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I am an ardent blogger and a web enthusiast. My blogs include varied topics from the picturesque details of my travelogue to theology and worldly facts. My passions are reading English and Tamil classics, Management Topics, Playing Tennis and taking long walks. I live with my wife in Bangalore. Visit regularly my children in Michigan and Colorado to spend time with them and three grandsons. Please brief your opinions there in when you read my blog :-

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka  -   ( Part 1 )

Jai Sri Ram

Sri Lanka Ramayana Trail

Bhaktivedanta Academy for Spiritual Education, Bangalore - 96, conducted a tour of Sri Lanka from 18th to 25th September 2015 ( 8 days) under the able and inspiring leadership and guide Sri Madhavananda Dasa. Seven members from White House Complex which we have named as ‘V-7’ participated with zeal. It is well known that Sri Lanka is a repository of many heritage sites connected with the pastimes filled with glory and wonder of Srimad Ramayana -  we can call it in short as ‘ Sri Lanka Ramayana Trail’ as stated in the title. We visited the amazing ancient heritage places of Ramayana. It would be a pleasure to present a detailed account of the tour for information to our friends. We wish to record two things here which in our opinion bore weight age for the success of the tour to Sri Lanka:-
(i) a day before the date of departure, that is on 17th September, Vinayaka Chathurti was celebrated and special pujas both at homes and also in the temple complex in White House  were performed. It is a good augury to seek Ganesha’s blessings for the success of the tour. (ii  We like to thank Smt. Shantha Vishwanathan who through her Sundarakanda teachings has inspired us in joining this trip and also has found the right  person to guide us in this tour. She has made sure that our visit to places of interest connected with Ramayana would fulfill our long cherished wish.
A big Thanks to U Mami !!!

Sep 18, Friday :-

We seven reached the Bangalore International Airport at 7 p.m. and 15 more participants joined us in this trail. We met our guide Sri Madhavananda Dasa near Maiyas Restaurant at  the airport. He outlined the procedures to be completed before boarding the flight to Chennai en route Sri Lanka. He introduced Jai Sri Ram as our greeting words during the trip and handed over the dinner packets to all.

( Bangalore Airport )

We completed the formalities of checking in - our check in baggage was booked direct to Colombo; then reached gate No 6 after the security check. We relished the dhokla ,fried rice, sabji, curd rice, raita and jalebis - ( packed from ISKCON  Canteen ).

We boarded Spice jet SG 3310 - ( the aircraft’s name Cinnamon) @ 9-20 p.m. and arrived at Chennai domestic terminal by 10:15 p.m. From there we reached the International Terminal,which was looking rather sleepy compared to our busy airport. We filled the immigration forms, collected our visas. After stamping of passports  we passed through the security again  waited in the lounge at gate H13 to board Spice jet  SG 001 ( Jaiphal ) to Colombo @ 1:00 a.m.

( Waiting to board Spicejet to Colombo )

September 19, Saturday :-

It was 2.20 A.M. when we reached Bandaranayake International Airport ,Colombo.  First proceeded to Immigration Counter and handed over Passports and Arrival form - after immigration stamping collected our baggage - exchanged Indian currency for Sri Lankan money, met our guide and representative  at the lobby.

( Waiting @ the Lobby )

- boarded a chartered air conditioned luxury bus (45+1 Seater) - CHINNON EXPRESS -  Reg.No: WP NF - D 0226 which was to be our Pushpak Viman ( vehicle ) for travelling inside SL for the next 6 days. Our Sarathi (driver) Chammith  assisted by Sangeeth became almost a part of our team. They were extremely cordial, always smiling and took care of us while alighting  from or climbing into the bus which made our journey safe and successful. A big thanks to both of them.

We reached the transit hotel Euro Star in less than 30 minutes - by 4.15 a.m. It was like Shivaratri -a sleepless night. We were requested to assemble at the canteen near the swimming pool for breakfast at 7.30 a. m. We  had hot shower bath, changed into fresh clothes and were ready by 6 a.m. itself as sleep evaded us. Exactly @ 7:30a.m. we assembled at the lobby with our luggage greeting each other ‘ Jai Sri Ram’.

