sri lanka: exploring the cultural triangle…

it was a mom-daughter trip. to sri lanka!

there were multiple ways to play it.. go to colombo + kandy and then head down towards galle and mirisa. however we decided we didn’t want to meet the indian ocean (will have to go back there for that one day, as always here such rave reviews about sri lankan beaches) decided to even skip colombo! people were reacting with great amazement – what.. why would you skip the capital?

for me, while capitals are pretty, well-maintained, i wanted to see the real sri lanka… not concrete and metal structures that spoke of development, globalisation. i wanted to see how they preserved their past, as i believe there-in lies their future!

we went upwards from kandy… decided to visit the cultural triangle. were tempted by jafna, but being tamils and two women.. decided we weren’t brave enough!


kids ran by shouting, egrets took to the sky in great hoards. the ancient civilisation of sri lanka seemed to buzz around us!

this is a huge site. massive. we spent a whole day there almost. but still was not enough… we moved through things quickly and just got a sense of the entire civilisation. this is said to be one of the best preserved ancient civilisations in sri lanka. it’s the buddhist civilisation… there were old buildings, palaces, planned city-like structures… there is also a bodhi tree, said to be an offspring of the same bodhi tree under which the buddha attained his nirvana!

entrance to the temple near the bodhi tree

and the huge huge huge dagobas, which just stood still almost shimmering in the sunlight as we walked by. as i struggled to take pictures of my mom against the dagoba! given that the dagoba’s are white and thus difficult to capture with perfect exposure!

pollunuruwa… polunurawu… polunaruwa.. … ….  polonnaruwa

i never got the name. my entire trip there, i got it wrong. each and everytime… while planning. on my way. and even while telling people about it! my mom who is usually quite bad with names, seemed to get this one very easily!

the ruins, of palaces… houses… libraries…  a culture from another time. the moonstone at every entrance was lovely. they made so much of sense, and so simply put. and to remind yourself of the true meaning of your life, just before entering and in such a simple way…

the huge rock-cut statues at gal vihara were beautifully serene and calm-inspiring. with the lines of the different layers of rock running across the faces and bodies of the buddha.

one of the buddha statues at gal vihara

sigiriya or the lion’s rock

mountain view… on your way up

climb it. its possible. everyone can. 1500 steps up. but what a walk, and what brilliance on the way. we struggled with steps and a paved way.

built for a king to escape from internal enemies, the capital moved from anuradhapuram to sigiriya!

the mid-way halt at the painted caves makes for a lovely stop. it is said that paintings covered a lot of the rocks, but were wiped out when this place became a monastery – to ensure there were no distractions to the monks!

frescos at sigiriya

as you stop, pause, you marvel… firstly, at how far you managed to climb, and then at the builders, residents and monks who climbed the rock face! there are still signs of that in small stone cut steps – don’t think even half of my foot would fit on those steps.

i tried to imagine the king climbing up the rocks… in all his finery? the rulers of those times were definitely a fitter lot!

at the top, with the country spread in front of you!

on the way down, you pass through some administration blocks (rocks cut in shapes to make it open auditoriums, shelters) and a swimming pool! perched high on one huge rock, its something! must have been a public bath, water storage pool!


almost ends up being an also ran compared to the brilliance of the three other sites… a cave temple, there isn’t much to see here. it’s still certainly awe-inspiring, given how much they have managed to cut deep into the side of a mountain!

lotus growing in the muck at dambulla

travel tips:

  • you can’t do it all on one day!
  • we traveled from to the furthermost outpost of anuradhapuram, then retraced and spent the night at lion rock. saw that the next morning, and saw dambulla and then went to polonnaruwa
  • this means a rather tight schedule, and lots to do. we had some dagobas to see in the dark but makes for a crisper trip and lets you do a lot more in a few days!

the cultural triangle is definitely worth a visit, when you are in sri lanka. it speaks of their past, the well-maintained present and thus breathes life into their future!

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