Tuesday, November 5, 2019
Sigiriya Rock
A Visit to Famous Cultural Sites in Sri Lanka

Last month I visited Sri Lanka for five days to tour around and learn about their culture. I spent most of the time visiting cultural places. 

Sri Lanka is a very beautiful and peaceful country. The main part of the population follows Buddhism! Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka from India thousands of years ago! After that, there were a lot of kings who followed Buddhism and spread Buddhism horizons in their kingdoms. That is why Sri Lanka has a lot of cultural sites like temples, stupas and old buildings, forts that are thousands of years old! 

I tried to cover maximum places in this limited time. I reached Colombo on the first day and visited local areas - Pettah Market, Lotus Tower, Galle Beach, Red Mosque. I planned to visit the famous Gangaramya temple in the morning on the occasion of my birthday! 



Stunning Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo

The next morning, I took a bus to the temple. Tourists need to pay LKR 300 as an entry fee to the temple. I removed my shoes outside in a basket and went inside to see the temple. It was a huge beautiful temple divided into many sections. Each section was numbered to point out the order of visiting temple rooms/museums. 

Gangaramaya Temple, Colombo
Gangaramaya Temple, Colombo

The first stop in the temple was the Lord Buddha's room with huge idols inside. I stayed there for a few minutes and prayed!

After that, I came outside and visited the famous Jade idol that was just in the center of the temple. This Jade idol of Buddha was gifted to the king by a Burmese artist! There was a small stupa near the idol. There was a school running with hundreds of children on the above floors of the temple! 

Kids Studying in Gangaramaya Temple
Kids Studying in Gangaramaya Temple

There is a museum on the first floor which has the gifts presented to God by the people and many paintings and sculptures. There was a holy Bodhi Tree near the museum which was being prayed by the devotees! They were offering water and lotus to the tree!

There were other museums in the temple which had gifts like vintage Bentley and Mercedes cars. It took around two hours for me to visit the temple. Each moment in the temple was full of knowledge and peace.

Jade Statue in Gangaramaya temple
Jade Statue in Gangaramaya temple



Main Stupas in Anuradhapura and Famous Mahabodhi Tree branch

After visiting the Gangaramaya temple, I checked out from my hotel in Colombo and headed towards Anuradhapura on a local bus. Earlier, I planned to travel by train but due to the train department strike, I couldn't. My bus journey wasn't so special due to the hot weather and crowd! My bag was heavy and I had to keep it on my lap during the whole five hours journey! 

At last, in the evening I reached Anuradhapura. As soon as I stepped out of the bus, heavy rain had started and I got stuck! I was planning to walk towards the hotel but now I had to take a Tuk Tuk! I booked my hotel in the Old City of Anuradhapura! Due to the rain, I got stuck in the hotel and waited for a while! Finally, the rain had stopped and I decided to go out to visit the famous Stupas (Dagabas). Since it was dark and outside the main city, I wasn't able to find a ride and walked for around one and a half kilometers! After covering this distance, the stupa still wasn't near. There, I found a few small shops offering tea and snacks. At this place, I had the famous Vegetable Roti of Sri Lanka! It was delicious and spicy! I had two of them. 

At the same place, I found one Auto (Tuk Tuk) packing stuff to take the evening off! I managed to convince him to take me to the famous sites and Mahabodhi temple that could be covered in the evening.


Ruwanwelisaya Stupa was Shining Like a White Marble

He first took me to the most famous Stupa of the area - Ruwanwelisaya. It was shining white like a marble under the bright light of the moon! Due to Sunday, the place was full of devotees praying and chanting making the vicinity pure and peaceful. It was a huge stupa. Previously, I had seen a Stupa in Sarnath near Varanasi.

Ruwanwelisaya Stupa, Anuradhapura
Ruwanwelisaya Stupa, Anuradhapura

I did a Parikrama (walking around the stupa in the clockwise direction). It took around 20 min for me to visit this place. I had never seen such beauty! I could feel a different kind of peace!


Thousand Years Old Jethawanramaya Dagaba

Next, Rown took me to the next Stupa - Jethawaneamaya which was a thousand years old! It was fully made of stone and brown in color. It was kind of a precedent of the time! Due to no crowd, I could spend a better time here. This stupa was established by the king. There was a temple on the right side of it where the chanting was going on .. "Buddham Sharnam Gachchami" meaning "we surrender to the Buddha..."

Jethawanramaya Dagaba, Anuradhapura
Jethawanramaya Dagaba, Anuradhapura

This stupa was very beautiful, old and big.


Thuparanaya Dagaba - Older Than Jesus

Thuparamaya Dagba is just a few mins away from the previous one! It is a small bell-shaped stupa with an age of 2400 years! It had been destroyed by many kings from time to time and was re-built. It is one of the oldest stupas! 

Thuparanya Dagaba, Anuradhapura
Thuparanya Dagaba, Anuradhapura

Surroundings were peaceful with a few sounds of monkeys in the nearby garden. It is very well maintained.