                                            ( waiting for the break fast )

The breakfast consisted of hot Idli, Vada, Pongal, Chutney and Sambar, Nescafe coffee/ tea/ milk.The sambar was in great demand. Sangeeth with the help of hotel staff loaded our luggage.Though  it was raining since early morning Varuna Bhagavan was sympathetic and the sky became clear when we boarded the coach at 8 a.m.

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( The Statue in front of Euro Star Hotel )

Mr.Madhavananda Dasa  made us repeat the ‘ Lord Narasimha’ stotra  followed by a song praising Narasimha ( Jai Narasimha Jai Jai Narasimha) in a beautiful voice.
This became our routine in the morning everyday  after boarding the coach and before going to the sightseeing spot.

The bus took the Veyangoda road , crossed 110 k.m. and reached Kandy, the first destination. Kandy is the second biggest city in Sri Lanka - Sri Dasa  used to narrate the mythological and historical background  of the place to be visited, and its importance. His narration would be mixed with humour and questions.He had an uncanny way to wake up those who fall asleep by loudly chanting ' Hare Krishna‘.

How Sri Lanka was formed ?

M.Dasa explained that during Svayambhuva Manvantara Garuda  and Vayu Deva remained as bosom friends and Narada desired to  create a conflict between them of course for an ultimate good cause. Narada set up a competition to prove who is mightier of the two in shaking the Mount Meru. Vayu blew strong winds when Garuda tightened his grip round the Parvata. The fight was
going on for one year. There was a time when Garuda slackened his grip and Vayu availed the opportunity to blow with great force the top of the Meru Parvata which fell  into the ocean and thus Sri Lanka was formed. Meru Parvata is made of Gold and Sri Lanka which is a part of Meru is called as  Golden island and its shape ( Oval Pearl ) accords another name ‘Teardrop Island’. We were travelling under the canopy of tall trees, the chain of mountains formed a wall on our right.side. Our Guide drew our attention to a table top mountain  which is a natural formation..

The bus was stopped  on the way to refresh ourselves. We drank sweet tender coconut juice from the  orange colored’ king coconut’ ( Thembili in local language) filled with copious water.

King Coconut.jpg  

There were pineapples, plantains, papayas and watermelons in plenty. The next stop was at the Spice Garden where  we did window shopping. We saw Vanilla creepers clustered with Vanilla beans - crushed dried beans are used for extracting Vanilla Essence.

     (  Vanila Plant @ Spice Garden )

We continued our journey to Kandy and crossed the Mahaweli Ganga River - in Sinhalese a big river is known as Ganga and a small one as Oya - We passed through Ratnapura , a place famous for gold,diamonds and precious gems  and gem cutting.and noticed the names of shops like Premadasa, Prasanna Gem centre ,Hemachandra. etc. ( As already mentioned Sri Lanka is part of Meru, the golden mountain and hence abundant gold and gems in the island).

It would be pertinent here to describe Kandy which is the second largest city after Colombo - located in the Central Province and was the last  capital of the ancient kings era of Sri Lanka. The city is known by different names like Senkadagala or Senkadagalapura, officially Senkadagala Siriwardhana Mahanuwara meaning great city of Senkadagala of growing resplendence generally shortened to MAHA NUWARA. The city was named after a brahmin  Senkanda by name also after a colored stone Senkadagala by name. In Sinhalese Kandy is called Maha Nuwara , meaning great city or Capital although it is most often shortened to Nuvara pronounced as Nuwara. ( Sinhalese language is a combination of Pali and Sanskrit ).

