20 September 2009

The sea of rock ~ Tantirimale

Tantirimale is a place I remember since my schooling days. Nope, never been there before the trip we had on 1st of August 2009. It's just that there was this documentary show about it on TV those days, with a very beautiful theme song. Cause my mom was so fond of it, she asked me and sis to note it down. It was played a few times on TV and I used to remember it by heart too.. for a long time.

Sadly now I can recall just a few words of this song along with the tune.. and have no memory of the scenery I saw on TV. So until I set foot in Tantirimale, I didn't know what the place would be like. Though.. I have already heard about it dozens of times from mom. Still.. it was a completely different world I stepped into.. when we finally got there.

If I briefly put it.. it was a sea of rock.. wrapped in a green coat!

You can read about the Tantirimale temple here. *sorry that I've been posting about nothing but temples since lately but can't help it, since I collected all these pics from our last pilgrimage* ^__^

Today I will only add captions.. cause pictures speak a zillion words. Also the pics will be in medium size this time for your convenience. If you wish to see their original size, simply control + click on the images.

Off we go on a virtual tour in Tantirimale!

The shrine.. near the entrance

Stupa.. in the distance

Stupa.. hidden behind a boulder

Rocky outcrop.. sprawling towards the horizon

Bell tower.. touching the heavens

Bodhi leaves.. fluttering in the winds

Golden railing.. festooned with flags

Sitting Buddha statue... giving life to the rockyscape

Reclining Buddha statue.. redefining the skyline

Stupa.. against the cloudy sky

Pilgrims climbing.. one step at a time


I've posted some of the other pics of Tantirimale in my previous posts. So now I've officially covered the whole trip that we had on 1st of August. *and it took me over 1.5 months to simply finish posting this bunch of pics!* =D

07 September 2009

Works of Art, Works of Wonders - Anuradhapura

In my last post I covered one of the two places we visited in Anuradhapura. Today I'll be posting about the imposing Stupa (chedi) in Anuradhapura, the Ruwanweliseya. It is a much venerated Stupa for Buddhists, rich in history and an amazing architecture. It is also one of the three great stupas in Anuradhapura which can be spotted from great distances.

Lankan stupas mostly follow a predefined shape which would most likely be one of the following 6 shapes.

The primary shapes of Stupas in Lanka
1. Ghantakara (bell)
2. Ghatakara (pot)
3. Bubbulakara (bubble)
4. Dhanyakara (paddy-heap)
5. Padmakara (lotus)
6. Amalakakara (Indian gooseberry / nelli)


Ruwanweli Stupa

Firstly let's see some stats.

Built in: 2nd century BC (161 - 137 BC)
Built by: King Dutu Gemunu *completed by his brother King Saddhatissa*
Shape: Bubble
Height: 92 m
Circumference: 292 m
Diameter: 90.8 m


From the figures you can imagine its imposing dimensions, which you will see more clearly with these photos I captured during our pilgrimage last time.

* Click on the images to expand them

pic 1 - 3: Ruwanweli Stupa as seen from a distance, through a canopy of festoon bulbs

pic 1: A korawakgala (type of thick handrail), this one is made of brick and white washed, I think. You could also see a row of elephant relief neatly overlapping, behind the korawakgala.
pic 2: The overlapping elephant relief of 1st pic in a different angle. It is called the 'Eth pawura' (wall of elephants), which is the surrounding wall of Stupa.. and it's embellished with elephant sculptures. You can gauge their size from this pic, as there is a devotee walking past them in the right side corner.

*The ruddy tones in the pics, as usual, came up cause I had tweaked the settings.

pic 1: The hefty base of the Stupa, made of 3 level base (basal rings) going around the circumference
pic 2: 'Sala pathala maluwa' (stone laid compound), is the closest ground to the stupa. The surface is very smooth almost like a tiled floor.
pic 3: Some of the relics excavated at the premises were lined up along the wall. They looked like square stone elephants from a distance.

When we walked close to the Stupa, it was impossible to see its pinnacle, cause of its bubble shape. *took this photo after moving a good distance away from the stupa*

The top portion above the dome has a structure composed of a square, cylinder, spire and finally the crystal at the pinnacle. The crystal ('kotha') is something used since the ancient times, and it might have been used as a lightning-conductor as much as an embellishment.

Pic 1 and 2: When we first arrived, a group of devotees were already engaged in a certain ritual. You can see a big band wrapped around the circumference of the dome, isn't it? This is a lengthy robe made of the 5 colors found in a Buddhist flag.

What these pilgrims were doing is called 'kapruka puja', where a lengthy civara (monk's robe, usually in ruddy orange color) is wrapped around the dome as an offering to the temple.

pic 1: The huge structure set before the dome is known as 'Vahalkada', and there are four of them around the stupa.
pic 2: The base of vahalkada. Doesn't these square elephants at the bottom strip look a bit familiar?
pic 3: Top portion of the vahalkada

pic 1: A devotee paying homage to the small shrine at the foot of vahalkada
pic 2: close up of the sitting Buddha statue enshrined here.

pic 1: Portion of the reclining Buddha statue enshrined at the big shrine hall next to the Stupa.
pic 2: Life size statue of King Dutu Gemunu mounted on his royal war tusker named 'Kandula'.
pic 3: Life size statue of King Elara mounted on his war tusker named 'Mahapabbata'

*tusker is an elephant bearing tusks, while war tuskers (or elephants) were especially trained for battles.

There was a historic war between these 2 kings, it wasn't just a fight for the throne, but a fight to unite our land as one nation. Elara, even though he was an invader, was acclaimed as a great leader who enforced and practiced justice.. to the point of punishing his own son for a crime he committed. *wish our current politicians could take him as an example*

The 2nd and 3rd pics look a lil fuzzy, and I wonder if it was due to the tense ambiance I felt inside the shrine hall! You know.. after seeing 2 of the greatest kings of our history in battle-mode. Ironically.. they were flanking the reclining Buddha statue. And I wonder why they were sculpted that way.


* Disclaimer: Referred the dimensions and some of the facts from Wikipedia, pdn.ac.lk (pdf), Lakehouse (pdf), Wikipedia-2
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