• Sharon Mackay

Stupas, SBG, Snorkels and so much more...



The last couple of days we have been in Dambulla - part of the cultural triangle. I've really loved my time here!

On with the day by day account, lots of history in this post - hope you enjoy!

DAY 13 - Nilaveli (near Trincomalee)

We headed to Pigeon Island National Park for a couple of hours of snorkelling. The island is one of the two marine national parks of Sri Lanka and situated 1 km off the coast of Nilaveli, where we were staying. The national park contains some of the best remaining coral reefs of Sri Lanka. The water was warm, the fish were stunning the coral although damaged in parts (some still showing the effects of the tsunami) some were also bright and beautiful. SBG (Super Backpacking Grandma), although, has a fear of water stood in the ocean and looked through her goggles into the water - very proud of her and it is so amazing to see what things are under the water so close to shore. (This evening the tummy bug made its way to me but luckily it only got me for 24 hours - I’m fighting fit now.)


DAY 14 - Dambulla

In the afternoon everyone (except Tyler and I) headed to Dambulla cave Temple, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla and is a World Heritage Site. Dambulla is the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. The rock towers 160 m over the surrounding plains. There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding area. Major attractions are spread over five caves, which contain statues and paintings. These paintings and statues are related to Gautama Buddha and his life. There is a total of 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses. Sad I missed it but hey what can you do.

DAY 15 - Dambulla We started bright and early this morning to hike up a couple of rocks, we were picked up at 4:45am (Mum, Dad and Tyler stayed back). We started by seeing the sunrise on top of Pidurangala Rock. Pidurangala Rock is adjacent to Sigiriya Rock and is the best viewing spot of Sigiriya Rock as it is only slightly lower, you can also enjoy 360-degree views of the beautiful (or should I say spectacular) valleys. While Sigiriya Rock is rich in history, Pidurangala Rock has a much more natural feel, despite also housing a temple.


Then onto Sigiriya (pronounced see-gi-ri-yə) or Lion Rock. It’s an ancient rock fortress and the name refers to a site of historical and archaeological significance that is dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 metres (660 ft) high. According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle this site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up (1200 steps to this point) the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure -Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock. The mirror wall you pass along the way was originally so highly polished that the king could see himself whilst he walked alongside it. Made of brick masonry and covered in highly polished white plaster, the wall is now partially covered with verses scribbled by visitors, some of them dating from as early as the 8th century. People of all types wrote on the wall, on varying subjects such as love, irony, and experiences of all sorts. Further writing on the mirror wall now has been banned for the protection of the old writings. Sigiriya is dual-listed by UNESCO for both its natural and historical attributes – just like Uluru. But while visitors are banned from climbing Australia’s sacred rock, you are welcome to climb Sigiriya to discover the ancient ruins of a palace which once sat atop the rock.

I loved today and find this kind of history fascinating. Oh to be a king and get a palace built on top a rock overlooking suck beautiful scenery!

The afternoon was spent by the pool resting our tired legs.


DAY 16 - Dambulla Today we headed to the Sacred City of Anuradhapura, established around a cutting from the 'tree of enlightenment', the Buddha's fig tree, brought there in the 3rd century B.C. by Sanghamitta, the founder of an order of Buddhist nuns. Anuradhapura, a Ceylonese political and religious capital that flourished for 1,300 years, was abandoned after an invasion in 993. Hidden away in dense jungle for many years, the splendid site, with its palaces, monasteries and monuments, is now accessible once again. We started at The Isurumuniya Viharaya an old temple that houses what is said to be the first carving of Buddha in Sri Lanka. Here we were blessed by a monk. Then a walk through the pleasure gardens - a garden where old kings and queens would come in the summer to relax and bathe in the pools.

Then onto Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a sacred fig tree in the Mahamewna Gardens. It is said to be the right-wing branch (southern branch) from the historical Sri Maha Bodhi at Buddha Gaya in India under which Lord Buddha attained Enlightenment. It was planted in 288 BC, and is the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date. Today it’s one of the most sacred relics of the Buddhists in Sri Lanka and respected by Buddhists all over the world. There are special guards who look after the Bodhi Tree. This is an age-old custom continued to date by people who live in the neighbourhood whose ancestors have received the land for their services. This may be probably one of the oldest surviving religious professions in the world.

Next, Thuparamaya of Ancient Anuradhapura. This is the first stupa to be built in the country after the introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Built in the time of king Devamnampiyatissa (250BC – 210BC) this was a stupa as well as an Aramic complex (monastery). Today ruins of this complex covers nearly 3 ½ acres. The stupa was built on the instructions of Mahinda Thero who brought Buddhism to the island to enshrine the right collar-bone of Lord Buddha.

Last stop was Mihintale. It is a mountain peak near Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. It is believed by Sri Lankans to be the site of a meeting between the Buddhist monk Mahinda and King Devanampiyatissa which inaugurated the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is now a pilgrimage site, and the site of several religious monuments and abandoned structures.

I know, so much information but it is all so interesting that I didn’t want to leave anything out.

Tomorrow we are onto Colombo (the capital of Sri Lanka) for a couple of days before heading home!

FYI: Stupa | Buddhism | Britannica.com

https://www.britannica.com/topic/stupa

  1. Stupa, Buddhist commemorative monument usually housing sacred relics associated with the Buddha or other saintly persons. The hemispherical form of the stupa appears to have derived from pre-Buddhist burial mounds in India.

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