Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Sri Lanka circuit (The morning of Day 4) - Sigiriya Lion terrace and the Royal Palace - The 8th of December 2011.

The aerial view of the Sigiriya gardens was fabulous, though we had not yet reached the summit. According to  experts they reflect the art and architecture of the 5th century Sri Lankan engineers with the designing of symmetric and asymmetric structures , which have been admired since then.

I had honestly thought the climb up to the Lion's terrace would be harder but the steps were wide enough not to pose too many difficulties.

Only the rock carving and the brick structure of the Lion's mouth, which used to be the entrance to the palace survived but despite the fact that the mouth of the lion crumbled one can easily imagine what it might have been like.

The hardest was still to come as we climbed up to the summit, and though quite a few people stayed at the Lion's terrace I felt it would be a pity to have reached this height and not make an additional effort to climb further ... and so I did (and was fairly proud of having "overcome" my fear ..., particularly because it was worth the effort, despite the fact that the Royal pavillion was mostly reduced to ruins).

According to written reports there is evidence of a rather elaborate  and sophisticated water system from the foot of Sigigiya to the summit still astonishing hydrologists which continue to theorise on the  accomplishements of the early engineers. 

The climb down provided a different perspective, as we came across the mirror wall and several rock and man-made shelters using brick walls and large boulders as roofs (after Kassapa's defeat the Lion Rock is said to have been "handed back" to the monks), as well as other rock formations, caves (the Cobra hood cave) and 6th century rock painting remains.

Having noticed warning signals mentioning hornets and wasps and how to react in case of an attack, made us almost instantaneously smile, as if it were possible for anyone to keep still and silent under such  circumstances ..., once the simple sight of "something" as small as a cameleon moving in the rocks made us  almost cry out for help ...

 It was soon time for lunch and I don't know whether it was the climb or the prospect of still having a long way towards Kandy ... but I felt I was desperately in need of having something to eat ...

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The letters from Calheta

I have today received twenty eight letters written by the children of Calheta, which were kindly sent by Sibylle inside one envelope, once neither the children nor their parents can afford the stamps.

They are "thank you" letters, I presume, judging from the ones I have received from my "protegées", as well as a response to the ones we had sent them previously.

I noticed some of the children have re- used the envelopes we sent them,  by changing the "to" to "from" and this way keeping the degree of intimacy there should exist between them and the "godparents".

I can't speak on behalf of the other "godparents", but  I must say these children not only touch me with their thankful attitude, but have also been reminding me of some of the "values" we have been gradually losing in our so called modern societies.

May they be blessed and hopefully with our help make some of their "simple" dreams come true ...

Monday, 26 December 2011

The Sri Lanka circuit (The morning of Day 4) - The Sigiriya Maiden frescoes - The 8th of December 2011.

The paintings of 23 Sigiriya maidens were to be seen half way up the rock. Though there are several interpretations as to who these painted female figures are, it is almost certain that they were the queens, daughters, maid servants and even concubines  in the court of Kassapa.

Why they have been painted in pairs is yet to be answered, and so is the reason as to why they have been painted only from the hips up. It seems the ones wearing transparent blouses and darker in complexion might easily be identified as servants, whilst the bare breasted ones hoding the flowers or  opening up their petals might be of a higher class. This theory has been reinforced by the fact that some of them  are looking down, whilst the others are looking in a rather seductive way.

Not being able to fully understand who they were ... or who the Sigiri artists who painted them were did in no way diminish the quality of what we saw was really worth having made the effort to climb all the way up to see the images that have inspired many writers and poets ...

Sunday, 25 December 2011

The Sri Lanka circuit (The morning of Day 4) -The Lion Rock of Sigiriya - The 8th of December 2011.

We headed towards Sigiriya, declared by UNESCO as the 8th Wonder of the World, very early in the morning and although I had seen picures and read about it before, I don't think I was prepared for what we would later experience.

The Lion Rock of Sigiriya  is a 600-foot rock transformed into a fortess and palace (now in ruins) surrounded by the remains of what used to be an extensive network of gardens and reservoirs. Having been inhabited through prehistoric times it was used as a rock monastery from the 5th century BC, with caves prepared by devotees of the Buddhist Sangha though it is indissolubly linked to the tragic story of Kassapa and Moggallana, children of the King Anuradhapura Dhatusena.

Having been born to a different mother and fearing his step brother (by a royal blood mother) Kassapa took over the throne emprisoning his father, whilst Moggallana fled to India. It was during his reign (477 to 495 AD) that most defensive structures and the elaborate constructions on the summit of the rock were constructed. Among the various stories  regarding his defeat during the decisive battle against his brother and his subsequent fate, one caught my attention in particular - he cut his throat with a dagger, following a misinterpretation on the part of his army, as the elephant he was riding made a wrong move, which led everyone to believe it was a retreat signal.


Knowing the climb could be hard, several porters surrounded and followed the group, insisting on helping us, particularly the women they felt wouldn't make it all the way up without additional help. From time to time we could hear them saying "Bon courage" as if to remind us all that we would need it ... and eventually need them.

We reached the first level - The Mirror Wall without too many difficulties though. Originally this wall is said to have been so polished that the King could see himself whilst walking along it. It ows its reflecting suface to a coating of polished lime where people are said to have written verses some of which dating to the 8th century, though not much of those could be actually "deciphered".

The spiral stairs leading to the galery of frescoes looked quite fearful for someone (like me) who fears the heights, but I was determined to make it all the way, particularly because this was the moment I had been longing for after having seen several of the Sigiriya's maiden paintings.

The Sri Lanka circuit (The afternoon of day 3) - Madirigiriya - The 7th of December 2011.

Soon after having visited Polonnaruwa we headed to the archeological site of Madirigiriya isolated in the middle of the forest and surrounded by irrigation fields. Its Vatadage, dating back to the 12th century, though fairly similar to the one of Polonnaruwa provides nicer views because of the surrounding landscape, which included two amazingly beautiful ponds. Apart from the Buddhist Monaster which dates back to the second century, remains of the sanctuaries and the small Stupa located on top of a rock were also worth noting.

I believe that had we visited this site some other time (that is, not immediately after having visited Polonnaruwa or eventually not before having had lunch) it may have been thoroughly acknowledged for the importance it has, but the reality is that  tiredeness and hunger played a major role in our less attentive attitude, having mostly taken advantage of its surrounding landscape.

Part of the afternoon was spent on two ateliers - one on varieties of gemstones and the other one on the working of batik.

Although I was suprised to find out that Sri Lank has been known for having the highest concentration of  gem-bearing material in the world, with more than 50 varieties of gemstones mined from Sri Lanka's gem gravel with blue saphires being the most famous, it was the batik technique that mostly fascinated me, because of the refined designs requiring the pouring of the wax through a fine funnel. 

I have known batik for quite a while, having bought several batik paintings throughout the years, but I have to honestly say I had never seen such complex designs nor the use of such a funnel.

Rather than photographing the work that was going on, we filmed the various stages, so as to accomapny the whole process (films will be downloaded  and added to the blog article later).

By the time we reached the hotel we were visibly tired out ... it had been a long day (though most days will) ... a little detail in our bedroom caught my attention ... a farewell sort of treat ... a few leaves and little flowers decorating the bed ...