29
Dec 17

Sri Lanka, Buddhism and People

I’ve been trying to put my finger on Sri Lanka and I’m having a difficult time doing it. The island nation has little in common with it’s large neighbor India to the north and they speak different languages. The people were very nice but they were also kind of distant. They were definitely island people but not like the islanders in the Pacific or West Indies. I guess I’d call them “old world” islanders. There was almost an Africa vibe to the place if that makes sense.

White Beard. Galle, Sri Lanka. 2017

We flew from Mumbai to Sri Lanka and exiting the plane the humidity was immediately noticeable. This was a tropical climate and suddenly I felt a little over dressed. We made our way through to passport control and the people were very nice. We were greeted by a large sign proclaiming that the possession of any illegal drugs would be punished with death. Yes, death! They were very serious about this and we later learned that many people were put to death each year for drug offenses. Yikes!

When we got to our car we realized we had left the little bag containing the sari Christy had worn during her dunk in the Ganges so she had to wind her way back through security to retrieve it. Thankfully it was sitting right where we left it. Our lodgings were on the South Coast of Sri Lanka which was a two hour drive and we settled in for the long trip.

Coffee Drinker. Galle, Sri Lanka. 2017

We were staying in a beautiful old Dutch Army Building that had been converted into a hotel. It featured high ceilings and tall windows, since we had a corner room the light was spectacular. I found it uplifting, bright and cheerful, perfect for writing and journaling. The beautiful setting even inspired me to get out my watercolors to do a bit of painting in my art journal.

Sri Lanka was colonized first by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British. It regained it’s independence in 1948 and became the Republic of Sri Lanka in 1972.The spiritual tradition of Sri Lanka is primarily Buddhism and we found a mix of Theravadan and Mahayana traditions. There were also a number of Hindu temples. We visited the oldest Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka which dated from about the 12th century.

Parinirvana, Sri Lanka. 2017

The shrine was formed by a set of massive boulders that created an almost grotto like enclosure. It contained a beautiful reclining buddha in the parinirvana position which is the position the Buddha was said to have died in, laying on his right side, head propped up on his right hand. We had asked one of the monks at the shrine to give us a blessing and it was very nice but a little odd since it used a string in an interesting way. Christy had been doing some reading about the spiritual culture of Sri Lanka and had learned that there was a strong branch of local folk magic woven into their practices and we believed the way the string was used was part of that.

Hello. Galle, Sri Lanka. 2017

We also visited the homes and gardens of Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa and his brother which was very interesting. Since our hotel was in the old Dutch fort we spent time walking around the large area. We walked all the way down to the sea and wandered through some old buildings that had been converted into shops. I did a little architectural photography and some people photography, I didn’t take any beach images because I didn’t find it to be that interesting. Spaces, shadows, light and people, are what I enjoy photographing.

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25
Dec 17

Merry Christmas from Sri Lanka

Fire Dancer. Galla, Sri lanka. 2017

Wishing family and friends a very Merry Christmas from Sri Lanka!

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23
Dec 17

Inside Ellora Caves, Aurangabad India

The flight from Mumbai to Aurangabad was pleasant and we had a leisurely discussion about what do. There were quite a few sights to see and we were most interested in the Ellora Cave complex. The most remarkable aspect of the Ellora caves being the “great Kailasa”. This is a large Siva temple that was carved out of the solid volcanic basalt hillside. The complex was carved completely intact during the 7th-9th centuries as a single monolithic structure and took five generations of devoted builders to complete. There are no seams or individual stones.

Between. Ellora Caves, India. 2017

First the sides of the Cliffside were cut to create the rough dimensions then the entire complex was carved from the top down. The large interior spaces are exquisitely carved out caves and the high ceilings in the main temple required the artist to intricately carve a solid rick ceiling much like Michaelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I’d never seen anything like it.

Shiva Temple. Ellora Caves, India. 2017

We spent a long time there because it was so beautiful and peaceful and the light was quite remarkable. The stone buzzed with spiritual energy and throngs of people came pouring through. There were families with children, artists with sketch pads, loving couples, elderly women, all of them had come to see this remarkable place.

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21
Dec 17

Maximum City – Mumbai, India

Mumbai was a big congested city, and I mean big. The population hovers around 21 to 25 million people. The city sat on a peninsula like San Francisco and was surrounded by the Arabian Sea. I have a deep relationship with the ocean and I was excited to be in a coastal city. Traveling through the Mumbai, there was no shortage of signs of the former British colonial presence and I spied a number of gorgeous neo-Gothic buildings.

