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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 31, 2015

Sri Lanka Ramayana Trail - Day 4 ( 22-09-2015, Tuesday )

Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple
ISKCON, Sri Lanka

The schedule for day 4 was essentially the sightseeing tour of Colombo and visit to Kelaniya temple. As the participants desired to have some time for shopping in Colombo also, Mr.Dasa, our tour organiser had  asked us to be ready by 7.30 a.m. itself. We were  fresh as daisies.  We also had time to have a good view of the Indian Ocean from the terrace garden of Lafala restaurant.

View of Indian ocean from the Terrace                         Terrace Garden

We were able to spot some ships sailing with the help of binoculars. We joined the other participants in the lobby and greeted them saying ‘Jai Sriram’. Mr.Dasa led us to ShanmugaS for breakfast by 8 a.m. We covered the small distance by walk.

We had hot idlis, crisp vadas, and delicious venn pongal laced with pepper, cumin seeds and cashew nuts roasted in ghee.  Hot chutney powder mixed with til oil was also available to give a spicy taste for the idlis in addition to the regular chutney and sambar. We finished the breakfast with espresso coffee.

Mr. Dasa gave us directions for shopping and allotted a time slot of 2 hours. Our  group chose to shop at the nearby ARPICO Super Bazaar which is on 39th street. Sri Lanka is also called as ‘ Spice Island’ as cinnamon, pepper, cloves, cardamoms, nutmeg, mace, vanilla grow in abundance in the island. Cinnamon labeled as ‘ Pure Ceylon Cinnamon ‘ draws a heavy demand in the International Market. Pepper ranks second in this category. Cardamon known as ‘queen of spices’ is a cash crop in Sri lanka. Ceylon Tea which is available in three varieties known as White Tea (silver tipped and expensive), Green tea and Black Tea are also quite popular. Green Tea is made from mature tea leaves.White tea is made from young tea leaves. Green tea without lemon is more nutritious than white tea. However white tea with lemon is healthier than green tea. Whichever variety is chosen, lemon boosts the nutrition.  Along with spices and tea we also bought pure coconut oil ,soft toys and candies.

                                           Arpico Super Bazaar

There are many places in Colombo where one can bargain and buy goods as in Pettah area which we crossed later on our sightseeing tour of Colombo. Modern shopping malls and specialty stores carry high quality goods at affordable prices. Designer clothes manufactured in  Sri Lanka can be bought for a less cost compared to other places

A few others shopped at the Arcade, the high end store to buy branded items in clothings.  Sri Lanka is also famous for precious and semi precious stones. One of our friends bought American diamond ear drops at Nithya Kalyani Jewellery shop. Unmindful of the blazing sun we  walked back to Lafala just before noon.

  Lafala Hotel Lobby                                 
By 12:15 pm we vacated the hotel and started moving along the Marine Drive path. We had a good view of the ocean on our left . A railway line was running parallel to the sea shore. We came across streets by name Frankfurt, Melbourne, France, Alexandra, St.Mary, Vivekananda road and so on.The street names are written both in Tamil and Sinhalese.
We crossed Colombo Port where construction work is still in progress with Chinese assistance.

 Colombo Port

Colombo is the largest city and the commercial, industrial and cultural capital of Sri Lanka. It is located on the west coast of the island and adjacent to Sri jayawardenapura Kotte suburb or the parliament capital of Sri lanka. Since Jayawardenapura Kotte is a satellite city, Colombo is often referred as the capital. Colombo is a mixture of modern life and colonial buildings and ruins with a population of about 752,993 in the city limits. Portuguese introduced the name Colombo in 1505 which  is believed to be derived from the classical Sinhalese name KOLON THOTA, meaning ‘ port on the river Kelani’.  Kelani river is mentioned in Ramayana as Kalyani river. It is also suggested that the name may be derived from Sinhalese  Kola-amba-thota which means ‘Harbour with  leafy Mango trees’
Once we started moving we chanted the Narasimha stotra and sang the  Narasimha stuti after Sri Dasa.
We came across some of the renowned landmarks on the way.
  1. Rashtrapati  Bhavan-The official residence of the Sri Lankan President  with a long white compound wall guarded by tight security.
  2. US Consulate building
     3)UK High commission

