I came to Sri Lanka between January and March of this year to work with Sewalanka. Sewalanka is the largest development organization in the country and is involved in a range of things, from promoting self-sustainable development strategies to organizing large-scale folk music festivals.
My favourite things about Sri Lanka:
- SO GREEN!
- Amazing architecture everywhere. Even poor families have houses with thick, warm wooden beams, doors, and window frames. It really is wonderful.
- Great meat
- Great local bread
- String hoppers. Yes!
- I love the fact that it’s so small (compared to India) and that one can literally explore the entire country in a couple of weeks or so.
- Although it’s a small place, it’s brimming with cultural diversity.
- The men’s lungis. Bright bright colours and really cool patterns.
- Blue, blue ocean! That is SUCH a luxury for us Indians who have to swim among grime and plastic bags. Even in Goa.
Islander Centre, Anuradhapura
I was based at the Islander Centre, a lush green area near Anuradhapura. Although ridiculously beautiful, it took me a while to get used to the pace of things at Islander, including dealing with the language barrier and the food. But after the initial bumps, it blossomed into a rejuvenating experience.
At Islander, I spent my days shooting a short documentary on the Centre, teaching English to Sri Lankan youth who were attending a 3 month-long course on Self-sustainable Development, and I also carried out a photo project involving these cuties. More on that later.
Went for a week-long tour of Sri Lanka, beginning with a visit to the Mahabodhi tree in the heart of Anuradhapura. I’m not really too fond of pilgrimage sites, and tend to associate them with sweaty crowds, noisy children and a headache. But oh mannn this was entirely different. The site is serene, and the pilgrims, all in white, add to the beauty. Soft chanting can be heard from all corners, and fresh lotus offerings everywhere.
The Mahabodhi tree itself is impressive, but I was more attracted to the atmosphere at the site than anything else. Beautiful evening.
The next morning at Anuradhapura. Love the colours.
This is an ancient Buddhist monastery on the way to Mihintale. Had a picnic of crackers, cheese and fruit on the sprawling lawns and then spent a couple of hours getting a free fish spa in the lake. Best!
Lots of walking, but more than worth it. There are three sites to visit here; a stupa, a statue of the Buddha, and a gigantic sacred rock from where you get the most spectacular view of the land.
This was amazing. As we were leaving at sunset, monkeys from everywhere started rushing to this rock. And they just sat there, dead quiet, watching the sun disappear. They weren’t bothered by us annoying humans marveling aloud at this sight, clicking away with our cameras. They just sat still and stared at the sun.
These caves are fabulous. Paintings are said to be as old as 1 BC, and they are bright, intricate, and joyful to look at. The paintings on the ceilings baffled me. How, how can one be so patient and devoted to something like this? If it were me I’d never risk breaking my back. But then I suppose that’s why my creations won’t be revered for thousands of years to come.
Went to the Temple of the Tooth here. I loved it. Not so much the crowd in the evening, but the temple was cool and spacious. Very expensive-looking too. Good for them.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
I LOVE ELEPHANT BABIES. Although there were tons of adult elephants at the orphanage too. Hmm.
All around the orphanage there are stores selling elephant dung paper. Although I didn’t end up buying any, I spent about an hour browsing through the stuff. Then I got tired and left.
Art and Craft
Sri Laka is home to wonderful handicrafts, including silk-making, masks, and intricate batik work. Count on your bag being considerably heavier when you’re heading back home from Colombo airport.