based on a precise square module. The layout extends outwards from co-ordinates at the centre of the palace complex at the summit, with the eastern and western axis directly aligned to it. The water garden, moats and ramparts are based on an 'echo plan' duplicating the layout and design on either side. This city still displays its skeletal layout and its significant features. 3 km from east to west and 1 km from north to south it displays the grandeur and complexity of urban-planning in 5th century Sri Lanka.
"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.
This 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 The 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 About 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 Beyond 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 The 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 Covering 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.
The Sacred Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura is reckoned as the oldest surviving historical tree in the world. It was brought to Sri Lanka by the Theri Sangamitta, daughter of Emperor Asoka and was planted in the Mahameghavana Park in Anuradhapura in 249 BC by King Devanampiyatissa. It is said to be the southern branch of the Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi at Buddha Gaya in India under which Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment.
The Mahavamsa or the Great Chronicle of the Sinhalese provides an elaborate account of the establishment of the Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi in the island. Bodhi means wisdom that understands the four Noble Truths. Thus the tree which assisted Lord Buddha to achieve wisdom or enlightenment is called Bodhi.
Every monastery has a dagoba. Ruvanveliseya is the dagoba of Maha Vihara. It was built by a Sinhalese hero King Dutugemunu in the 2nd century B.C. The architect ingeniously combined the Buddhist philosophy in the architectural conception. He conceived this as a bubble of milk: representing life, which will burst in no time just like the fragility of our lives. Its dome represents the vastness of the doctrine; the four facets of the box oh top represents the four noble truths. The concentric rings there after indicate the noble eightfold path that leads man to illumination. The illumination: the whole truth is light and transparent like the rock crystal at the pinnacle. The 1956's restoration curb on the dome is much to the chagrin of the purists: which looks flatter than bubbly.
One of the chief objects of interests in Kandy is the 'Dalada Maligawa'or Temple of the Sacred Tooth. This is the heart of Kandy, and theTooth of Buddha is the heart of it. The relic came from India sixteencenturies ago, and moved from capital to capital always with the king.It is rarely shown and never leaves the temple. The temple and the'Pattirippuwa', which is the octagonal building on the right of themain entrance, are enclosed by an ornamental stone wall and a moat.Upon entering, you pass through a small quadrangle and turn to theright, up a flight of stone steps, to the temple. The most strikingfeatures that attract one's attention are the unusual carvings,brightly coloured frescoes representing torments for various classes ofsinners, and many images of Lord Buddha. The flower-sellers are rangedon either side and the atmosphere is heavy with the perfume of thewhite blossoms. Yellow-robed priests flit here and there, whilst themusic of the temple bells and the rhythmic beat of the tom-tom fill theair with strange melodies that harmonize with the nature of the city.At the entrance to the sanctuary which contains the Sacred Tooth is anelaborate door, inlaid with silver and ivory, with two pairs ofelephants' tusks on either side. Within this chamber is the hugesilver-gilt, bell-shaped shrine that protects the Tooth. Inside thisshrine are six inner shrines ornamented with precious stones of rarevalue.
The Octagon, or the 'Pattirippuwa' was built shortlybefore the Kandyan Convention of 1815, by which Kandy was ceded to theBritish. After being a British military prison, it is now a library,mainly for ancient "olas" - manuscripts on palm-leaves- many of whichare magnificently bound and are held in due reverence by pilgrims ascontaining the teachings of Lord Buddha. The finest thing artisticallyis in the small shrine beside the stairway of the Octagon- a crystalstatue of the Buddha in a most attractive shrine-case.
Next door to the Tooth Temple is the Audience Hallwhere the Kandyan kings held court with all pomp and ceremony. The richcarvings on the pillars and the wall plates are excellent examples ofKandyan architecture. It was in this Audience Hall that the last kingof Kandy used to receive British ambassadors ; it was also here thatthe submission to Britain was signed and Sri Lanka's (then calledCeylon) independence in 1948 celebrated.