Temple of the Tooth Relic :-

Kandy is the home of the ‘Temple of the Tooth Relic’ ( Sri Dalada Maligawa ), one of the important places for worship of the Buddhist Community of Sri Lanka and all around the world. It was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.
It was originally a part of the Royal palace Complex of the Kandyan Kingdom and the holiest place of worship and pilgrimage for Buddhists. It was last of a series of temples built in the places where the relic, the actual palladium of the Sinhalese monarchy was brought, following the various relocations of the capital city.
According to Sri Lankan legends when Lord Buddha disappeared (Maha Parinibbhana) BC 543, his body was cremated in a sandalwood pyre of Kusinagara in India and his left canine tooth was retrieved from the pyre by Arahat Khema who gave it to King Brahmadatta for veneration. It became a royal possession in Brahmadatta’s country and was kept in the city of Dantapuri
( present day PURI in Odissa ). It was believed that whoever possessed the sacred Tooth Relic had the divine rights for ruling that Land. Wars were fought in this connection. 800 years after Buddha's demise, the Tooth came in possession of  king Guhaseeva of Kalinga. Later princess Hemamala hid the Relic in her hair ornament and the Royal Couple disguised themselves and set sail from Tamralipti, a port at the mouth of Ganges and landed at the port of Lankapattana, now Ilankeiture. The important reason for Sri Lanka to be chosen as the new home for the tooth relic was that Buddha had declared that his religion would be safe in Sri Lanka for 5000 years.

We entered the gates of Dalada Maligawa to see the Temple of Lord Buddha’s Tooth. Nagalinga Flower tree was a prominent sight with full bloom as we started walking along  the pathway flanked by lawns on either side.

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( Nagalinga Tree in full Blossom)

We also saw the statues of Hemamala and Guhaseeva on one side and a statue of a Monk on the other side.
( Statues of Hemamala and Guhaseeva )

The entry ticket for a foreigner is Rs 1000 Sri lankan Currency .(we are foreigners in SL). However we were charged SLRs.500 only , this concession is accorded to SAARC Nations.There are separate entrances for the natives and outsiders. Most of the SLn people were clad in white and they were carrying colourful and fresh lotuses as offerings. The Tooth Relic Shrine is surrounded by a moat.We could see tiny alligators basking in the sun inside the moat.


( The Moat at the Back )

( Front View of The Dalada Maligawa Shrine )

The Sacred Tooth is kept in a gold casket in the shrine. No one is allowed to see the Casket. It is kept behind a decorated screen. Prayers are offered in front of the screen only.

Tooth relic tempe in SL.jpg

Once a year the Casket is taken out on a decorated elephant in procession round the shrine with great pomp and show. Mural Paintings of the Procession are on exhibit on the wall for the public as seen below :-

There are colourful paintings by  local artists at the next level.

( Ceiling  of the Shrine - Beautiful and Colorful Paintings )

buddha at kandy.jpg

(Golden Statue of the Buddha inside the Tooth Relic Temple )
( Guhaseeva  and Hemamala who is  hiding the tooth relic of Buddha )

( A Replica of The Tooth Relic Casket )

There were gold flags on heavy staffs having the figures of Hanuman Carrying the Sanjeevi Parvata,Sun God, Moon, Eagle,elephants  to mention a few. We noticed a large number of tourists because it was Saturday.

( Huge , Polished Wooden Pot )

At the second level we saw the decorated screen behind which the  Tooth Relic is kept. We offered our prayers standing with bowed heads. As we came out of the shrine we saw a huge bell, separate spots for burning the incenses and lighting oil lamps

( The Huge Bell )

We then saw  the grand Museum connected with Buddhism. A majestic statue of Buddha is seen in front of the museum .


Similarly another statue of the Buddha in marble, slightly smaller in size is seen at the entrance of the museum. Our guide advised us not to show our back to the Buddha. We learnt that discipline .


( The Marble Statue of THE BUDDHA inside the Museum )

It was 12.30 p.m.then and we realized that we had  spent almost two hours in that spot. Our next destination for the day was Ramboda.( 55 KM)

We saw outside the Buddhist Shrine, on our left a vast expanse of a lake built by King Shri Wikrama Raja Singhe in 1807. The lake has an  island in the middle which was used as the summer palace for the King and also as a royal bathing place for the queen and ladies of the Court. A decorative wall called Walakulu (meaning Clouds), runs for 2060 feet around the lake which remains unfinished . The triangular shaped holes in the walls were used in the past for lighting oil lamps on festival days which proved to be a feast for the eyes.

kandy lake.jpg
( Kandy Lake surrounded by Walakulu Wall )

