Elephanta Island

 Major adventures, Southern India, Sri Lanka  Comments Off on Elephanta Island
Apr 252012

The island of Elephanta, an hour ferry ride from Mumbai, is described on the UNESCO website as “the glorious abode of Lord Shiva.” The seven caves at the site are considered the epitome of Hindu cave culture. Images from Hindu mythology pantheon decorate the temples.

The date of the Elephanta Caves is  debated and varies from the 6th century to the 8th century based on the findings of different archeologists. The caves constitute one of the most striking collections of rock art in India.

There are two groups of caves.  The main cave, famous for its carvings to the glory of Shiva, consists of a square hall plan with the interior divided into smaller areas by rows of supports.  This interior space carefully imitates a building.  False profiled beams have been carved into the roof  and the supports are in the shapes of the pillars, columns and capitals prevalent in stone architecture.   Colossal figures of dvarapala guardians flank the entry.  Enormous high-reliefs depicting the life of Shiva are on each wall of the vast square sacred assembly space.  Ten other reliefs, placed in each angle of the main hall and in the aisles to the east and west, depict further episodes from the legend of Shiva, such as the marriage of Shiva to Parvati, Shiva killing the devil Andhaka. Additionally the 15 large reliefs surrounding the lingam chapel in the main Elephanta Cave not only constitute one of the greatest examples of Indian art but also one of the most important collections for the cult of Shiva.

A popular destination, visitors include locals on day excursions, Indian tourists as well as tourists worldwide.  Although they come for the caves, all visitors are fascinated by the the bold and very aggressive pack of monkeys that will steal anything from anyone at any moment.  Although I was very cautious after warnings from our guide,  sure enough I lost my water bottle on which Mama Monkey promptly unscrewed the lid and gave Baby a drink. Maybe cute but it was alarming for me!!!!
Source: UNESCO

So Long Sri Lanka…

 Southern India, Sri Lanka, Uncategorized  Comments Off on So Long Sri Lanka…
Apr 022012

We spent a relaxed morning in the colonial era Galle Face Hotel right on the Bay of Bengal. Although refurbished it retains the flavor of and celebrates its illustrious past with photos and memorabilia.20120403-121620.jpg20120403-121707.jpg

Take Tea and See…

 Southern India, Sri Lanka  Comments Off on Take Tea and See…
Apr 022012

Nuwara Eliya, a town situated in the central highlands is the most important place for tea production in all of Sri Lanka. Like English and Scottish tea planters of the oi past, residents of Columbo that can afford to escape the lowlands heat in midsummer by going to the highlands. The drive around tree lined streets through by formal English gardens and 19th century copycat country manor houses is cool and breezy.

Today the region is still dominated by all aspects of tea production and processing. Hillsides are lush with tea in various stages of cultivation and harvesting. Tamil women scurry along the steep inclines with plastic bags strapped to their foreheads which they fill with 15 pounds of new growth tea leaves. They work from early morning to mid-afternoon under the supervision of a strict male overseer. Husbands work pruning, cultivating, weeding and fertilizing the vast hectares comprising the region. Most of the tea is auctioned in Columbo and exported.




Kandy Sweet Kandy…

 Sri Lanka, Uncategorized, UTube links  Comments Off on Kandy Sweet Kandy…
Mar 312012

Kandy was the capital of Sri Lanka for two centuries until 1815. The sweet-sounding name of Kandy derives from Kanda Uda Pasrata which means mountainous district. Our first visit was to see the famous Temple of the Tooth, which is considered one of the most important Buddhist shrines in Sri Lanka and a sacred pilgrimage for the devout, holding the tooth of Buddha. Our guide Soo refers to this famous shrine as the Temple of the Tooth Relic but with his pronunciation some of us heard “Temple of the Tooth Fairy.” Somehow this sent us all into peals of uncontrollable laughter after a relatively long day.

The Temple of the Tooth is also historically significant as the location where the last Kandyan chief handed over power to the British Empire in 1815. The British immediately built a large Anglican church on the sacred grounds adjacent to the temple as a show of power and it is still intact today. Tamil Tigers bombed the main Temple complex entrance in the late 90s so the entire area is gated off and security is extremely tight subjecting all visitors to bag searches and metal detectors.

Around the temple complex, there is also the Sri Dalada Museum dedicated to the Tooth Relic as well as the Raja Tusker Museum, a memorial for Sri Lanka’s most famous elephant who often carried the Tooth Relic casket during the elaborate festival of Esala Perhera.

Following the temple visit we walked the Royal Botanic Gardens along with courting Sri Lankan lovers and young families enjoying a gorgeous day in an exquisite park. The gardens are a favorite destination for locals and well deserved source of pride and history.


Dambulla Cave

 Southern India, Sri Lanka  Comments Off on Dambulla Cave
Mar 302012

After our first successful Facetime conversation with Ashe in which we introduced our fellow travellers-Jerry and Ted from Des Moines, Joyce and Mike from Denver and Jordan from Phoenix-we set off this morning for Dambulla caves.

Truly an ancient city, Dambulla had inhabitants as early as the third century BC and today is best known for the most extensive array of cave temples in Sri Lanka. Dambulla Cave Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although there are 80 caves in the area, we visited only the five main caves found beneath a vast stone outcropping. Elaborate murals adorn the walls, some honoring the Buddha’s life, others featuring the Hindu pantheon—all gazing down upon a phalanx of marvelous statues: 153 Buddhist, three of Sri Lankan kings, and four of non-Buddhist deities.

Access to the caves requires a steep stair climb alongside other tourists, devoted pilgrims and Buddhist monks. Easy when compared with the day before at Sirgirlya.

Lunch was a delicious array of traditional curries all prepared from the fresh local produce using Sri Lankan native vegetables and spices which we had seen in the enormous wholesale market yesterday. Prepared and served by a village family in their home, it was a delightful setting on terrace overlooking a forrest of jackfruit trees in which giant squirrels leapt between high branches as if for our entertainment.

We then were off to Kandy.