Friday, 13 July 2018

Sigiriya Rock & Polonnaruwa - Sri Lanka

Our time in Sri Lanka offered us a veritable feast of new experiences, some which delighted our eye, and others that excited our senses.

Dark Blue Glassy Tiger - Ideopsis vulgaris macrina

Sigiriya Rock is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which rises spectacularly 200m above the surrounding countryside. The rock is thought to have been occupied for millennia, but much of what can be seen today is attributed to the time of King Kasyapa who built an impregnable palace on its summit between AD477 and 485. It tends to be known as Lion Rock due to the fact that the King also built a gateway halfway up in the form of an enormous lion. Today only the paws remain but even they stand as high as a tall man giving some indication of the original scale of the lion. The remains were first discovered by British archaeologists in the early 20th century, and excavations have continued ever since. It is possible to climb to the top of Sigiriya, many do, but it is difficult. My other half climbed to the top having previously done so exactly 40 years ago. Only 6 of our party managed the climb - I realised that it would be far too steep and hot for me to tackle.
photo courtesy Stella, a member of our party
Here he is on the top where once the grand palace would have stood - how did they get all of the building materials to the top? This was one of many questions we pondered amongst ourselves. 
Later that same day we headed off to Polonnaruwa, an ancient Sinhala civilisation which became the capital of Sri Lanka during the 11th and 12th centuries.


Built by King Parakramabahu l are the ruins of his Palace. It was seven stories high, and had a thousand rooms. 


The remains of the Council Chamber and Audience Hall. The roof is long gone, but the base still remains, and is decorated with friezes depicting dwarfs, lions, and elephants. 

The Royal Baths
This ancient city covers a large area, and fortunately we had transport to convey us around. Some were seen exploring the area on hired bikes.





















The Hatadage is an ancient shrine, which once housed a relic of the Buddha's tooth.




The central dagoba of the Vatadage - to enter these sacred places it is necessary to remove your shoes before stepping on to the moonstone at the foot of the steps.
A moonstone step is a totally unique feature found only in Sri Lankan Buddhist buildings - the outer edge is designed with a ring of flames and the other rings are usually filled with 4 types of animals - elephants, horse, lions and a bull chasing one another. These are considered to represent birth, decay, disease and death, and in the centre sits a lotus representing nirvana. 
There are only six ancient moonstone steps remaining in Sri Lanka, but I read an interesting article here revealing that a seventh one was discovered in Devon, UK, which was sold for over £550,000 five years ago.
Dusk was descending rapidly as we passed by the milky white dagoba of the Kiri Vihara to reach our final destination in this ancient landscape.
A group of four beautiful Buddha statues carved from one single huge piece of granite at Gal Vihara.
It was a time of Poson Poya in Sri Lanka when Buddhists celebrate the arrival of Buddhism in 236 BC. Whole families were visiting this sacred site bearing gifts of fruit and flowers.

To give an idea of the scale of these statues, this reclining Buddha measures over 46 feet long (14.12m)
We did not visit the fourth Buddha which was set behind glass in a cavern at a central point in the rock. It would have necessitated removing our shoes, and having removed them several times already during the day, our feet were crying out for some well earned respite.



23 comments:

  1. Wonderful photos and information of all the treasures you have seen.

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    1. I am so pleased that you enjoyed seeing them - thank you💕

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  2. What amazing sights you have seen Rosemary. The Sigiriya Rock is astonishing, and it is hard to believe anyone could climb it. Well done to HB for doing so - he must be extremely fit. The ancient city is fascinating too, and the golden Buddhas so beautiful. I realise how little I know of Sri Lanka. Our grandson recently visited, but he is perhaps a little too young to convey it to us. He talks a lot about the big wooden elephant he chose to bring home as a souvenir :)

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    1. Dear Patria - I must admit that the Buddhas do look golden but that is to do with the lighting used, they are actually made from grey granite. However, a wonderful golden Buddha will appear here in the future.
      I can well imagine that my husband was possibly the oldest person standing on top of Sigiriya. People, far, far, younger, who managed the climb, were amazed at him.

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  3. Dearest Rosemary,
    Traveling in the Orient like that requires you to carry e.g. some airline socks to put over your bare feet to protect them at least a little from the often hot burning surfaces and any sharp items stepping on. Not easy; however intriguing it might be to go forward...
    Your husband seems to be in good shape for getting to the top like he did 40 years ago!
    Yes, dusk is always coming by surprise, we learned that from living and working in Indonesia.
    Lovely nature and some very interesting and sacred historical places you visited and photographed!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - I carried some thick woolly socks with me to wear, but my husband appears to have been blessed with sensitive soles to his feet, and found it difficult. He is also very determined, and especially so when you consider that his back has lots of titanium in it.

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  4. Fascinating- I'd love to get up to the top of Sigirya.

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    1. I admit that it was a great disappointment to me that I could not make it to the top of Sigiriya.

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  5. I really enjoyed that fascinating tour. So many places that ought to be known throughout the world. I wish I could still do some of the things I used to do 40 years ago!

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    1. Yes, 40 years ago he was a relatively young man - he did extremely well, and everyone in our party was impressed.

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  6. I've never heard of a moonstone step before -- fascinating!

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    1. That architectural feature was new to me as well.

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  7. Dear Rosemary, We are at an age where we pick safe and easy places, such as Italy, to visit. What a once-in-a-lifetime experience you had. Traveling is exciting but not always easy when one gets older. I admire your courage and fortitude.

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    1. Dear Gina - neither of us appears to experience any particular fatigue whilst we are away on a long journey, but these kind of trips do require a certain amount of stamina.

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  8. Amazing place and well photographed. I would have liked the rock summit ascent but I find my own nerve for high places declining these days along with my energy.

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    1. I felt exactly the same as you - I was disappointed not to reach the top and see the view. Given much cooler weather and more time, then I would probably have given it a try.

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  9. Hello Rosemary, The natural and man-made wonders of Sri Lanka are so exceptional as to be almost surreal. A great favorite here is your photo of the ruins of the Council Chamber--a very handsome building, combining the order and stateliness of Classical architecture with the fanciful carvings and decorations of the East.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - the city was first re-discovered by British colonial rulers in the 1800’s. I have seen old photos taken by Joseph Lawson belonging to the V & A showing how Polonnaruwa was completely consumed by the jungle with parts of the buildings fallen and scattered around. The Council Chamber does look as if it was a very handsome building.
      There is a hypothetical model of the palace in Polonnaruwa Museum if you are interested in seeing it. It gives a much better idea of how the buildings might have looked.
      https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g304140-d1953743-i67815472-Polonnaruwa-Polonnaruwa_North_Central_Province.html

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  10. What a lovely and interesting place. Your photos are great.
    Hugs

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    1. Sri Lanka was an enthralling place to visit.

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  11. Amazing pictures, but i think my favourite is the reclining Buddha. There is something particularly awe inspiring in seeing remains of ancient civilisations which were so very advanced compared to whatever was going on in these islands. Because they didn't just need the skills, they needed the organisation too.

    I often wonder how people got building materials anywhere in the old days. The rocks that made Avebury were brought a very long distance and when you consider their size and the technology (or lack of it) at the time of building, you really do wonder ...

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    1. I also loved that reclining Buddha - so serene, calm, and beautiful.
      Those are the very same questions that I regularly ponder too especially when visiting sites like these when abroad, and also at home as well.

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