If you are keen about piling up a list of visited UNESCO Heritage Sites, you’d do well going to Sri Lanka. We’ve been here only 3 days and our “scoreboard” is nothing less than impressive! From the sweltering heat of Negombo, Anuradaphura and Sigiriya, we sweated our way to Kandy.

Thanks, Topper R., for this photo!

Thanks, Topper R., for this photo!

I am very impressed with the Dambullah cave shrines that I had to write a separate blog on it. (Just click to check the link here.). But in Anuradhapura, one finds the biggest brick structure in the world, and 2nd biggest man-made structure from the ancient world, next only to the Egyptian pyramids. Built centuries before Christ, the Jetavanaramaya followed the designs of many stupas to be found in India. The bell-shaped dagoba is claimed to have its height equal to the depth of its footing. At an original height of 400 feet and being made up of 90 million bricks, that’s colossal. Another is Abhayagiri Dagoba, which is another huge ancient stupa. Truly, Buddhism flourished here.

Anuradhapura is a pilgrimage site because of the Bodhi tree, claimed to have grown from a sapling of the same bodhi tree in India under which Buddha found enlightenment. The pilgrims are dressed in white, barefoot, and ready with their flower offerings. It was more than a kilometer walk from where we got off our bus towards the Bodhi Tree site. Maybe 3 kilometers walking to and from, combined. Not a problem except that it was high noon when we walked to the site. Along the path, there were monkeys all around. At one corner, a tent was set up with tables on which flowers were laid out. On a couple more tables, volunteers handed out free drinks to the pilgrims. Men and women and children, all dressed in white.

There are many more in Anarudhapura whose names I can’t recall now. Like the white stupa near the Bodhi Tree. And some 2 hours drive from this ancient, heritage city is that iconic rock fortress called Sigiraya. I was daunted by its height and my readings assured me that climbing it is not for the fainthearted. With my blistered right foot, it was definitely some adventure I dare not even consider.

We likewise visited the Temple of the Tooth Relic. We didn’t see the relic itself as it is housed/enshrined on the 2nd floor of this temple in Kandy. Oh yes, weren’t we brave to visit soon after skirmishes between Buddhists and Tamil Muslims occurred here? In fact, the state just declared a State of Emergency but all we found was a police-controlled/secured Kandy. Very safe. The only sad thing about it is that many social media sites were suspended!

Sri Lanka is by and large, a Buddhist state. But in Nuwara Eliya, most local folks were Tamil Muslims or Tamil-speaking Sri Lankans who practice Islam. Also called Sri Lankan or Ceylonese Moors, they comprise the majority in the cooler hills of this tea country, and are the 3rd largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka. In the capital of Colombo, we missed a visit to the grand-looking Red Mosque. But not the much- and most-visited Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple in the country’s busy capital where we spent a good one hour of peace and quiet. In Galle, the Galle Fort Mosque is hard to miss. We found it while exploring the ramparts here one rainy noontime. Let’s hope this happy co-existence of 2 faiths are not muddled by political issues nor threatened by calls to secession. I so love Sri Lanka and pray peace and order prevails in this land of cheerful, smiling folks.

Thanks Beth for this last photo.