In March 2018, some of us, the members of Impression Photography group, visited Sri Lanka. It was a unique experience, with an opportunity for all kinds of photography, including landscapes, seascapes, culture, history, wild life, street photography…
From Pune, we took a flight to Colombo, via Chennai. Because of everlasting greenery, Sri Lanka is sometimes called the Emerald Island of Asia. The view of Negombo Lagoon, just before landing at Colombo probably explains why.
After an overnight stay in a small but decent hotel at Negombo, close to the Colombo Airport, we proceeded to Dambulla and Polonnaruwa early morning next day.
According to the 2012 census Buddhists make up 70.1% of the population, Hindus 12.6%, Muslims 9.7% and Christians 7.6%. Most Sinhalese are Buddhist; most Tamils are Hindu; and the Moors and Malays are mostly Muslim.
“Theravada Buddhism”, Theravada, literally meaning the school of elder monks, passed on from India, has a strong influence on Sri Lankan culture
Dambulla is the site of the Buddhist “Golden Temple”, and famous Cave temples. This world heritage site dating back to 1st century BC. The collection below includes the pagoda at golden temple, the golden Buddha statue, just downhill from the cave temple and statues of a procession of Buddhist monks
The Caves Temple consists of five caves. The caves are built at the base of a 150 m high rock. The construction started during “Anuradhapura” times (1st century BC to 993 AD) and completed during Polonnaruwa times (1073 to 1250). The collection below is a sample of sculptures from three caves, depicting Buddha in different meditating postures as well as a “reclining” Buddha.
Polonnaruwa was declared as the capital city by the King Vijayabahu I, after defeating Cholas in 1070. The reign of Parakramabahu I is considered the golden age of Polonnaruwa, when the trade and agriculture flourished.
The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is one of the important archaeological relic sites in Sri Lanka. There are several Buddha sculptures. Some Hindu goddesses are also seen. The stupa is Rankoth Vehera, a structure made entirely of bricks is the largest stupa in Polonnaruwa and the fourth largest in the country.
Ella was the next destination. A hill station at about 1000 m from the sea level, Ella is surrounded by hills covered with cloud forests and tea plantations. There is ample opportunities for landscape photography. The view of sunrise from our hotel at Ella, and the walk trough a tea estate towards “little Adam’s Peak” was a treat. Also seen is the resort “99 Acres” situated within a tea estate, the ladies plucking tea and the sunset, while returning.
The so called “9 Arches Bridge” is located between Ella and Demodara railway stations. It was constructed in 1921 during British rule and is an example of British Railway engineering (familiar in India in some parts like Mumbai-Pune rail route!). We missed a train scheduled at 9:30. We waited for the next train, which was scheduled at 11:30. That train arrived late by 1 hour and at last we got an opportunity to photograph a train!
The falls are “Ravana Falls”, photographed while travelling to Yala. The falls have been named after the legendary king Ravana, connected to the Ramayana. According to legend, it is said that Ravana had hidden Sita in the caves behind this waterfall, now simply known as the Ravana Ella Cave. At that time, the cave was surrounded with thick forests in the midst of wilderness. It is also believed that Sita bathed in a pool that accumulated the water falling from this fall.
Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest National park in Sri Lanka. Bordering with the Indian Ocean on one side, it boasts of very diverse ecosystems. including moist monsoon forests, dry monsoon forests, semi deciduous forests, thorn forests, grasslands, marshes, marine wetlands, and sandy beaches.
Including Sri Lankan elephants, Sri Lankan sloth bear, leopard, and wild water buffalo, Yala houses about 40 species of mammals. Though the park is supposed to have one of the highest density of leopards, we were not lucky to see one. We saw and photographed plenty of elephants. The collection below is representative.
The park houses 215 bird species. