Friday, February 26, 2016

Sri Lanka - Part 22 - Nawan Maha Perahera

Monday, 22 February 2016

Every "poya" day (full moon day) is a holiday in Sri Lanka. All government offices, banks, and most stores are closed for the day. Alcohol is not sold or served. Many Buddhists spend the full day in the temple.

Once a year, many temples, especially the larger ones, perform a "perahera" on poya day. This is a large, elaborate procession with monks, dancers, bands, and elephants. The local temple relic and statues of Lord Buddha are also part of the procession.

This year the Nawam Maha Perahera, put on by the Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo, was on our last day in Sri Lanka. The Perahera route was very close to our hotel, so we were encouraged to go see the procession before leaving for the airport just after midnight.

We took a walk in the afternoon and came across the elephants that would be in the procession -- and all the chairs set up for "VIP" visitors.
Some elephants were relaxing in the shade.
The Perahera was scheduled to start at 7:00. We got a spot on the sidewalk near the beginning of the Perahera route, and the start of the parade passed us about 8:45. We watched until 10:00; then we had to walk back to our hotel and prepare for our flight. I wish we could have stayed until the end.

The Perahera mostly takes place along the streets surrounding the Gangarama Lake.
These photos were taken at night with an iPhone. So don't expect crystal clear photos -- the dancers were usually moving very fast!

I'll start with photos of some of the dancers and musicians. We were amazed that a dance troupe could dance to their drums and not the drums of the units ahead and behind them.

Most units had an elephant between them and the next. They were covered with shimmering costumes. In the hour and a quarter we watched, we saw 26 elephants. Here's a sampling:

"Horn OK Please" is going back on hiatus until we return to exotic locales in 2017.

I'll be returning to my U.S. blog, "No Turn On Red".

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sri Lanka - Part 21 - Galle and Colombo

Monday, 22 February 2016

We didn't leave Galle until 10 AM, so we had time to walk the beach.

The tide was coming in, so we got to see a lot of impressive spray as the waves broke on the boulders on the beach.
Lon dodging the incoming tide.
Sue on the beach.
The beach at the hotel was filled with seashell and coral fragments.
In a small rock crevice, someone had assembled a human figure from coral and rocks.
The view from breakfast at the hotel.
We took the expressway to Colombo (2 hours vs 5 hours on the "shore road"). We then spent the rest of the day in Colombo before transferring to the airport shortly after midnight.

The palm-type plant has a trunk that resembles a snake.
Near the National Museum: Original art for sale.
A building under construction. The chairs in the lower right are set up to view this evening's "Perahera".  (See following post.) While under construction, construction workers and their families live in the incomplete structure - you can see their laundry drying. Not in the photo are their cars that are parked on the first and second floors.

Sri Lanka - Part 20 - Galle

Sunday, 21 February 2016

The Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel has a very interesting sculpture of the confrontation between the Portuguese and natives as the Portuguese established their presence in Sri Lanka.
After arriving at our hotel, we had an excursion to the Fort area of Galle.

The old walls of the Portuguese/Dutch fort contain the oldest part of Galle. It is on a peninsula that juts into the Indian Ocean.
Because Galle is an old trading center, it has a high Muslim population. This is a mosque that looks remarkably like a traditional Portuguese Roman Catholic church.
The old fort walls still allow for a complete circumambulation of the old town - with a nice view of the rooftops of Galle Fort. The Dutch Reformed Church and Anglican Church can be seen in the back.
A typical street in Galle Fort.
A roof-top garden and laundry.
Even if you can't read Sinhala, it's clear that the A-Level exams in Chemistry and Physics are a big deal!
The main entrance to the Fort was added by the British.
Rather than take a tuk-tuk, we opted to walk the two miles back to our hotel.

A Muslim woman in a burka enjoys the beach with her children.
Sunset view from our hotel room.

Sri Lanka - Part 19 - Temples and Fish

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Today we drove from Yala to Galle and visited two temples along the way.

In Dondra we stopped at the Uthpalawanna Sri Vishnu Devalaya. While that names implies a Vishnu temple, there was a huge modern standing Buddha and a stupa. This building is the image hall for the Buddha.
The Hindu deities were to be found in this pavilion of shrines off to the side of the temple complex.
One of two temple elephants. Both were chained and didn't seem particularly happy.
This large lizard was found just outside the temple walls.
The second temple was the Sri Sudharshana Bandaramulla temple in Mirissa and was prominent in our guide's family history. The stupa is unusual for having bo leaves at the cardinal points.
The inner wall of the temple.
The temple had very interesting artwork. The poses of these nine women create an elephant.
On the other side of the door was a painting of seven women arranged to make a horse.
The bottom of the outside wall of the temple was painted with graphic-novel-type paintings of Buddhist Hell.
On Sundays, many Buddhist temples run "Sunday Schools" for children.
Fishing boats in Weligama harbor.
Traditionally, fishermen sit on poles planted in the ocean to get the catch.  Now many fisherman make money by posing for tourists.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sri Lanka - Part 18 - Kataragama

Kataragama is a pilgrimage town sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus. It is the terminus of an annual pilgrimage from Jaffna at the far northern tip of Sri Lanka.

The way to the temple from the main road is lined with stalls selling puja supplies -- mostly fruits.
Another puja fruit stall.
On the walkway between the Hindu-Buddhist temple and the large Kiri Vehera Dagoba the merchants were mostly selling flowers.
There was a place where worshippers could offer prayers with lighted coconuts. Then they then smashed the coconuts by throwing them into a pit.
The shrine dedicated to the Hindu deity Skandia/Murukan was getting most of the attention tonight.
Next to the Skandia shrine was one dedicated to Lord Buddha.
A set of shrines to lesser deities lined the back wall of the temple. This one is dressed in the traditional garb of the Kandyan king
At the other end of the temple complex is the Kiri Vehera Dagoba.