Sigiriya was an interregnum of great excitement. Built by Kasyapa who killed his father to gain his wealth, this literal fortress in the sky, is a masterpiece of construction, artistry and irrigation. It was a resort of pleasure, a citadel of beauty and fortress of strength. Sigiriya has been made famous throughout the world for the frescoes on its rock wall. The Heavenly Maidens, preserved as part of the world’s artistic heritage. While the frescoes are certainly captivating, there is much more to see and discover at Sigiriya, which was later a monastery and also has some links to very early Christianity in Sri Lanka.
History of Pidurangala flows beyond the 1 & 2 century B.C. Pidurangala was used as a Monastery from those days. But this place becomes a prominent Biddhist Monastery during the King Kasyapa time ( 477 - 495 AC). Some believe that Sigiriaya also a Buddhist monastery before the King Kasyapa time. Once he decided to built his fortress in Sigiriya, he requested the monk to move to Pidurangala and had contributed lot for the development of it. It is believed that the "Uppalavanna Kashyapa Giri Viharaya" which was constructed by King Kashyapa was located in the Pidurangala.
Dambulla or the Golden Rock is a cave temple, which dates back to the 1st Century BC. Its rock Ceiling is one large sweep of colourful frescoes, which depict Buddhist mythology, and the tales Of the Buddha’s previous births. Within the cave temple is the collection of the largest number of Buddha statues in one place.
The gentle sway of Buddhism, which transformed the Indo-Aryan Singhalese, has produced magnificent feats of architecture and construction. In the massive dagobas, the ornate pleasure gardens and palaces and the exquisite sculpture, which abounds, particularly at Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
The Ruwanveliseya, Abhayagiriya, Jetawanaramaya, Thuparama all at Anuradhapura are dagobas, which are still venerated by the Buddhists. Well preserved and restored these grand Buddhist shrines of the past reveal the past glory of a city which in its heyday, exceeded in size some of the largest cities of the modern world.
One of the most important places of worship at Anuradhapura is The Sri Maha Bodhi, the oldest historically documented tree in the world, dating back to over 2000 years with clear documentation. This Bodhi Tree (Ficus Religiosa) has been grown from the same tree under which the Siddhartha Gautama meditated until he attained enlightenment and Buddhahood, more than 2500 years ago, at Buddhagaya in India.
The Samadhi statue of the seated, meditating Buddha, the intricately sculpted guard stones and moonstones speak of a standard of sculpture and artistry which is unmatched up to this day.
Polonnaruwa was Sri Lanka’s medieval capital between the 11th and 13th centuries. Enclosed Within three concentric walls, the city contained royal palaces, bathing ponds, monasteries and Sacred architecture such as dagobas and image houses. Its grandeur was largely the creation of Three kings, Vijayabahu, Parakramabahu and Nissanka Malla, although the last-mentioned Emptied the coffers in doing so….
Polonnaruwa shows the interesting blend of the influence of South Indian Hindu culture on the Sinhala Buddhist art and architecture. The Shiva Devales are interesting transposition of the Hindu style of décor. The Gal Vihare complex, of the seated, standing and reclining Buddha sculpted in granite is one of the most evocative pieces of the sculptor’s art anywhere. The Lankatilleke Viharaya shows a unique style of brickwork architecture while the Tivanka image house has some of the best example of Buddhist frescoes of the 11th Century.
The Vatadage complex of temples, with the Temple of the Tooth Relic and the Nissanka Lata Mandapaya all show the heights of stone craft and artistry, which prevailed in this period of Lanka’s history.
Giritale is a work in progress. Land by its lake was identified as a tourist resort area more than 30 years ago. It was (and is still) a picturesque spot on the way to Polonnaruwa and the east coast beaches. Where better for visitors to rest awhile between the Cultural Triangle and those beaches?
It is a long drive (at least five hours) for the non-stop journey from Colombo to Giritale. Giritale and its surrounds will be Sri Lanka’s most fashionable forest resort destination. The focal point of Giritale is the lake. This is actually an ancient tank (reservoir) constructed in the early 7th century. In places the original walls of the bund (bank) can still be seen. It is now the center of a nature reserve. The water is often breeze-ruffled and venturing on the lake in a canoe can be hazardous if the wind and waves turn boisterous.
