Cultural Triangle

Sigiriya (Lion’s rock)

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Sigiriya an ancient rock fortress and palace ruin encircled by the remains of a widespread network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. Sigiriya consists of an ancient castle built by king Kassapa during the 5th Century AD. It is a popular tourist destination. Sigiriya has it all and its prehistoric paintings (frescos), which are significant of the Ajanta Caves of India.

The Sigiriya rock is believed to be a hardened lump of granite from long-eroded volcano. The rock itself rises 370 m (1,214 ft) above the sea level and stands high above the surrounding plain, visible for miles in all directions. The Sigiriya site has the ruins of an upper palace sited on the top of the rock, a mid-level terrace that includes the Lion Gate and the mirror wall with its frescoes, the lower palace that clings to the slopes below the rock, and the walls and gardens that extend for some hundreds of meters out from the base of the rock. Regardless of its age, the magnificence of the palace still furnishes an astonishing insight into the resourcefulness and imagination of its builders.

The Gardens of the Sigiriya city is one of the most important aspects of the site as it is among the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. The gardens are alienated into three isolated but linked forms; water gardens, cave and boulder gardens and the terraced gardens.

The Mirror Wall is made of a particular variety of porcelain, which was initially well polished that the King could see himself whilst he walked alongside it.

The Paintings sheltered an area of 140 m long and 40 m high. There are references in the graffiti to 500 ladies in these paintings. However, many more are lost forever, having been wiped out when the palace once became a Monastery after King Kassapa’s death.

Things to do in Sigiriya

  • Visit the Sigiriya – Lion Rock
  • Visit the Pidurangala Rock
  • Visit the Sigiriya Museum
  • Take a Balooning tour

Polonnaruwa

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned Archeological relic sites in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the kingdom’s first rulers. Some of the finest collections of Buddhist sculpture can be seen at Galvihara (Rock Monastery) in Polonnaruwa. Polonaruwa is known for its large rock cut images, which have been preserved perfectly over the many centuries. The unique set of statues cut out from a single granite wall with supreme esteem. The Samadhi image Buddha is in deep meditaion sitting on a seat adorned with lions and thunderbolts. There is a halo round his head.

The standing Buddha with hands placed across the chest – rather rare pose- is believed to be portraying how He spent the second week after Enlightenment. The statue is 23 feet high. The 46 foot long reclining Buddha is a perfect piece of art showing Him in the state of ‘parinirvana’. Polonnaruwa is the 2nd largest city in north central province. The first Sri Lankan King who lived in Polonnaruwa Aggabodhi IV, and the town came gradually to become the ‘Country Residence’ of royalty.

One recent scientific observation is that of its climate changes. Historically Polonnaruwa had a tropical climate most of the year, although it was occationally chilly in December and January. But in recent years rain and chilliness has been increased noticeably.

The greeny environment, amazing ancient constructions, the greatest of these systems is the Parakrama Samudraya (a huge lake built in 1200 A.C.), or the sea of Parakrama, a tank so vast that it is often mistaken for the ocean. King Parakramabahu raised Polonnaruwa to its heights. He erected huge buildings, drained swamps and planted vast areas with crops; planned beautiful parks and created wildlife sanctuaries. Parakramabahu was the last great king of Sri Lanka.

Things to do in Polonnaruwa

  • Visit the ancient ruins and monuments
    • The Gal Vihara
    • The Polonnaruwa Vatadage
    • The Lankathilaka Image House
    • The Sandakada Pahana
    • The Somawathiya Chaitya
    • The Statue of Parakramabahu I
    • The Nissanka Latha Mandapaya
  • Take a safari to Wasgamuwa National Park
  • Visit the  archaeological museum

 

Mihintale

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Mihintale is a mountain peak near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It is a place that holds much significance to Buddhists especially during the month of Poson (June) as Buddhism is said to have been brought to Sri Lanka on a Poson Poya day and Mihintale was where it all began. It is on this rock that the historic meeting between King Devanampiyatissa and Arahath Mahinda, the son of Emperor Asoka of India, is said to have taken place in 247 BC. This meeting led to the King converting to Buddhism and the establishment and growth of Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Leading to the top of the rock are 1840 granite steps. Among the many attractions for the visitor at Mihintale are the monks’ refectory (dining room) and relic house which on the second landing on the stairs. Here you will find two stone slabs which are known as the Mihintale tables, which are inscribed with rules laid down for the monks and the servants of the monastery. The assembly hall for the monks is located close by on the same level.

Among the many dagobas at Mihintale, one of the largest is Mahaseya Dagoba, which is thought to house the sacred relics of Arahath Mahinda.

On the slope is the cave known as Mihindu Guhawa (Mahinda’s Cave) where Arahath Mahinda is said to have lived until he died in 200 BC. The Aradhana Gala or meditation rock is another site.

At the foot of the mountain are the ruins of an ancient hospital and other buildings. The hospital is believed to have consisted of many rooms. There is a beheth oruwa (medicine boat), the interior of which is carved in the shape of a human form, to facilitate a human to lie inside while being immersed in healing oils.

The nearby museum now houses the clay urns and grinding stones used to store and prepare medicines, which had been unearthed. The museum also displays a replica of the interior of an eighth century dagoba, a ninth century gold-plated ola leaf manuscript, pottery fragments from China and Persia, bronze figurines and fragments of frescoes.

