Thursday, 26 July 2018

Temples, Tea, and Forever England

















Sri Muthumariamman Temple -  ceremonial (Gopuram) gateway
Hinduism was originally the dominant religion in Sri 
Lanka before the arrival of Buddhism in the 3rd century BC. Today the Tamils make up the main Hindu population in Sri Lanka. 
Over 70% of Sri Lanka's population practice Buddhism. Just over 12% are Hindu, almost 10% are Muslims (mainly Sunni), and 7.5% are Christians (mainly Roman Catholic) Less than 1% are atheists. 
The tower of this temple, covered in 1008 statues of Hindu deities, was a wondrous piece of Sri Lankan Hindu architecture to view, especially to our unaccustomed western eyes.  
The Sri Muthumariamman temple is dedicated to Mariamman, the goddess of rain and fertility. The prefix 'Muthu' means pearl. 'Mari" means rain and 'Amman' means mother. 
It was interesting to learn that this temple is used by both Hindus and Buddhist. 
SriRamajayam Hindu Temple also known as Ashok Vatika is believed to be situated in the very forest where Sita, wife of Lord Rama, was kept captive by King Ravana after he abducted her from India. 






























The temple is an important stopping place for Hindu devotees as they pass through the valley. Many climb down behind the temple where the Hindu belief is that rocks in the valley below represent where Sita lived and the flowing stream is where she bathed during her abduction.   
Further downstream there is said to be a large footprint on the riverbank made by Lord Hanuman, a devotee of Lord Rama. He came to her and gave her King Rama's ring and promised that King Rama would save her. 
Lord Hanuman
It is a complex, epic Hindu tale but if you are interested you can read about it here
We headed on into the mountains above Kandy where tea plants grow and flourish.
In 1867, 17 year old James Taylor from Scotland, introduced the tea plant to Sri Lanka. He had learnt the rudiments of growing tea in southern India, and so began the birth of the Ceylon tea industry. The plants prospered on the hillsides of Kandy, and quickly established themselves as an important source of revenue. 
Thomas Lipton, a Scottish millionaire, made his fortune by owning and running a chain of grocery stores across the British Isles. He visited British Ceylon in the 1890s whilst on a journey to Australia. There he met Taylor, and it was agreed that Taylor would supply Lipton with tea for all of his British stores. The arrangement eventually led to Lipton distributing Ceylon tea throughout Europe and the USA.  











The tea picking work is carried out by the local Tamil population, but the task is far from easy. They climb up and down the high mountains all day long carrying sacks of tea strapped around their heads. The tea pickers pluck what is called a 'flush' (two leaves and a bud) from each plant, but the leaves have to be picked carefully. If they are too big they are too tough; if they are too small they are not economically viable. Once their sacks are full they then take them down to the plantation where they are processed within the hour. 

Having visited all of the different stages involved in sorting, drying, and preparing the leaves before they are packed to sell, we finished off the visit with 
'a nice cup of tea'
 
Travelling on even higher up into the mountain we finally reached our destination, Nuwar Eliya, which sits 1,868m (6,128ft) high on Mount Pedro, which is 523m (1,715ft) higher than Ben Nevis in Scotland. The town was established by the British in the early 19th century, and is known as Sri Lanka's 'Little England'. British Colonists travelled up regularly from Colombo to Nuwar Eliya to enjoy the benefits of having a fresher, cooler climate and thus escape the hot oppressive weather in Colombo.
Nuwar Eliya appears to have retained much of its Victorian appearance. There is a well maintained park, named after Queen Victoria, a fine 18 hole golf course, and a large mock tudor Post Office still dominates the centre of town. Curiously, life in Nuwar Eliya continues much as it did during its British heyday. The racing stables still train jockeys, breed horses, and race them around the Royal Turf Club racecourse - the highest track in the world. There are many outdoor programmes available such as Trekking, Cycling, Bird-watching, Fishing and Air rifle shooting.




We stayed at the Grand Hotel built in the 1800s, a large mock Tudor style mansion which previously was the former residence of Sir Edward Barnes, the Governor of Sri Lanka from 1830-50. It is located in the hills looking down over Nuwar Eliya, and set within perfectly manicured gardens. The all male staff have impeccable manners and wear elegant white Mandarin style tunics with long white sarongs. The building itself still retains all of its bygone grandeur with carved wood panel lined walls, marble fireplaces, elegant chandeliers, and the food is both delicious and beautifully presented. 


Yes, that is a large football at the entrance to the hotel - Sri Lanka too was suffering from World Cup Football fever!

27 comments:

  1. Never knew about the origin of Lipton tea, it is very little England there when I sea the hotels building style. Great photos of the temples and the tea plantations.

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    1. Thomas Lipton was born in Glasgow into a poor Irish family and was their only surviving child, so he did extremely well.

