Saturday, 11 February 2017

Colombo and Anuradhapura

            Sri Lanka tour (Day 1&2)



We went on a 9 day tour of Sri Lanka organised by Sree Travels. The tour group consisted of four couples only including ourselves; three from Chennai and one from Thiruvarur. The other three couples were also vegetarians and had travelled widely in India and abroad and were all above 55.  They are Mr.Subramanian and Mrs. Hemalatha Subramanian from Jafferkhanpet, Chennai; Mr. Narayanamurthy and Mrs, Usha Rani from Arumbakkam, Chennai; and Mr. Subramanian and Mrs. Usha Subramanian from Thiruvarur. Now a brief word about these other members of the tour group.  Mr. & Mrs. Subramanian from Chennai are both retirees from Indian Overseas Bank and had spent all their working life in Chennai only.  But they made up for it by extensive pilgrimage tours in India and have also visited Singapore and China.  Mrs. Subramanian was an encyclopaedia of sthala puranam of temples in South India,  Mr. Subramaian of Thiruvarur was a marine engineer who retired early to engage in diamond business in Thiruvarur.  He had also travelled extensively taking his wife to the countries he had visited in service. His wife is the youngest member of the group at 58.  Mr. Narayanamoorthy is a retired top senior Bank executive who is now an ardent devotee of Papa Ramdas and regularly visits the Anandasram at Kanhangad with his wife.  His wife is a devoted grandmother who talked every morning and evening to her grand-children in Australia and India. When we came together for the mid-night Spice Jet flight to Colombo, we introduced ourselves with a brief resume of ourselves and the bonhomie and spirit of camaraderie started then prevailed throughout the tour making the tour an enjoyable and memorable experience making up for the few shortcomings in tour arrangements. We landed in Katunayake airport of Colombo at the ungodly hour of 1:40 AM and were met at airport by the driver cum tour guide Sirisiri, who could speak English. We were taken to a transit hotel at Katunayake, Clarion Hub. We rested and refreshed ourselves there and after breakfast, left with our baggage for a tour of Colombo.

The first stop was at the Pettah Floating Market complex on Beira lake, a tourist attraction with 92 stalls selling local produce and local handicraft.  After going round the markets we went to the nearby Buddhist and Murugan temples. After lunch we made our way to Independence square, where there is a memorial to commemorate liberation from British rule.  Besides the memorial hall there is also a nice park. From here we went to Galle Face Green which runs next to the Indian Ocean. On the waterfront is a nice walking strip flanked by stalls on one side, part of the way. We walked along the strip for a distance, relaxed and made our way back to the van to retire for the night to the hotel, Hotel Grand Oriental in Colombo. 

Next morning after breakfast, we started with our luggage to Anuradhapura, visiting on the way Munneswaram and Manavaari temples but not without a little drama. The itinerary that was given earlier featured both the temples while the final itinerary given by NKAR travels, Colombo through whom Sree Travels have made travel arrangements, did not mention Manavaari temple. The driver agreed to take us there only after some argument and a reference by him to office.  If we managed to prevail here we lost in another place that I will recount later. 

Both temples are connected with Sri Rama. Let us first see the legend behind Munneswaram temple. After killing Ravana, Sri Rama left for Ayodhya, in Pushpaka vimana.  He felt He was being followed by brahmathi dosha as Ravana was a Brahmin. When He was flying over this place He felt brahmathi dosha was not following Him.  He stopped the vimana and prayed to Lord Siva here for total relief from dosha and was advised to install four lingams and pray there to get rid of the dosha once for all. The four places are said to be Manavaari, Thirukoneswaram, Thiruketheeswaram, in Sri Lanka and Rameswaram in India. It is an ancient temple believed to be in existence from Ramayana times. The main shrine is that of Lord Siva and there are also shrines for Lord Ganesa and Devi Kali. After worshipping here we went to Manavaari temple, which has the first Linga installed by Sri Rama, to get rid of Brahmahathi dosha.  The Lord Himself is known here as Ramalinga Siva.

In late afternoon we reached Anuradhapura.  This city had been once the capital of Sri Lanka and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. It has the branch of the Bodhi tree under which Lord Buddah attained Nirvana, planted and preserved in a Vihara and this branch is revered as Sri Maha Bodhi. This branch was brought to Sri Lanka from India by the son of Indian Emperor Asoka.  As it was late evening we were lucky to see the evening Puja where ceremonial offerings are taken to shrine in a parade to the beat of drums.  The branch itself is well supported with golden pillars and well-guarded.  Before visiting Sri Maha Bodhi we had visited Mirisawetiya Dagaba, built by King Duttagamanu (161-137 BC).  The present one is a recently renovated one. After seeing the ceremonial parade of offerings at Sri Maha Bodhi we retired for the night to the Hotel, Hotel Happy Leonni in Anuradhapura.
Photos can be seen in following albums:


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