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The Stupas of Anuradhapura

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Found at temples, on hills, in caves, or just along the side of the road, the dome-shaped structures called stupas are one of the hallmarks of Sri Lankan Buddhism. They range in size from modest to monumental, and pop up all over the island, but nowhere are they more impressive than in the sacred city of Anuradhapura.

Stupas

Since our arrival in Sri Lanka, stupas (or dagobas as they’re also known) have confused us. The simple, round domes aren’t particularly lovely, and you can’t even go inside them. Most of the stupas we’ve seen are smallish, painted white and occasionally decorated with orange ribbons. Nice enough, but they seem kind of pointless. “What do you do, stupa?” I be round! “What may I do with you?” You may look!

But they’re ubiquitous and play a big part in the island’s religious life. Stupas are built as reliquaries to hold sacred objects, in commemoration of historic events, or just because a ruler decided to buff his Buddhist credentials a bit. During the centuries that Anuradhapura was the capital of Sri Lanka, the country was at its political zenith, and the world’s most important center of Buddhism. A dizzying number of stupas were constructed, reflecting the kingdom’s power.

Thuparama

Constructed by King Tissa in the 3rd century BC, Thuparama was the first stupa built in Sri Lanka, shortly after the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The monument might be moderately sized, but is believed to hold the right collarbone of the Buddha. Surrounding the stupa are the ruined pillars of a vatadage: a circular fence used to protect small stupas, unique to Sri Lankan architecture.

Stupa Pool

A hundred meters down a monkey-infested, ruin-strewn path is the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa, or the “Great Stupa”. Built sometime around 150 BC by King Dutugemunu, who had freed Anuradhapura from Tamil rule, this stupa is of a tremendous size and still actively in use. Hundreds of elephants are carved into the stone fence which surrounds it.

Glowing Budda

Further south into the Sacred City, we found the Mirisaveti Stupa, also built by King Dutugemunu. According to legend, the king wished to bathe in a nearby lake, and threw his spear into the ground. When he returned, he could not remove the spear, try as he might. Clearly: miracle. So he left the spear in the ground, and had this stupa built on top of it.

Anuradhapura-Travel-Blog

Stupa’d out? Just one more. The Jetavanaramaya Stupa is one of the most impressive ancient constructions we’ve ever seen. When it was built in the 2nd century AD, it was one of the tallest structures in the world, surpassed only by Egypt’s pyramids. Today, it’s still the world’s largest brick-made building. The ancient red dome measures 400 feet in height, and 576 feet across.

I’m still not sure that stupas are my favorite style of building, but I’m starting to warm up to them. There’s something appealing in their simplicity, and the sheer size and age of Anuradhapura’s ancient stupas leaves one breathless.

Locations on our map: Thuparama | Ruwanwelisaya | Mirisaveti | Jetavanaramaya
Book Your Anuradhapura Hotel Here

More Photos from Thuparama
Buddhist-Troth
Thuparama-Ruins
More Photos from Ruwanwelisaya
Giant-Stupa
Ruvanvalisaya-Buddha-Statue
Ruvanvalisaya-Altar
Angry Elephants
Heaven Nozzles
Buddha-Enlightment
More Photos from Mirisaveti
A Sign From Buddha
Done With Prayer
Mirisavatiya
More Photos (and Video) from Jetavanaramaya
Broken Dagoba
Jetavana
Sri Lankan School Girls
Ancient Sri Lankans
Elephant Flowers
Little Guy
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March 12, 2012 at 3:17 pm Comments (2)

Nuwara Eliya

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Ceylon Tea

Known around Sri Lanka as “Little England”, Nuwara Eliya is the highest city on the island, at around 6128 feet above sea level. Throughout history, this mountainous patch of the country had been almost entirely unpopulated, but the British recognized the potential value of its soil and climate. In 1846, explorer Samuel Barker (who would later “discover” Africa’s Lake Albert) founded Nuwara Eliya, which quickly established itself as a favorite retreat for the ruling class, and eventually gained prominence as a center for tea cultivation.