Hare Krishna. Mumbai, India. 2017

From our hotel, we had an ocean view that overlooked the Gateway of India Arch. Looking out the window at the small bay in front of the arch, I could see small tour boats moored on one side and small fishing boats on the other. The sunset was beautiful. We decided on dinner in the hotel at the modern Indian restaurant, We were seated next to the gentleman who was hand rolling, tossing and cooking roomali roti, known as handkerchief roti in english. They looked absolutely delicious.

Happiness. Mumbai, India. 2017

We walked around a few places in Mumbai, one being an outdoor hand wash laundry and another being the lunch box people. While we were driving I saw a weathered wooden fishing boat up on the sidewalk next to a group of what looked like lean-to’s and shanties. This looked interesting and we stopped. It was a small busy community of fisherman. Judging by the looks of things it was low tide as men were being attentive to their nets and children walked about looking for ways to send their homemade kites high into the air.

Lunch. Mumbai, India. 2017

I found Mumbai to be a very vibrant city and appreciated having a chance to see and visit the smaller communities and businesses that contributed their energy to the life of the city. No trip to Mumbai would be complete without discussing “Slum Dog Millionaire”, and our chat about the slums was pretty interesting. I can tell you that all the shanties have power and satellite dishes. Also due to their hard work and population density, the people that live in the slums make up an important part of the cities economy.

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20
Dec 17

Reflections of Udaipur, India

Lakeside. Udaipur, India. 2017

Udaipur lies in the southern region of Rajasthan, or as our friend Rohit says, it is Heaven. Having spend a few days there I can’t disagree. In addition to being Rohit’s hometown, Udaipur is a resort destination for both domestic and international travelers. It’s appeal was immediately clear.

Carpet. Udaipur, India. 2017

When we arrived, we could see just how lovely the city was with it’s many lakes, rolling green hills and beautiful architecture. Also the air was fresh and the sky was blue. Across the lake from our hotel we could see the City Palace spilling down the side of a hill like a giant layer cake until it stopped at the waterline.

Mirror. Udaipur, India. 2017

Visiting the City Palace was fun and it similar to many other Indian palaces we had visited except for the view which was really spectacular. I also really loved the shadows and light playing off all the lovely marble used in it’s construction. Windows of colored glass and mirrors showed off the shapes of the rooms and the columns.

Cool. Udaipur, India. 2017

Jumping on a boat it was really a pleasure to be out on the lake, tour around and watch the sunset. A few films had been shot at locations around the lake here and I remembered seeing the scenes. Rohit had us over for dinner at his house and we enjoyed an amazing home cooked meal as well as meeting and spending time with his family. I especially had fun sharing calligraphy with his niece. She showed me her notebook and pen and I showed her mine, inky fingers unite!

Spirit. Udaipur, India. 2017

Our most profound experience In Udaipur however was spiritual. For me it was somewhat unexpected since I consider myself very grounded spiritually. This was something new and I think it something to do with the cumulative effect of spending so much time in India and being in so many powerful spiritual places. I’ll be telling that story soon.

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18
Dec 17

Step Wells and Star Wars In Delhi, India

After a week in the jungles of Central India we returned to Delhi to catch a plane to Dharamshala. Unforunately the weather in Dharashala was bad and our flight was delayed several hours. We decided to stay in Delhi, see a few sights and catch the new Star Wars movie.

Step Well. Delhi, India. 2017

One of the sights was the second oldest step well in Delhi called Agrasen Kibaoli dating from approximately the 10the Century. It was massive and deep with several levels build into the walls and a long descending staircase. When we arrived voices and shouts were echoing off the walls. A group of students were there, perhaps on a field trip and from the looks of it, they were having a great time. It was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen.

Up. Delhi, India. 2017

After the step well we continued on to the movie theater which was in a suburb of Delhi. Pulling into the parking lot I looked up and there were blue skies! Blue skies near Delhi! It was a very new theater with IMAX 3D and we had reclining chairs in the back, very nice indeed.

A peculiarity of watching movies in India is that you have to stand for the Indian National Anthem at the start of the film. The sound system loudly declared “Please stand for the Indian National Anthem” and respectfully we did. Another thing is that there is an intermission in the middle of the film that lasts about 15 minutes. The first time this happened I thought there was something wrong with the projector but now I know and kind of appreciate it as a good time to get up and take care of personal business.

Christy and I have enjoyed seeing films in other countries because it’s fun to see how other cultures go about the same familiar rituals as we do. It was a great time.

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