Yala West (Ruhuna) National Park is wellrecognised as one of the best parks in the world to observe andphotograph leopards. The park covers an area of over 100,000 hectaresand is divided into five blocks. Block one is the most visitedarea since it contains the highest density of leopards. Howeverother areas of Yala such as Yala East had been closed to visitorsfor some years and it will take time to research leopard numbersin these areas. Yala West consists of scrub jungle, brackish lagoonsand stunning rock monoliths scattered throughout the park, itseastern edge is bounded by the South East coast.
An excellent 'Natural World' wildlifedocumentary was filmed here featuring the 'Leopards of Yala',by Gordon Buchanan. Two local leopard experts, Jehan Kumara andRavi Samarasinha assisted with the research and filming, Ravicontinues his study of the park and its residents. One of themain findings of the film was that Yala has well over thirty leopards,probably the highest density anywhere in the world. It is alsothought that Sri Lankan leopards are a distinct sub-species fromtheir Indian neighbours, and the largest leopards in Asia.
It is possible to take full day jeepsafaris or to split your day into morning and afternoon drives.Your best chance to see a leopard is generally early in the morningand then again at dusk. You can stay until just after dark insidethe park, thus maximising your chances of a leopard encounter.The male leopards in Yala are very confident and are often seenwalking the tracks during the day. Young males in particular seemto have no fear of the jeep, which can lead to some excellentphotographic opportunities. There are similarities between Yalaand the best National Parks in India for photographing tigers,in both cases the big cats have become habitualised to the jeepsthus enabling us to enjoy a privileged view of these magnificentanimals.
TheBaker's Falls in the Horton Plains gets its water from the Belihul Oya.It is close to World's End. The icy waters glisten in the sunshine amida backdrop of mountain terrain and deep valleys and the patna throughwhich you traverse give it contrast. If you are lucky you may see therare black monkey and rhododendrons in bloom.
Discovered by Sir Samuel Baker and a good stopover on your way to the World's end. »
SriLanka is blessed with over one hundred waterfalls. The tallest is theBambarakande Falls which cascades down 263 metres like liquid light. Itis only four miles away from the Colombo-Bandarawela road in a forest glade, but it is not visited often, though well worth the trip.
Bambarakande is taller than the famous Diyaluma falls which is only 220metres but thought to be the tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka. TheDiyaluma or Diya Haluma collects its water from the Poonagala Oya inthe vicinity of Koslanda and Wellawaya. Located six miles from Koslandaand 13 miles from Wellawaya, its waters originate from the MahakandePass in Koslanda. You can see this waterfall if you stop a while onyour way to Haputale and detour.
Due to the geological formation of Sri Lanka, the central highlands aresurrounded by peneplains, plateaus and valleys. Rainfall sends a largevolume of water hurtling down the precipitous edges of the highlandmass. The up thrust millions of years ago has caused several peneplainsto form, the highest being well over 6000 ft. It is in this area thatthe water is collected when there are showers and flows down alongtributaries down the mountain slopes.
» Bopath Ella
"BopathElla", not like many of the others of her kind , finds her abode in abusy surrounding in the village called Devipahala off Kuruwita on A4High Level road close to Ratnapura. Being within 3 hours drivingdistance from the capital, it thus claims the honour of having thehighest turn-over of enthusiasts seeking respite from the grimy andmonotonous town life .Nevertheless, it has the notorious reputation ofdevouring its visitors off and on who , attracted by the surroundings,indulge in over-enjoyment .Here again, the falls take the shape of a"Bo" leave ( "Bo" tree is a sacred tree here ) from which the name hasbeen derived. » Devon Waterfalls
Witha peculiar appearance imparted to it by its formation in threecontinuous cascades this waterfall christened "Devon Falls" pours downto the valley beneath not a long distance away from its brother the"St. Clairs". On the main road opposite to it there is situated amodern tea centre finding its abode thankful to this "Veil ( Bridal )of the Vale ( i.e. valley )". Driving from Colombo,the capital, via Avissawella one suddenly catches this unearthly sightwhich is to be soon enhanced by the grandeur of the "St. Clairs". Thisbeauty too is endangered by the above-mentioned power plant beast »
Withan appearance and location which often make people believe that it isthe highest waterfall in the isle, this lanky "Diyaluma" waterfallpours its way down and flows towards Kirindi Oya underneath a bridge onthe highway from Beragala to Wellawaya. The extent of water spiltdownwards is so great during the rainy season that it makes amends forthe monotonously undisturbed water trunk falling from head to foot withno intermediate cascade whatsoever. Its geographical location by one ofthe mostly used Highways spanning the Hill Country to the Plains speaksfor its reputation not only here but in other parts of the world aswell. »
"Dunhinda"is one of the mostly spoken-about waterfalls in Sri Lanka. Although shecouldn't come even close to the highest waterfalls of the planet inheight she rivals many of them when it comes to the natural beauty thatit bestows on the environment . Situated about 2 km distance from themain road which runs to Taldena from the remote city Badulla in the UvaProvince this is easily accesible and frequently visited by local andforeign visitors. On the way can be seen the "Kuda Dunhinda" ( "Kuda"means small in Sinhala ) which is the prologue to its mighty brother .In native tongue "Dun" means mist or vapour which is the idealexplanation for a waterfall creating wreathes of mist on its way down.