4) Indian  Consulate  Building

5)  Galle  Face Green  which is akin to Bombay Chowpatty--It is a 5 hectare oceanside urban park which stretches for 1/2 a KM along the sea coast. The galle Face was initially used for horse racing and as a golf course. Subsequently for cricket, polo, football,tennis, and rugby. It is the largest open space in Colombo. This is a popular destination for children, vendors, teenagers, lovers, kite flyers, merrymakers and all those who want to indulge in their favorite pastimes next to the sea under the open sky.  Radio Ceylon /  Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, the oldest radio station in South Asia has recorded many programs here from their outside broadcast input in the 1950s and 1960s

.   6) Taj Samudra Hotel
  WTC Colombo

7) WTC( World Trade Center )  Colombo with the twin towers is the tallest completed       building in Sri Lanka standing over 152m (499 ft) from the ground, it ranks as the fourth tallest twin tower in South Asia.

8) ITC Colombo One Hotel

9) Old Parliament House of Sri Lanka

(10) Cargill’s Department Stores    

Cargill’s Department Stores is a modern Super Market Company having a chain of stores throughout Sri Lanka .                                                                       

11) Sri Lanka police Headquarters

12) Colombo Customs

13) Pettah Area  is famous for the Pettah Market, a series of open air bazaars and markets. It           is Sri Lanka's most busiest commercial area, where most of the shops, textiles, buildings and many other business organizations are centered.

14) Colombo Gold Center - St.John’s fish market in Pettah is now a gold center.

The building is painted grey and yellow. Colombo’s top jewellery outlets are located here. It houses 80 stalls in total.

15) St.Anthony’s Church:- According to tradition St Anthony was a priest from Cochin, who performed a miracle to stop this area being eroded by the sea.

He built a small hut (a "kade") and used it as a Church, which became known as "Kochchiya Kade" or Kochchikade. (Kochchiya meaning the man from Cochin).
St. Anthony is today venerated as a wonder worker and the Church is a popular place of worship for people of all faiths.

Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple ISKCON :-  By !:00 pm We reached this temple which was established in 1976. We offered our prayers  to Sri Radha and Sri Krishna. The head priest of the temple  spoke about the establishment of the temple at Colombo.  A new building is coming up in the adjacent plot which will coincide with the 50th year celebration of the ISKCON. The Hare Krishna Movement is a  worldwide community of devotees practicing bhakti yoga, the eternal science of loving service to God. The movement was founded in the Western World in 1966 by his Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a pure devotee of God representing an unbroken chain of spiritual masters originating with Lord Krishna himself. ISKCON has since developed into a worldwide confederation of 10000 temples devotees and 2,50,000 congregational devotees - better known as HARE KRISHNA MOVEMENT


Mr.Dasa also outlined the  importance of Nava Bhava Bhakti:-
He recited  a sloka  from Bhagavad

Sravanam keerthanam vishno : Smaranam Pada Sevanam
Archanam vandanam Dasyam Sakhyam Atma Nivedanam

After worship and arati, we received prasad from the temple. We walked up to the dining place in the next parallel street where a fabulous lunch was waiting for us. The food was cooked with devotion and served with love and care true to the maxim ‘athithi devo bhava ‘
The meals which was plentiful consisted of rice, raita, cauliflower sabji, brinjal bhaji,dal, sambar, rasam, papads, hot and crispy bajjis, sabudana, kheer, and fruit salad. Rasam, kheer, and the fruit salad scored high in taste and in demand.
After a hearty meals we walked back to the bus and were on our way to Kelaniya 7 miles from Colombo.
Kelaniya (Kalyanpura) :- We visited Kelaniya Rajavihara by 2.15p.m.

Main entrance of Kelaniya Temple ( Eye catching structure)

 Kelaniya is a suburb of Colombo city in Western Province of Sri Lanka. Kelaniya is mentioned in buddhist chronicle, the Mahavamsa which states that the Gautama Buddha (5th century B.C.) visited the place after which the dagaba of the temple was built. Sri Lankan Buddhists believe that Buddha visited Kelaniya in order to quell a quarrel between two  Naga leaders of two warring factions :- chulo dama (literally meaning “the small bellied one”) and Mahodara (“the big bellied one’ ) They were quarrelling over a jewel-encrusted throne. Buddha showed them the futility of their quarrel.  They converted to Buddhism and offered the throne to Buddha.  It is believed that the Dagaba ( Stupa of the Buddhist temple) seen today, was built with the throne as a relic inside. Thousands of Buddhists come to see the Buddhist pageant  of Kelaniya popularly referred as Duruthu Maha Perahera of Kelaniya in the month of January.