By the 56km post is another new addition to the scenery: a huge Buddha statue set against a black backdrop beside the lake. This was erected by the military of the area and has a small garden with a Ficus benghalensis planted on November 14, 2002.
In Sri Lanka there is no better place to watch elephants in the wild than Minneriya National Park. Located roughly midway between the Habarana junction and the ancient 10th century ruins of Polonnaruwa on the A 11 road, Minneriya was a favourite haunt of enterprising tour guide long before it was officially declared a National Park in 1988. Encompassing the extensive Minneriya tank and the more modest Giritale tank, the 7,529-hectare park attracts hundreds of elephants during the dry seasons, particularly from July to October, as surrounding water sources steadily dry up.
Kaudulla National Park is the latest (actually number 15) to be opened in Sri Lanka and it was declared a park on April 1, 2002. The temperature at the park ranges from 20 to 35 degrees Celsius and its elevation is from zero to 100m above sea level. Its eco systems are dry mixed, evergreen forest, riverine forest and the Kaudulla wetland.
Fauna to be seen include elephants, leopards, bear, sambar, hare, spotted deer, barking deer and water birds.
The Jathika Namal Uyana is at its best in spring when the Na trees (Iron wood) spanning 260 acres burst into full bloom and the earth is covered with a carpet of white petals and this has identified as the largest Na forest and pink quartz mountain in Asia. On a full moonlit night the white, rose and mauve hues of the seven Rose quarts mountain ranges and their peaks glisten with an ethereal pearly sheen adding an aura of tranquil beauty to the already peaceful atmosphere, windblown with the soft fragrance of thousands of Na flowers.
The majestic 39 ft. high Aukana Buddha found here is one of the finest works ever carved out of living rock, and according to legend, was created by a master sculptor. A similar giant Buddha in nearby Sasseruwa is believed to have been copied by his student in a bid to challenge the original.
Rasvehera is a typical Sri Lankan forest monastery from the Anuradhapura period. It is a secluded monastery even today, but became a kind of education centre for the surrounding villages, offering Buddhist Sunday school classes for children. Rasvehera is known for its Rock cut Buddha, often called “Sasseruwa Buddha”, which is almost the same size and similar to the famous Avukana Buddha in 12kms away from this place. Two cave temples with Kandyan style paintings similar to Dambulla Rock cave Temple, but on smaller scale is a further attraction. The area is frequented by wild elephants and became a wildlife conservation area too. Rasvehera is a perfect destination for nature lovers..
Mist-shrouded, this 2,514 feet high range was for centuries, a fortress for kings and a retreat for monks. You can explore the many caves and ancient ruins and take walks along the paved and colonnaded “meditation paths”.
Known as the hill capital of Sri Lanka is the home to the Stately Temple of the Tooth Relic of the Lord Buddha. This city is situated deep within lush green in near Sri Lanka longest river Mahaweli, the surrounding of Kandy are the perfect picture of a tropical landscape, Historically the Kandyan Kingdom originated in 1357 and was the last stronghold of the countries royalty. Until 1815 when it became under British rule. Royal Botanical Garden in Peradeniya, which began as a pleasure garden for the kings of Kandy, the rich flora of the tropical is exhibited at its best here.
Trincomalee has a strange magnetic charm to it. Maybe, it’s the calmness that gives the place the character of a deep, still pool. Maybe, it’s the azure sea, the pristine beaches, the mysterious Shiva shrine, or the rocks, relentlessly bathed by the rushing waves. Or perhaps it is the town’s fresh, raw beauty.
Its importance as a place of strategic consequence guided its destinies in modern times. The great European powers vied with one another for the mastery of the harbour. The Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, and the English, each held it in turn, and many a sea fight was staged off the cliffs of Trincomalee.
The town’s importance as a major British base was heightened after the fall of Singapore in World War 11. It was even bombed by the Japanese in 1942. The British continued to hold the harbour even after Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948, relinquishing it only in 1957.