Explored the UNESCO recognized ancient city of Anuradhapura which was the political and religious capital of Sri Lanka 1500 years ago! Surrounding this area are hand dug reservoirs, some dating back 2000 years. They receive rain during the wet season as there are no rivers flowing into these ‘tanks’. Initially they were constructed to fill the ponds and massive baths of the king who commissioned their construction . The local’s water needs were at the end of the list of priorities. Within the temples, there are many friezes of the king ‘building” a dam or wall or enclosure, however in every painting he is standing to one side, under an umbrella, watching others do the work!!!
It included remains of palaces, monasteries and temples. Some of these sites are still considered holy and are used for religious ceremonies which we were fortunate to witness. Some kind locals gave us some blue lotus flowers, which are the national flower, to leave as an offering. Some of these sites included enormous Dagobas(stupas/Chedis), one of which apparently contains the relic of Buddha’s collarbone!
One of these sites had the oldest, historically authenticated tree in the world which was grown from Buddha’s bodi tree in India. It had been tended by a succession of guardians for over 2000 years!
Everywhere we went that was considered holy, we had to remove our shoes and hat as a mark of respect. But….the ground was very, very hot and it didn’t take long for our feet to feel like they were walking on fire…..our faces got burnt too.
In the afternoon we explored Minitahle which was the ancient ruins of a monastery and also included a large Dagoba and Buddha statue (and again, many steps to climb shoeless!)
Wilpattu National Park
5.30am……..an early start on a safari into this national park. We hoped to see the wild elephants bears and the elusive leopards but were unlucky this time. We did see mongoose, crocs, eagles, spotted deer, monitors, peacocks, monkeys, storks, hornbills, pelicans, hummingbird and numerous brightly colored birds. Perhaps on our next safari we will be luckier.