Cave Buddhas

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
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117
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Friday, November 30, 2012

Back in her glory days DH was something of an accomplished runner. In fact, when we were home owners I was required to build and maintain three distinct DH Shrines in the basement; the first chronicled her volunteer firefighter accomplishments, the second housed her policing awards (and given the enthusiasm with which coppers hand each other award plaques, this took up significant space), and the third was reserved for her many athletic trophies, most of which centred around running. Then came the knee injuries and the first operation. In an act of defiance of medical advice, we climbed Kilimanjaro, which led to a second knee operation and more medical advice that effectively said your running and climbing days are finished. I only mention this because one of the most important sites in Sri Lanka is the Rock Fortress of Sigiriya and the climb is almost mandatory. Sigiriya is not a particularly long climb but it is steep and not for the knee challenged- rather than wait  at the bottom for me and my relatively youthful knees, DH decided that that climbing Sigiriya was not what the doctor meant when he said "your climbing days are over".

And just to add to the excitement, we were going to do this climb in flip-flops!! Having assumed responsibility for room security and hiking boots on this trip, DH made sure our boots were safely stored in Kandy with the other half of our stuff that we had stashed there but given that we were in Sigiriya, hiking boots are no longer a DH responsibility.

Sigiriya, another of those UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is one of the most dramatic, inspiring and beautiful historic locations in the world. The climb to its summit on rusty metal staircases attached to the rock face is a must-do Sri Lankan experience. A mythical past of feuding dynasties suits Sigiriya’s striking setting and awe inspiring complex that was built in 5th century by King Kasyapa, as a fortress-palace. Legend says that King Kasyapa murdered his father, Dhatusena, and claimed the throne for himself. The rightful heir, Prince Moggallana, returned from exile in India and found Sigiriya in its full glory and Kasyapa’s army waiting for him. Despite building this impenetrable stronghold, Kasyapa was defeated. Abandoned by his army, Kasyapa killed himself and left his half-brother to reign from his castle paradise. In addition to marveling at the engineering and work effort to build a fortress like this, at the top we were also rewarded with outstanding views across the plains. While DH pretended that the climb down was a painless experience, we made the drive to Dambulla for yet another Sri Lankan wonder.

The Dambulla Rock Temple had first been constructed during the rein of King Vattagamini Abhaya. During a South Indian invasion the king had to abandon his Anuradhapura Kingdom and for 12 years, the king was in hiding and a frequent guest in these caves for his safety. After regaining the kingdom of Anuradhapura and becoming the King, to show his gratefulness for his safe place, he converted those same caves into Buddhist Temples by supporting significant constructions.

These caves were absolutely amazing- elaborate paintings covered the walls and ceiling, and Buddhist statues of all descriptions could be found throughout the cave complex. After praying for a little divine intervention for DH and her knees, it was time to head back to Kandy for a reunion with our hiking boots.
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