Shining Mirisawetiya Stupa

My visits to stupas in Anuradhapura had not finished yet. My next stop was Mirisawetiya Stupa. Chili in Sinhala is called Miris. It is said that the king had eaten the food of Miris without asking the monks. As a re-pay, the king had built this stupa and named Mirisawetiya.

Mirisawetiya Stupa, Anuradhapura
Mirisawetiya Stupa, Anuradhapura


Shri Maha Bodhi Temple with the Sacred Branch

This temple is famous in the name of the sacred Maha Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India where Lord Buddha had received the ultimate wisdom! This temple has one of the branches from the main tree which was brought here from India. The age of this branch is nearly 2500 years old! This is the most important temple here and monks meditate under the branch at the time of the festival.

Holy branch of Maha Bodhi tree at the temple, Anuradhapura
Holy branch of Maha Bodhi tree at the temple, Anuradhapura

Now, I had covered all the famous places in Anuradhapura and went back to the hotel for the good night's sleep! I had a delicious home-cooked dinner before my day off. 

Temple below the Holy branch, Shri Maha Bodhi Temple, Anuradhapura
Temple below the Holy branch, Shri Maha Bodhi Temple, Anuradhapura



Mihintale Temple, the Starting place of Buddhism in Sri Lanka

The next morning, I took a bus from Anuradhapura to Mihintale which was just 18 km. From the bus stop in Mihinatle, I rented a Tuk Tuk to reach the temple which charged me LKR 150. It is situated on a small mountain 2 km from the bus stop. Foreign tourists need to purchase an entry ticket for LKR 500. I had a heavy bag that I was supposed to carry all the way to top and that could be hectic. One of the policemen helped me to keep the bag in his office while I visit the temple and the surroundings.

Alms Hall, Mihintale
Alms Hall, Mihintale

This place has the most significance in the Buddhism history of Sri Lanka. It is the birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It is said that Monk Mahinda came here from India to meet the king Devanampiya Tissa and explained about Buddhism and their beliefs and put roots to Buddhism on the island.

Steps to Mihintale Temple, Mihintale
Steps to Mihintale Temple, Mihintale

Several halls are now broken where monks were fed and have discussions. A huge number of stairs were on my way to reach to the top of the temple. The top consists of two stupas - Sela Cetiya and Maha Stupa. This place has a huge Mihintale Buddha Statue as well. The temple and Stupas were very peaceful. You can see the whole town from there.

Beautiful Statue of Lord Buddha at Mihintale
Beautiful Statue of Lord Buddha at Mihintale

A beautiful ritual during the pooja at Mihintale.


I rested near the Maha Stupa for few minutes and spent a total of one and a half hours in the vicinity. During my return to the bus stop, I decided to walk and met with a snake and a dragon lizard in the jungle 😅 .

Maha Stupa at Mihintale
Maha Stupa at Mihintale



Sigiriya Rock - Most Famous Site of Sri Lanka

If you are visiting Sri Lanka for tourism and missed Sigiriya, then your tour is not completed yet! Situated in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, 17 km away from Dambulla city, it used to be the fortress of the King Kashyap 

This is a Unesco World Heritage Site, with a fortress built on a 200 meters high rock which can be visited by climbing 1200 steps! The surrounding of the rock is covered by beautifully preserved gardens. On the same day, I started from Mihintale and reached Dambulla. From there, I took a bus to Sigiriya. I paid only LKR 140 to reach from Mihintale to Sigiriya. 

200 meters high Sigiriya Rock and fortress at the top
200 meters high Sigiriya Rock and fortress at the top

To visit this site, you need to purchase an entry ticket. For foreign nationals, this ticket has two categories. SAARC countries nationals have to pay USD 15 while the rest of the world has to pay USD 30. I started climbing to the top at around 3 pm hoping that I would witness the sunset during my return. 

As soon as I started climbing, the view started to be stunning! I had captured lots of pictures. Surrounding of the rock was mesmerizing. There was no other higher rock there. Somewhere, I read that this rock used to be a volcano at some point in time in history.

Steps to the Sigiriya Rock top
Steps to the Sigiriya Rock top

After completing almost 70% of the journey, there comes a gate with the name Lion's Paw. It is also built in the shape of Lion's paw and hence the name. To climb 1200 stairs, it took around 40 minutes. I stopped in between to catch my breath and capturing photos.

Lion's Paw Gate, Sigiriya Rock
Lion's Paw Gate, Sigiriya Rock

The view from the top was incredible! There were several rooms at the top but broken. No room has the roof or higher walls. It was just the structure. The greenery around the rock was fascinating. The rain had started a few minutes later and I could not enjoy it a lot. I enjoyed my time in heavy rain on the way back to the ground. 

Beautiful view from the top of the Sigiriya Rock!


I was planning to visit Cave Temple in Dambulla after Sigiriya but due to lack of time, I had to cancel it and reached Kandy in the night.



Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy

After staying a night in Kandy, I checked out but requested to keep my bag in the hotel and visited the most famous Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. It was Tuesday and the market was crowded. I walked across the famous Kandy Lake to reach the temple. Similar to other places in Sri Lanka, this place has an entry fee - LKR 1500 for the nationals from SAARC countries and LKR 2000 for the nationals of other countries. There is a shoe stand near the ticket vending machine. If you are interested, you can hire a guide next to the ticket vending machine to know in detail about the various chambers in the temple and history of the journey of the Sacred Tooth Relic from India to Sri Lanka.

