Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle, Part 2

Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle, Part 2

Moving up in the world


Sri Lanka has some pretty spectacular ruins, and they are located in some pretty spectacular locations – most involving lengthy, steep climbs. From Pollunarawa, it was onto the Dambulla caves – located high on a rock outcropping, and filled with exquisite paintings and statues. Many are over 2000 years old, still with the original paint. As usual, it was at the top of a very long flight of stairs. We learned a bit of interesting Buddhist lore from the guide. One of the classic Buddha statue positions is the “reclining Buddha”. But another classic position is the Buddha, also horizontal, in the moment of his death, reaching Nirvana. How to tell them apart? It turns out that the reclining Buddha has his toes aligned, and the dead Buddha has them slightly out ofline.


Now you know.
Moving on from the Dambulla Caves, we headed to my favorite site, Sigiriya, the mother of all rock outcroppings and the deadliest climb to date. According to legend a son had his father, the king, walled in alive and took over the throne. The king’s wife threatened to bring an Indian invasion to unseat him, so he built the strongest fortress he could find — an entire palace complex at the top of 300m rock. In the bizarre ending, he went to fight a battle with the invading army, took a wrong turn into a swamp, mistakenly thought he had been deserted by his army, and killed himself. Getting to the top involved an incredible series of stairs up the side of the mountain. We went at dawn – there were absolutely no other people there – we had the entire site to ourselves. The real treat were some cave paintings about half way up, called the Sigiriya damsels. They are the only old, non-religious paintings in Sri Lanka, and date from 1400 years ago. They are seen often throughout the country on tourist literature, signage, etc.

 

 

At this point, we were about “templed out, and you, Dear Reader, probably are too. So before we tell you about the last of the cultural sites, we’ll share some views and photos of day-to-day life here.

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