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28 Feb 2020

Sri Lanka – land of not one people, history, religion

Sri Lanka – land of not one people, history, religion

As you saw in the previous two posts, Sri Lanka could easily aspire to the title of Eden on Earth. Tea plantations, incredible fauna and flora and the mile-long beaches actually evoke associations with a little haven away from us by a flight in the plane. But Ceylon isn’t only a paradise scenery but most of all the people living there and extremely rich history of the country, made by them. History, which undoubtedly Sri Lankans can be proud of, but also one that’s most often would like to swap under the carpet. My dear people, the third and last time I’m taking you on a trip to Sri Lanka. So let’s go!

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Train ride, an attraction itself

And the going or rather moving here can be very interesting experience. We traveled through the country by all possible means of transport. Tuk-tuk, car, bus, or train. And this last mode of transport, no doubt, is an attraction in itself.

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The first route led from the Hatton at the foot of Adam’s Peak on the east to Haputale – town surrounded by undulating tea bushes. Trains are gently said, old. Probably peloton of the Tour de France goes faster than them. Most cars doesn’t have air conditioning, so wet and sticky skin becomes something normal. But who cares, when behind the window slowly moves an amazing landscape. Mountains, carpets tea fields, including Tamil women dressed in colorful saris choosing the brightest leaves. At the final station, I started to regret that this is the end.

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The second route, already quite different, started from Galle in the south of the island to Colombo, which is a Sri Lanka’s largest city. Standard inside didn’t differ significantly from the first tour, also from time to time we had to get up that body wouldn’t stuck to the seat.

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How this ride was different from the previous one were landscapes, we could admire from the window.

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Tracks led along the west coast of the island, so blue water of the ocean, yellow beaches and coconut palm trees accompanied us all the way to the outskirts of Colombo, where buildings in which people lived were literally at your fingertips!

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Rollercoaster in the form of bus

Despite the prevailing conditions in the compartments, the train ride was something elegant, peaceful, giving respite between the numerous attractions of Sri Lankan experience. Totally different was ride by local buses.

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When we thought that the crowd inside is already so big that even the mouse couldn’t squeeze in the guy selling tickets invite more people inside by shouting into the street the direction in which bus is heading.

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Sometimes, however, the crowd helped save you stress. Because observing the rules of movement on Sri Lankan roads through the front widnow, or rather the lack of them, can really raise the pressure. Overtaking on the third, head-on collision, riding against the stream was something completely normal.

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Patricide on the throne and Buddhist temples

The first route which came to traverse in Sri Lanka in general, had 136 km. You’ll think 1.5 hours, and we’re there. Not here! During this route we had to swich buses 3 times and we drove whoooole day long. It was, however, worth it. We were heading to the area of ​​Dambulla, to discover a rich heritage of the country.

Sigiriya Rock (Lion’s Head) you can already see from many kilometers away. On a huge block of magma (180 meters high), which is a remnant of collapsed, thousands of years ago, volcano, the King Kassapa after killing his father and the expulsion of his brother, built in the V century AD fortress.

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The entrance to the top in this scorching heat is a challenge, so it’s really hard to imagine the transport of materials all the way to the top. But the new king was determined as the rest of his life he spent in fear of coming back and revenge of his brother.

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What also occurred after 18 years, when King Kassapa lost the battle and slit his throat with his own dagger.

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Much less dramatic story has a temple complex in Dambulla, built in stages from the I century BC. Here, in a nice cool caves we could watch scenes from the life of Buddha.

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In the traffic to the top

But the real attraction for the local followers of Buddhism is the footprint of Buddha, located on the top of the mountain Sri Pada – Adam’s Peak in English.

If there was a Buddha, how in the western name is “Adam”? Christians believe that on this mountain came down Adam when he was cast out of heaven. But for followers of Hinduism, Shiva left an imprint here.

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And I just wanted to go there to see the sunrise :) At the peak height of 2243 meters we climbed in the night more than 4 hours. Such a long time wasnt due to our poor condition, or severe weather conditions, but because of queuing! Stairs leading to the top were  jammed by hundreds of pilgrims and a few tourists.

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The effort, however, completely paid off. The views of green hills bathed in mist and gentle morning sun, simply amazed.

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Moreover, such a views were a good start of the day of my 28th birthday :)

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Bloody conflict

This mountain for almost all Sri Lankans, is a sacred place and one of the main objectives of pilgrimage in the country. But who exactly is Sri Lankan? Of the approx. 21 million registered inhabitants of the island, the vast majority (75%) are Sinhalese – the followers of Buddhism, who came to the island from the northern part of the Indian subcontinent in the IV century BC. The second largest group are Tamils ​​(11%) – mainly followers of Hinduism and, in some places Christianity came here in the second century BC from south of India. Then there are the Tamils ​​brought by the British in the XIX century to work on tea plantations and Moors – descendants of Arab traders.

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Moving after today’s Sri Lanka, seeing people of different faiths living and working side by side, it’s hard to believe that just less than seven years ago, there was here a terrifying civil war.

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When, in 1948. after many centuries of colonization, Sri Lanka gained independence, over time began to grow Sinhala nationalism. Sinhala started to be the only official language of the country, Buddhism was included in the constitution as a state religion, and the Tamil minority had closed access to jobs in the state administration and to universities.

In the northern and eastern parts of the country with the largest communities of the Tamil population, began to give birth separatist tendencies. After several bloodily suppressed riots in Colombo, in 1983 war broke out between the military organization of the Tamils – Tamil Tigers and government forces.

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The bloody conflict lasting 26 years, where according to the United Nations made ethnic cleansing (for what today are accused the authorities of Sri Lanka), the terrorist attacks in the form of suicide bombers and many other war acts were killed nearly 100,000 people.

Feuding parties didn’t come to an agreement even when the tsunami that struck the country in 2004 absorbed 40,000 victims.

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The war which ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009 is just another proof that religion isn’t a thing that cause wars, but a tool and justification in the hands of the people who starts wars.

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After years of wounds and devastation I’m hoping so much that ahead of Sri Lanka finally came the good times.

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Here you’ll find a short report from the trip:

…Unfortunately, webcam has been swept away by the wave and all videos are resting somewhere on the bottom of the Indian Ocean :( So to not be let me being sad anymore, give a like  on Facebook if you liked the post and if you didn’t give an expression of disapproval in the comment: D

One thought on “Sri Lanka – land of not one people, history, religion

  1. Jose Garcia April 28, 2016 / 11:18 pm

    The Sigiriya Rock looks great and the temples look quite nice but I must admit that this 4 hour stair hike reminds me a bit of the ordeal I went thru with the 6+ hours of the Grand Canyon. At least you guys did it at night with (hopefully) more freshness and with maybe more accessibility to water.

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