Ground floor room at the temple of Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy
Ground floor room at the temple of Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy

The temple was crowded yet peaceful. As its name, this temple has the Sacred tooth of the Lord Buddha which is worshipped here. 

Because of the original relic of the body of Lord Buddha, this temple is very sacred and is visited by people from all over the world. There is a chamber just below the sacred tooth relic which was used by the monks for the prayers. 

The sacred tooth relic is placed in a golden box in the room on the first floor. I could not see the box and pray from outside. 

First Floor and the main room where the Relics are kept
First Floor and the main room where the Relics are kept

I stayed there for a while and came downstairs. There is another new temple behind it. This temple has a big hall where you can see the photos and read the story of the journey of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha. The temple was shining beautifully!

The new temple of the backside of the sacred Tooth Relic
The new temple of the backside of the sacred Tooth Relic

There was a two storey museum on the backside of the building whose ticket was included in the temple entry ticket. The first floor of the museum was filled with the details of the kings and their belongings like clothes, jewelry, utensils, statues, etc. The second floor of the museum was filled with the gifts that were offered to the Temple or God in return for various demands.

The vicinity of the temple was peaceful and had lots of calm places to rest. There was another museum in the backside showing the different types of Buddhist cultures in different parts of the world!



Bahirawakanda Buddha Statue

I visited the famous Royal Botanical Gardens in Kandy which was caught up till evening and returned back at five. My next bus to Nuwara Eliya was in the night and I had a couple of hours to spend. I took this as an opportunity to visit the famous Buddha statue at Bahirawakanda temple. I took an Uber cab from the Kandy Clock Tower that charged me LKR 110. This temple is situated 1.5 km away from the bus stand on a hilltop.

Four Stories Lord Buddha Statue at Bahirawakanda, Kandy
Four Stories Lord Buddha Statue at Bahirawakanda, Kandy

Like other places, this place also had an entry ticket for foreigners of LKR 250. The whole temple is built inside a giant statue of Lord Buddha on different floors. You can climb up to the shoulders of the Lord Buddha which is four flights from the bottom. There is a very beautiful temple on the first floor inside the statue.

Beautiful Sculptures inside the Buddha Statue, Kandy
Beautiful Sculptures inside the Buddha Statue, Kandy

The view of Kandy city from the top is fascinating. The Kandy lake was shining like a silver pot! Hills around the city were making the view more beautiful! There is a small Devi temple near the statue.

I spent around an hour in that peaceful environment and captured a lot of pictures. I made friends with the Ticket Executive of the temple who taught me about the history of Buddhism and its journey from India. He told me that he wanted to be a local guide and was learning multiple languages like - Spanish, French. I had a talk with Sujit for around half an hour. I wish him all the best for his future endeavors.

Kandy City view from the Bahirawakanda Temple
Kandy City view from the Bahirawakanda Temple

It was getting dark and I had plans to go down by walking to the city. I just walked for 50 meters and heavy rain had started. I took a shelter hoping that the rain would stop in a few minutes. 30 minutes had passed but there was no sign of stopping. I had to call an Uber which took me to the hotel. I am very thankful to that Uber driver who came all the way to the top in heavy rainfall. As a gratitude, I paid him a little extra money. 

On the same night, I took a bus to the Nuwara Eliya for the fifth day of my journey!



Goddess Sita Mata Temple of Nuwara Eliya

The next morning, a local told me about the nearby Devi Sita Temple and how to reach there. The temple is 5 km away from the town. I took a bus to reach there and paid just LKR 30. The name of the village is Sita Eliya based on the name of Goddess Sita.

Goddess Sita Temple near Nuwara Eliya
Goddess Sita Temple near Nuwara Eliya

This temple is built roadside and a beautiful waterfall goes from the backside of the temple. I got a chance to visit this temple during the holy days of Navaratri, what could be better for me. The morning was very peaceful with the melodious sound of the birds chirping, monkeys chattering and looking for fruits from the devotees. Few of them grabbed at least 20 bananas from a couple who came for the Pooja. But none of them were harmful.


Goddess Sita Idol at temple, Nuwara Eliya
Goddess Sita Idol at the temple, Nuwara Eliya

It is said that here Mata Sita used to worship his husband, Lord Rama. The temple was very beautiful with the idols of Lord Hanuman protecting outside the temple. I spent half an hour in the temple and returned back to Nuwara Eliya by bus.


Note: All of the above charges/fees/tickets prices were verified on October 3, 2019, and I am not responsible for any changes in the price. You should consult with your travel agent before making any plans.

I visited a lot of other places in Sri Lanka - viewpoints, Royal Botanical Gardens Kandy, other botanical gardens, beach areas, and local flea markets. I will write about them in my upcoming blogs.

Let me know how did you like this blog and your travel experiences in Sri Lanka in comments!

Thanks for reading it. 😇

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