2500 years of History

Trip Start Sep 19, 2012
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Friday, March 8, 2013

After leaving my rat infested lodgings in Colombo I caught the train to Anuradhapura. What a great trip. The trains are clean, the people are friendly and there are plenty of people selling food such as  fruit, peanuts, samosas and little corn and chili bites. All very tasty as we trundle through the amazing countryside of Sri Lanka. The landscape is incredibly green and there is water everywhere. A lot of these are man made reservoirs or 'tanks' some of which were constructed over a thousand years ago. The bird life in these wetlands is amazing and even from the train I can see many different varieties. The train passes through forests, rice paddies, coconut and banana plantations as well as thickly wooded jungle. It really is a stunning view. Unfortunately there is a stark reminder of all the train crashes as numerous rusty, wrecked carriages are left abandoned on the side of the track, many of them overgrown with jungle plants. We pass through lots of little villages and there are houses strung out all along the tracks giving a great glimpse of rural farming life.

The train arrives about 3 hours late and I met a local by the name of Jimmy on the train. He has a tuk tuk so he takes me to a guest house nearby. The guest houses in Sri Lanka are great. They are mostly family run affairs and your meals are cooked for you by the mother. So far the Sri Lankan food has been brilliant. The traditional meal is 'rice and curry'. There is normally one main curry and anything up to 7 side dishes of vegetables. The curries are hot and the side dishes range in flavour and spiciness.

I met Angel from Barcelona in the evening and we got on great. He is a few years older than me and has traveled to over 100 countries. He speaks 7 different languages and used to be a professor of languages and humanities in Note Dame University in USA . A well educated and interesting guy. We decided to use the services of Jimmy as our driver to explore the ancient ruins of Anuradhapura as this site is spread out over 26 kilometers.

Anuradhapura was the royal capital established in about 500 BC. It became a centre of Buddhist monks and and was the greatest Monastic city in the ancient world and at some stages housed over 10000 monks and a population of 2 million. It was finally laid to waste by the invading Indians in about 933 AD. and the capital was moved to Polonnaruwa. Slowly the jungle reclaimed this site and it was only in the 19th century that the site was rediscovered and restored. Some of the Dagobas or Stupas ( Holy Shrines) rivaled the size of some of the Egyptian Pyramids. It is now a UNESCO world Heritage site.

After a hearty home cooked breakfast Angel and I set off to explore. The first thing was to pay the $25 entrance fee. That's my daily budget gone! At the end of the day it was worth it because this was one of the most amazing and fascinating places I have visited. Firstly the whole site is set in almost park like surroundings with amazing trees and bird life. There are a couple of museums that give you the history and then you are free to explore on your own. There were very few other tourists about and it felt like we had this place to ourselves. There were a few souvenir and food stalls and we would stop of for a fresh coconut or tasty fresh banana and honey rotis.

You could quite literally wander around for weeks taking in this vast ruined city. The size of the Dagobas are immense and one wonders as to the construction and the vision of those who built this city.  They were originally built to bury the remains of Buddha and also famous monks.. After his cremation, his ashes were divided into 40 000 and shared out. These Dagobas are huge dome shaped structures and they estimate that the larger ones have over 100 million bricks. And these were all hand made. In size, the are just smaller than some of the pyramids. There are statures of Buddha everywhere and the carvings on some of the temples is incredible intricate and beautiful and well preserved. The peace and tranquility was tangible and you could just sit on an old
ruin and almost see and feel what it must have been like all those years
ago. There is a symmetry in these ruins but it has been designed to
flow with nature. They used the natural habitat and water to contrast
with the lines of the buildings.


Over 2000 years ago they constructed hydraulic water systems and even squat toilets with drainage systems. And you think it wasn't that long ago people in Europe were still crapping in a bucket and throwing it out of the window! What made this really interesting was the enthusiasm and knowledge of Angel. Even though he is well traveled he admitted that this was one of the greatest places he had seen. We spent nearly the whole day being driven by Jimmy to various sites and then exploring by foot. It made me wonder if these people were so advanced in the town planning, construction, water systems and sense of beauty where did it all disappear to during the middle ages and later.

Thanks Angel it was a pleasure exploring this amazing site with you.

Photos to follow
 
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Comments

Janny on

Gusssssss I kept rotting these e,ails and ought it was junk mail-) then I realised it was you sending all the places you have been and experienced - wowwwwwww bastard-) lots of love enjoy and see you soon xxx

Lu on

Wow! This is an amazing place and your photos are so evocative!

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