Nuwara-Eliya-Post-Office

We arrived in Nuwara Eliya expecting to be enchanted by its quaint English charms, but were quickly disillusioned. Today, it’s a very Sri Lankan city, with the usual array of shops and smoggy, noisy traffic. Some vestiges of the privileged colonial life still remain, notably in the horse track, the grand old hotels and government buildings, but to call Nuwara Eliya “charming” would be a real stretch.

After pushing through the muck of downtown, we ascended Single Tree Hill, which cuts a beautiful path up through the fields of the Pedro Tea Estate. We passed a single Buddhist temple, and a ton of Hindu people — Nuwara Eliya is notable for having a majority Tamil population, brought over from India by the British to work at the tea plantations.

Besides the hike up Single Tree Hill, we couldn’t find much entertainment in Nuwara Eliya. There’s a park which we were done with in ten minutes, and a famous golf course. Golf’s not our thing, so we decided to spend the afternoon drinking at one of the beautiful old hotels near the course. The most storied is the Hill Club, which proved its snooty credentials by denying us entrance. No shorts allowed. The Grand Hotel, though, was less exclusive and allowed us to stretch our dirty, bared limbs on their veranda for a couple hours.

We didn’t have a great time in Nuwara Eliya, but the city’s attractions weren’t the main reason we were visiting. Horton Plains National Park is nearby, as well as a large tea plantation. As a base for excursions, Nuwara Eliya served its purpose fine, but the city itself was a disappointment.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map
Hotels in Nuwara Eliya

http://for91days.com/photos/SriLanka/Nuwara%20Eliya/Nuwara-Eliya.jpg
Britain Meets Sri Lanka
Posh House
Kind of the Castle
Posh Sri Lankan
Dusty Old Timer
Gin And Tonic Break
Horse-Track-Nuwara-Eliya
Walking-in-Nuwara-Eliya
Weird Landscape
Shaped Bushes
Trumpet Flower
Trunk Monster
Welcome-To-Nuwara-Eliya
Sri-Lanka-Antenna
Nuwara-Eliya-Market
Fresh Vanilla
Digging Dog
Playground-in-Sri-Lanka
Blue Hut
Regal Sri Lanka
Mosque-Nuwara-Eliya
Nuwara Eliya Temple
Tea Picker in Sri Lanka
Picking Tea In Sri Lanka
Harvesting Tea
Army of Pickers
Hobbit Landscape
how-to-pick-a-tea-leaf
Tausend Fuessler
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March 4, 2012 at 4:29 am Comments (5)

The Modern Temple of Seema Malaka

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Learn About Buddhism Here

In the middle of Beira Lake, the sleek Buddhist Temple of Seema Malaka rises elegantly from the tepid water. In comparison to the garishly colorful Sri Subravanian Kovil, which we had just finished visiting, Seema Malaka is a marvel of restraint.

Geoffrey Bawa

After the original Seema Malaka temple had sunk into the lake, the government commissioned Geoffrey Bawa to design a replacement in the 1970s. Bawa, known as the founder of Tropical Modernism, is Sri Lanka’s most famous architect and was one of the most influential in Asia. His stylish creations can be found throughout Colombo, and Seema Malaka is one of the highlights.

The temple is spread across three raised platforms in the lake, connected to each other and to the mainland by bridges. Bawa intended his design to echo the jungle temples of Anuradhapura, also bound together by walkways. Seema Malaka is small and, with the cool breeze coming off the lake, a sense of serenity and simplicity dominates the scene — quite the accomplishment, in the middle of steamy, chaotic Colombo.

Location on our Sri Lanka Map
Book Your Sri Lanka Hotel Here

Seema Malaka
Colombo Blog
Steeling The Show
Bo Tree
Happy Buddha
Buddha Art
Spooky God
Elephant God
Multi Handed God
Buddhist Crow
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February 10, 2012 at 2:07 pm Comments (3)
The Stupas of Anuradhapura Found at temples, on hills, in caves, or just along the side of the road, the dome-shaped structures called stupas are one of the hallmarks of Sri Lankan Buddhism. They range in size from modest to monumental, and pop up all over the island, but nowhere are they more impressive than in the sacred city of Anuradhapura.
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