Near to the relatively dry and hot zone and yet, transported to a different clime, so far away. And nearing Wewalwatte, as a silent drizzle starts to fall followed by a roaring downpour that suddenly halts to let a short spell of sunshine break through; and when this cycle is repeated throughout the day, you wonder whether a different set of weather gods reign over this unique spot of Amazonia found on Sri Lankan earth.
The third kingdom of Sri Lanka, established in Dambadeniya by Vijayabahu III (1232-1236 CE) in 13 CE was short lived, a little over four decades, with only two successive kings serving the kingdom while struggling to regain control of the country. What caused the shift to Dambadeniya was the arrival of Magha of Kalinga, whose scant regard for the Sangha and the Sacred Relic hastened the exodus to the safer confines of the ‘rock kingdom'.
In the fourth Century BC a Greek physician, Ctesias, first wrote about "little people" who inhabited the Island then known as Taprobane. Their identity appeared to be solved in 400AD when Bishop Palladius described the Veddahs, an aboriginal tribe, racially-mixed remnants of which exist today.
But in 1886, British civil servant Hugh Nevill reported in his journal the Taprobanian that he had gathered fragments of information concerning the Nittaewo. These challenged the Veddah theory. The Nittaewo were a race of pygmies that inhabited the almost inaccessible mountains of the Leanama region in the southeast corner of the island, and extended from Bagura to the Kataragama hills. Similar creatures were said to be found at Tamankaduwa near Polonnaruwa, as well as in the forests around Pomparippu and Tantrimalai on the northwest coast.
My gurulettuwa never fails to attract admiration. It sits at the far end of the table, a short distance from the electric mixer and other electronic household items, its red terracotta body beautifully decorated with lotus flowers and slender neck topped with a clay cover - a swan among ducklings.
In the grand timeline of colonialism in Old Ceylon, the interlopers birthed many archetypal wonders. Despite having been living as pawns of a power game instigated by commercial interest, rivalry between rulers prompted groundwork that led to ambitious developments. Phenomenal architectural expeditions took place while the mantle of power shifted from ruler to ruler. The country was recognised as the focal point in the main trade route that connected the world. The fertile soil that yielded crops screamed prosperity. Ceylon soon became the pinnacle of economic potential and for this very reason sparked a fierce battle for power. Fortresses were built in every accessible corner as a defence system to fight the anti-colonial struggles and other foreign invaders. After several decades of independence, today, the colonial legacy still lives on in many forms; from the cup of tea we are renowned for to many buildings, sites and infrastructure that we still use.
"Wewa" is an ingenious masterpiece, which was hitherto unknown to other parts of the world, except the Island of Sri Lanka. It was a unique ‘water conservation system', consisting of a diverse network of over 30,000 Wewu/Wewu (plural of Wewa), which were spread across 15,000 miles of dry land.
Mention Sindbad the Sailor to most people and you will find that, in their minds, images are conjured up from storybooks and films of a swashbuckling hero who undergoes fantastic adventures in strange Oriental lands. An injustice perpetrated on Sindbad in contemporary adaptations is his portrayal as a young, swashbuckling adventurer. Rather, he was a resourceful, middle-aged merchant who sailed the seas to trade rather than seek treasure or rescue damsels in distress.
Coconuts have been around for millennia, but it's only in recent years that the world has looked upon this humble fruit as a miracle health food. But not Sri Lankans, who have long held the coconut in high esteem. They have devised dozens of ways to celebrate the palm: as shelter, transport, furniture and food among other things. And while it flavours practically every local dish, coconut is never sweeter than when in the form of pani pol-the perfect union of golden palm treacle and soft white grated coconut.
A barren and desolate earth stretched into the horizon. Austere in appearance, it barely offered even a diminutive glimpse of the ocean. It was the culmination of a long trek along the footprints of history, now buried in the sands of time. It was a sight that scarcely gave the slightest indication of life; it almost stood still amidst the harshness of the thorn infested shrubbery. A few donkeys indolently wandering masked a history steeped in awe-inspiring tales of the legendary Silk Route.
Built somewhere between the Seventh Century and Tenth Century, the Nalanda Gedige lies 20 kilometres north of Matale on the Dambulla A9 road. Here, on elevated land surrounded by a picturesque lake, is the quaint forgotten Buddhist temple where Hindu sculpture and Buddhist art found fusion to create a unique masterpiece of genius. There are no statues of gods in evidence except for one in a ruined state and the only image extant is a recently restored Buddha statue.