It was 3.30 p.m. when we reached Ramboda. We had a snack of Jam buns and maddur Vada (MTR). Mineral  water bottles were stored in the mini fridge in the coach for our use on the way. We  saw a fleet of autos waiting for us.  As we had to climb a short and steep hillock we went up by autos. ( 3 in an auto) We went to a pure vegetarian restaurant Annapurani established by
Chinmayananda Trust. V-7 group sat at the dining table and waited eagerly for the lunch to be served as we were really hungry. Thanks to Dasaji, our tour leader and guide  we had a delicious lunch consisting of rice, sambar, vatha kuzhambu, aromatic Lemongrass rasam ( a speciality in which instead of tamarind or lemon they use lemon grass) raita, sabji, papad, curd and kadarangai ( a kind of lemon), pickle and sooji halwa for dessert. We had a panoramic view  of the valley and the mountains from the Restaurant.
The mountain range in front of the temple has a view of Hanumanji lying straight with hands cuffed at the pelvic region. It is an astonishing sight to see a giant structure in the form of Hanuman on the hill. We chanted Sri Hanuman Ki  Jai ‘ in chorus

Hanuman Form in the ram hillbod.jpg

( Hanuman Form seen in the Hill in front of Ramboda Hanuman Temple )

Ramboda (Boda means conglomeration ) is the place where Rama’s army gathered before the
Yuddha between Rama and Ravana took place.The Hanuman Temple in Ramboda was built by Chinmaya Mission of Sri Lanka and dedicated to Ramabhakta Hanuman. We were mesmerised  to see the 16 feet tall Hanuman  both his hands joined together to show anjali to Lord Rama and his eyes closed  in meditation

Ramboda Hanuman.jpg


( Sri Madhavananda Dasa explains the significance inside Ramboda Hanuman Temple )

Dasa ji narrated the mythological background of the holy place and after performing archana with the sindoor on our foreheads we recited  the Hanuman Chalisa and sang bhajans,
we  got into the waiting autos and reached parking place of our bus..


( Ramayana in Sri Lanka , The Book bought from the Temple )

We boarded the bus to reach the hotel where we had reservations for stay. The name of the hotel is Hotel Ramboda Falls. It  is situated in a valley in front of the  Ramboda Water falls which can be    approached in just 3 minutes from the rear side of the hotel. There were number of falls around the mountain and the valley.

We crossed the Ramboda Tunnel to reach the Hotel.


It is the longest tunnel (225 M in length) in Sri Lanka. It was opened to public in 2008, only 7 years old. There is a caution that no pedestrian is allowed to walk through the tunnel as vehicular traffic is heavy and in high speed.
We reached  Ramboda Falls Hotel by 5.30 p.m. The bus was parked at the top level. The hotel provided shuttle vehicles to go down from the top level to the valley where it is housed. The  
fabulous view of the hill, valley and the falls were fascinating  and a poem would flow from our lips only if we were Keats or Wordsworth to give full credit to the scenic beauty of the place of our stay for that night only. A drink - the Ceylon Black Tea with Palm Jaggery was served to us by the hotel as a welcome drink which was soothing for our parched throats.. We shifted our baggage from the hotel lobby to our respective rooms. ‘V-7’ again met at the restaurant at the basement from where we had a direct view of the falls 100  feet away. There was a narrow stretch of a path down to reach the Falls itself. We ordered pots of hot ,hot Sri Lankan coffee and sipped in leisure, watching the rush of water from the falls and hearing its roaring noise .

Ramboda Falls is 109m high[1] and 11th highest waterfall in Sri Lanka and 729th highest waterfall in the world.[2] It is situated in Pussellawa area, on the A5 highway at Ramboda Pass.[3] It formed by Panna Oya which is a tributary of Kothmale Oya. Altitude of the falls is 945m above sea level

Ramboda Water fallls.jpg
( Ramboda Falls with a thundering roar )


              ( Falls View from the Room )

Dinner packets were served- rotis, sabzi, chutney ghee rice- packed from Annapurani proved to be sumptuous and tasty at that time. We retired to bed after 24 hours since we left our home in Bangalore.

We learnt two proper sentences in  Sinhalese- ‘Ayurbhavon’ Meaning “Ayushman Bhava’ and        ‘Bhauma Stuti’- Thank U very much. (Mikka Nandri  in Tamil).

( Part - 1 of Sri Lankan Trail  -  Parts 2 and more to follow - Natarajans, participants of the Tour )


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