According to Ramayana, after King Ravana’s death,  Vibhishana was coronated as king of Lanka by Lakshmana at Kelaniya. There are murals enshrined outside the Buddhist temple depicting the crowning of Vibheeshana,

The reason why Lakshmana crowned Vibhishana was because Rama had to return to india as he had to continue his self exile of 14 years to honour his commitment to his father. The Kelani river is mentioned as Kalyani rive in Valmiki Ramayana and Vibhishana's palace wa said to be on the banks of Sri Lanka on this river. There exists a Buddhist temple and shrine for King Vibheeshana who is considered as one of the four guardian deities of Lanka. A painting of King Vibheeshana also adorns the new parliament of Sri Lanka.

We entered through the side gate and went round the shrine. A few devotees were seen sitting in meditation posture in front of a Bodhi tree and a few others offering water and flowers to the statue of the Buddha  under the sacred tree.

The low walls around have carved images of serpents.

For burning incense sticks

( Mural depicting Lakshmana crowning Vibheeshana)

Then we saw the  mural carving of Vibhishana’s coronation scene at the back of the main
temple.  A tall statue of Maitreya Buddha  where some monks were sitting on the steps and reciting ‘Buddham Sharanam Gachami’ attracted our attention. We sat next to them admiring their tranquility.

   sitting among the Monks                                                                            

A white domed Buddhist stupa stands as a master piece.

                                                                               Colorful paintings

An 18 feet statue of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara carrying the lotus stem in one hand and a  water pot in the other which is at the temple premises accords a stunning look to the visiting tourists

Beauty encased in a glass chamber

Finally we reached the Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara or Kelaniya Temple. The temple which flourished during the Kotte era  had been confiscated by the Portuguese empire. The temple was rebuilt with Dutch assistance under the patronage of King Sri Kirtisinghe. In the first half of 20th century it was refurbished with the help of Wijayawardana. The entrance has beautiful statues of elephants.

                                                                                                                                           Replica of Dalada Maligawa

Inside the temple we could view a statue of Buddha in the center and a replica of Dalada Maligawa and beautiful paintings on the walls as well as on the ceilings which include  Sanghamitra bringing the branch of the sacred Bodhi tree, Hemamala and Gunasheela carrying the Tooth Relic of The Buddha, and episodes from The Buddha’s visit to Kelaniya, events in Buddha’s life,  history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and also from the Jataka tales . We also saw an awe inspiring polished statue of reclining Buddha (Anantha Sayana) - the figure we could capture in 5 parts in our cameras.                        

                                                 Sanghamitra  holding the Bodhi tree branch          

 Hemamala with The Tooth Relic Of the Buddha

Reclining Buddha  captured in Five parts and presented as one unit

After spending a fair time in going around Kelaniya Temple we had to go to the Bandaranaike International Airport  to drop three of our team mates as they were to return to Bangalore  that evening. We started moving at about 5p.m. towards Anuradhapura (200km). On the way we had Huli Thengol (MTR make), drank sweet king coconut water and relished eating the thick kernel. We passed through small towns in fading light. It became pitch dark after sunset but we continued the journey though no human civilisation was in sight. The stars twinkling in the dark sky were the only source of light.  We started chanting Hanuman Chalisa and Margabandhu Sloka by Appayya Dikshitar ( which our guru Shantha mami has taught us  before we left for Sri   Lanka). We reached The Heritage Hotel by 8:30pm safely. After allotment of rooms, we refreshened ourselves and assembled at the dining hall for dinner. We sat at a long table  in the brightly lit hall . Our dinner consisted of  hot white rice from the restaurant kitchen, chapati, dal, vegetable sabji, packed from ShanmugaS, pickles, yummy curds which we bought on the way, and Gulab Jamuns (MTR’s)  for dessert.

Mr.Dasa briefed us about the next day’s program and an appropriate time for us to be ready in the morning in order to meet the next day’s schedule as planned.

We retired to bed and fell asleep as soon our heads hit the pillows.

  • Natarajans ( end of part 4 - to be continued for report(s) for day 5 and 6 )



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