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.
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.
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.
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.
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.