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  2. The brilliant colours of the temples are so incredible, it must be an amazing sight to see. Very different from any places of worship we have in Australia. The green lushness of the misty mountains seems to indicate a high rainfall, and obviously suits the growing of tea. I had no idea it was still harvested the old way by individual workers, and how exhausting it must be. The Grand Hotel reminds me of a similar hotel by the same name in the town where I grew up - such charming old places, and always so comfortable and appealing.

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    1. I imagine that the harvesting of the tea leaves will always remain a labour intensive chore because of having to pluck the special 'flush' of leaves which has to be so specific in size and quality. We loved staying at the Grand Hotel, everything about it was so 'old world' elegant and dignified.

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  3. Sounds like a fabulous trip! Those temples are so gorgeously intricate. And now I know more about Lipton tea!

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    1. I didn't realise until our visit that Lipton's tea was so well known in other countries of the world too.
      It was a fabulous and very memorable trip, you are right.

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  4. The temple architecture is amazing!

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  5. Dearest Rosemary,
    Lovely post and I'm happy to find another blogger writing about Hanuman.
    You can read my post here: http://mariettesbacktobasics.blogspot.com/2013/03/our-balinese-hanuman-statues-with-snake.html
    The climate for growing tea is almost all the same, it reminds me of Jawa Tengah (Central Java) where we worked and lived. Indeed it is hard work for those in charge.
    Hindu temples are a fascinating piece of art with all their different statues.
    Sending you hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. Dear Mariette - when I have a moment I will look at your post. I had my doubts that there would be anyone else out there in the blogging world who would know about Lord Hanuman - just goes to show how wrong you can be.

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  6. Hello Rosemary, The colored statues are really eye-catching. They do say that ancient Greek and Roman buildings were equally as colorful, but most of the paint has worn off, and that when white stone became the accepted standard, even many statues and buildings with remaining paint were scrubbed "clean." Even so, I doubt that many could hold a candle to the vivid Sri Muthumariamman Temple.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - you have reminded me now that the walls of most of our medieval churches were also completely covered in wall paintings until they were lime-washed over during the reformation. To our eyes today they would probably appear to be rather gaudy.
      I found the Sri Muthumariamman Temple visually extremely interesting to view.

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  7. Amazing detail on each of the characters.

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    1. I was wondering how often they have to touch them up or clean them, and what a large task it must be when they do.

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  8. Dear Rosemary,

    So overwhelming. So much to see. Almost too much for the senses. Where does English breakfast tea fit into this picture?

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    1. Dear Gina - English breakfast tea tends to be a black stronger tea than afternoon tea, and is taken with milk. Normally it is a blend of three teas from Kenya, Assam, and Ceylon.
      Almost the end of the journey now Gina, just one more post to go.

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  9. Overwhelming temples and statues - but oh so splendid and such work and creativity went into them.

    The history of Lipton was interesting - I recall a Lipton's grocery in Torquay, one of my best friend's mum's worked there. I've never really enjoyed that particular brand of tea for some reason - too strong perhaps - plus always mostly a coffee drinker other than enjoying an afternoon cuppa of something lighter and brighter. The hard, hard work of the tea pickers struck a nerve - now I think I'll always see them at the bottom of my tea cup, and thank them!

    An amazing journey Rosemary - the Grand Hotel looks stunning and I can imagine the view. Why all male staff I wonder?

    Great photos - thanks so much for sharing your journey.
    Mary -

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    1. All of the hotels we stayed in were mainly organised, cleaned, portered and waited on by men. We found that it was the same in India too. The safari chalet we stayed in did employ both men and women, but the cleaning was still carried out by men. I am assuming that the women at the wildlife park were probably qualified in some way i.e.conservationists.
      Perhaps there is a subtext operating here underscoring the status of working class Asian women!!! - but, this is simply conjecture on my part.

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  10. Such an exotic place. I always learn something here. Love the colorful picture of the tea pickers.

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    1. The photo was taken from a moving vehicle so it is not really as clear and sharp as it should be, but thank you, I appreciate what you said.

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  11. So many things to comment on here - the wonderfully colourful temples. The tea pickers - what a difficult life it is for them, I hope they are properly paid and not exploited. I always look for the fair trade mark on tea. The mock-English architecture must be curious to see in such surroundings. I think architecture of that period often manages to be very pleasant, and I'd love to have afternoon tea on the lawn!

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    1. The FairTrade International, an organisation that certifies all fair trade participants in the world, works closely with fair trade participants in the Sri Lankan Tea sector to assure that labour rights of the hired labourers are respected at every step. Their rights to education, health, fair wages and proper housing are overseen by the plantation management.
      The Grand Hotel was a really wonderful and memorable place to stay.

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  12. What marvelous colours on the temple, and such intricate designs. Tea is such a special drink and so labour intensive. I appreciate those who pick it under the hot sun. That's a beautiful waterfall in the lush green valley. How fun to stay in the Grand Hotel and enjoy some old world luxury.

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    1. This trip offered up so many new experiences to us each and every day - loved it.

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  13. What a magnificent temple, amazing place.
    Thank you for this beautiful sharing.
    Have a nice week
    Maria
    Divagar Sobre Tudo um Pouco

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