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Creeped Out at Isurumuniya Temple

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We had just arrived at the Isurumuniya Temple at the southern end of Anuradhapura’s Sacred City, and were scoping out the grounds. The temple is set in a large rock near the Tissa Wewa lake, and just to the left of the main shrine was a small cave. “Hey, check this out!” I shouted to Jürgen, immediately regretting the volume of my voice. The cave was filled with thousands of bats who came swooping out above me. Jürgen might have been impressed, if he hadn’t been busy with his own terror: a six-foot long serpent had slithered across his path. Welcome to Isurumuniya.

Isurumuniya-Temple

After recovering from our fright, we explored the rest of the temple in peace. The shrine is beautiful, in a spacious cave carved out of the rock. Above the Buddha’s head are what look like bat nests. (Do bats have nests? I don’t think so. In that case, I don’t want to know what those were). We were visiting during the evening, and the temple’s setting was made even more gorgeous by the low light. Stairs lead above the shrine to the top of the rock, and we enjoyed a spectacular sunset over the Tissa.

The temple complex includes a small museum where, along with other relics from Anuradhapura’s golden years, a famous carving called The Lovers is kept. It was about to close, though, and we didn’t get a picture (but there’s one here!)

The region around the temple is full of worthwhile sights, as well. Just to the north, you can find the Goldfish Park. This lovely little area holds the remains of the royal baths, which take their water from the Tissa. We were completely alone when we visited, even though these were among the most impressive ruins we saw during our time in Anuradhapura.

South of Isurumuniya are the remains of the Vessigiriya Monastery. We hadn’t been expecting much, but this was another incredibly cool area. A field of mammoth rocks, into which caves and engravings had been cut. As we climbed around, we were in impish spirits, laughing wickedly about some truly disgusting and profane things. We thought we were all alone, but while loudly discussing CENSORED, we turned a corner and came upon a Buddhist Monk who had been using the monastery’s solitude for meditation. He lifted an eye at us, and smiled. So, either he didn’t understand what we were saying to each other, or that was one dirty monk!

If you have extra time in Anuradhapura, don’t pass up the amazing southern zone, which is almost completely ignored by tourists. It’s one of the city’s best areas.

Location of the Isurumuniya Temple on our Map
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Pics and a Video from Isurumuniya
Temple-Bats
Anuradhapura-Temple
Anuradhapura-Snake
Sunset-Anuradhaprua
Sri Lanka Sun
Pics from the Goldfish Park
Stone Stairs Sri Lanka
Goldfish Park
Goldfish-Park-Anuradhapura
Water Run
Pics from Vessigiriya
King Kong Rock
Temple Stairs
Cave Roots
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March 16, 2012 at 11:30 am Comments (6)

The Archaeological, National, and Elephant Museums of Kandy

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Just behind the Temple of the Tooth are a couple museums which might be worth a visit, depending on the degree to which looking at piles of old stuff turns your crank. The Archaeological Museum, hosted in the former King’s Palace, and the adjacent National Museum are stuffed to the gills with artifacts and treasures from days long gone by.

Kandy Royal Palace

We had just left the Vishnu Devale, which sits across the Temple of the Tooth’s moat. A hundred yards away, an old man was frantically waving at us. Curious and a little apprehensive, we approached him. With every step closer, the guy’s excitement level increased … at 50 yards, he started hopping up and down. At 25, he grinned and began directing us as though he were on a runway, holding glowing sticks. And when we were 10 yards away, I swear he started convulsing. As soon as we were within striking distance, he grabbed our hands and dragged us into the Archaeological Museum.

This museum is hosted in the former palace of the Kandyan Kings. Most of the palace has been destroyed, though the front door and some supporting structures remain intact. The museum displays artifacts found in and around the city, in a dusty and poorly-presented collection. If not for our guide, we wouldn’t have understood anything we were looking at — and even with him, it wasn’t all that interesting. Pots. Moonstones. Other, larger pots. Most of a statue. But, the museum was free (apart from a small tip) and we enjoyed the opportunity to step inside the former royal palace.

Sri Lanka Antigues

The nearby National Museum is far more compelling, though it costs 500 rupees to enter. Here, we found Kandyan-era weapons, like spears and bows, masks and ceremonial costumes, and a lot of information about the lives of the native people. There were ancient, but still legible, ola leaf manuscripts, as well as a copy of the 1858 Kandyan Treaty which ceded power to the Brits.

We should also mention the nearby Raja Tusker Museum, found inside the Temple of the Tooth complex. This is almost certainly the only museum I’ll ever visit which is dedicated to a single elephant. Raja Tusker was beloved by Sri Lankans and his death in 1988 sparked a period of national mourning. This bizarre museum is nothing more than a room decorated with photographs and, in the center, Raja Tusker’s enormous, taxidermied corpse.

None of these museums is essential during a trip to Kandy, but all are worth a peek if you have a few extra hours, or a deep interest in the history of the city.

Location of the Archaeological Museum
Location of the National Museum
Location of the Raja Tusker Museum
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Photos from the Royal Palace
Kandy Dragon
Moon Stone
Old Writing Sri Lanka
Royal Palace Kandy
Sand Monster
Sri Lankan Pots
Sri Lankan Paintings
Photos from the National Museum
Kandyan Crown
Kandy Fashion
Kandy Jewelry
Ivery Comb
Beattle Boxes
Spears
Culture in Sri Lanka
Rotten Spider
Small Cobra
Calf Foetus
Water Monitor
The Raja Tusker Museum
Raja Tusker Museum
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February 29, 2012 at 6:29 am Comments (0)
Creeped Out at Isurumuniya Temple We had just arrived at the Isurumuniya Temple at the southern end of Anuradhapura's Sacred City, and were scoping out the grounds. The temple is set in a large rock near the Tissa Wewa lake, and just to the left of the main shrine was a small cave. "Hey, check this out!" I shouted to Jrgen, immediately regretting the volume of my voice. The cave was filled with thousands of bats who came swooping out above me. Jrgen might have been impressed, if he hadn't been busy with his own terror: a six-foot long serpent had slithered across his path. Welcome to Isurumuniya.
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