Situated in the Hill capital Kandy. This visit to this garden will provide spectacles at extraordinary beauty and absorbing interest for any nature lover and casual visitor. 68 miles off-Colombo, 4 miles off Kandy this garden dates from 14th century reign of king Vikrama Bahu III. Peradeniya is well know for it's large variety of plants ornaments, useful machine and other creepers that produce the special spices at Sri Lanka. The great lawns highlight huge tropical trees and variety at bamboo can be found in one place.
The best know attraction of the garden is the orchid House, which houses more than 300 varieties of exquisite orchids. A spice garden gives you a first hand introduction to the trees and plants used for the traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Mahaweli river, Sri Lanka's longest river surrounding this garden gives an added beauty to this garden. It wont be wrong to say that this garden is one of it's best kind in the world and the best in Asia.
Hakgala Botanic Gardens
After the Royal Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya, Hakgala, 10km (6miles) south of Nuwara Eliya,is the second most important garden in Sri Lanka. Though on a smallerscale than those at Peradeniya, Hakgala's plantations of roses, shrubs,ferns and montage woodland are delightfully located, with scenic views.
Above the gardens, a forest trail leads into virginwoodland - the homeof a troop of purple-faced leaf monkeys, a species endemic to SriLanka, and to endemic bird species including the Sri Lanka white-eye,Sri Lanka wood pigeon, and Sri Lanka whistling thrush.
Mahavali Rever (Ganga) is the largest of the 103 river basins found in Sri Lanka. It covers about 16% of the island's total area. The river itself has a winding course, rising about 50 km south of Kandy and flowing north then north-east to the sea near Trincomalee covering a distance of 320 km. It is the only perennial river to cross the dry Zone. Sri Lanka’s all perenial revers are called Ganga,while seasonal streams are called Oya in Sinhala or Aru in Tamil. A number of rivers have now been developed both for irrigation and power. The Victoria project on Mahavali Ganga is one of the largest in Asia.
Located in south-west Sri Lanka, Sinharaja Rain Forest is thecountry's last viable area of primary tropical rainforest. More than60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare.There is much endemic wildlife, especially birds, but the reserve isalso home to over 50% of Sri Lanka's endemic species of mammals andbutterflies, as well as many kinds of insects, reptiles and rareamphibians. SriLanka's tropical rain forest, the Sinharaja is a UNESCO World NaturalHeritage Site.
One of the few virgin forests left in the world.Streams, springs, rivers, waterfalls, leopard, monkeys, butterflies andmoths, rare trees, valuable shrubs and medicinal herbs are all foundwithin its green canopy. A trek along prescribed paths would providenature lovers with a never to be forgotten experience of sights andsounds.
Thelargest mammal in the Sinharaja Rain Forest is the rarely spottedleopard, also infrequently glimpsed are the rusty spotted and wildfishing cats. Sambhur, barking deer and wild boar browse on the forestfloor. The more common troops of purple-faced langur monkeys willchatter and move through the trees above you, but you're more likely tohear them than actually see them. There are also rats, shrews, giantsquirrels, porcupines, civets, mongooses, venomous snakes, 20 speciesof birds and 45 species of reptiles!.