Among the many ponds in Mihintale are the Sinha Pokuna (lion pond), Naga Pokuna (cobra pond) and Kaludiya Pokuna (dark water pond).

Things to do in Mihintale

  • Visit the Mihintale temple
  • Visit the Aradhana Gala
  • Visit the Ambasthale Dagoba
  • Visit the Mahaseya Dagoba
  • Visit the Sinha Pokuna (lion pond)
  • Visit the Naga Pokuna (cobra pond)
  • Visit the Kaludiya Pokuna (dark water pond)

Habarana

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Habarana is a small picturesque city in the Anuradhapura District in the northern central region of Sri Lanka. The city is famed for its chain of high class tourist resorts which are extremely eco-friendly and have been built towards the beneficial aspects of the natural environment.

It is an ideal destination for safari lovers as it is the starting point for safari tours in the nearby Minneriya Sanctuary which is heavily populated by elephants and other species of wildlife. It is also the site of a famed organic farm which specialise in high yield argro-crops. Situated near the ancient rock fortress and castle ruin of Sigiriya and the Dambulla Cave temple, Habarana also attracts those who are interested in the intriguing history of this tiny island as day excursion can be taken to the ancient areas of the country to explore the past lives of great kings and their monuments. It is a renowned paradise for those who love natural history and wildlife and offers some of the most amazing Sri Lanka holiday packages.

Things to do in Habarana

  • Visit Minneriya National Park
  • Visit Kaudulla National Park
  • Visit Ritigala Forest Monastery
  • Visit Hurulu Eco Park
  • Visit Habarana Buddhist Temple

Dambulla

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Dambulla is a popular destination in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. With a history that dates back to the 1st century, Dambulla has historic statues and paintings in its caves that has made it a popular destination for archeological studies. Some major attractions in the area include the Dambulla cave temple, the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, the Iron wood forest and the Na Uyana Aranya.

Things to do in Dambulla

  • Visit the historic sites including the Dambulla cave temple
  • Take a trip to Sigiriya
  • Go on safari to Minneriya
  • Visit Sam Popham’s Arboretum
  • Try hot air ballooning
  • Visit Namal Uyana

About the Dambulla cave Temple

The Dambulla cave temple (also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla) is a World Heritage Site (1991) in Sri Lanka. The Dambulla cave monastery is still functional and remains the best-preserved ancient edifice in Sri Lanka. This complex dates from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, when it was already established as one of the largest and most important monasteries. King Valagambahu sought refuge here from South Indian usurpers for 15 years during his exile from Anuradhapura. After reclaiming his capital, the king converted the caves into a temple in the 1st century BC. Many other kings added to it later and by the 11th century, the caves had become a major religious centre and still are.

The temple is composed of five caves under vast overhanging rock, carved with a drip line to keep the interiors dry. The cave’s base is built at the base of a 150m high rock. Inside the caves, the ceilings are painted with intricate patterns of religious images following the contours of the rock. There are images of the Lord Buddha and bodhisattvas, as well as various Gods and Goddesses. There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of Gods & Goddesses.

It is believed that Prehistoric Sri Lankans would have lived in these caves as there were burial sites that contained human skeletons aging 2700 years old.

The first cave is called Devaraja lena (lena in Sinhalese meaning cave), or “Cave of the Divine King.” This cave is dominated by the 14-meter statue of the Buddha, hewn out of the rock. At the feet is Buddha’s favourite pupil, Ananda; at his head, Vishnu, said to have used his divine powers to create the caves.

In the second and largest cave, in addition to 16 standing and 40 seated statues of Buddha, are the gods Saman and Vishnu, which pilgrims often decorate with garlands, and finally statues of King Vattagamani, who honored the monastery in the first century B.C.

The third cave, the Maha Alut Vihara, the “Great New Monastery” acquired ceiling and wall paintings in the typical Kandy style during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasingha (1747-1782), the famous Buddhist revivalist. In addition to the 50 Buddha statues, there is also a statue of the King.

The fourth and fifth caves are smaller; they date from a later period and are not of such high quality. There is a small Vishnu Devale between the first and second caves.

Anuradhapura

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, distinguished for its well-preserved ruins of ancient civilization. According to Mahawamsa, the great chronicle of the Sinhalese, the city of Anuradhapura was named after a minister called Anurada who found this area as a village settlement by the Malwatu Oya in the second half of the 6th century BC. It is said that King Pandukabhaya made it his capital in the 4th century BC.

In this sacred city, there are eight main places of worship known as Athamasthana. They are: Sri Maha Bodhiya, Ruwanwelisaya, Thuparamaya, Lovamahapaya, Abhayagiriya, Jetavanaramaya, Mirisawatiya and Lankaramaya. In the vicinity of Anuradhapura there are a large number of ruins consisting of three classes of buildings, dagobas, basic buildings, and pokunas (bathing-tanks). The dagobas are bell-shaped masses of stonework, altering from a few feet to over 1100 ft in circumference. The most famous is the Brazen Palace erected by King Dutugamunu about 164 BC. One of the best specimen of bathing tanks or pools in ancient Sri Lanka is the pair of pools known as “Kuttam pokuna” (Twin ponds). The city also contains a sacred Bo-Tree, Sri Mahabodhiya, it is said that Sanghamitta Their brought with her a branch of the Bodhi tree under which prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment. This is the oldest living tree in documented history.

Things to do in Anuradhapura

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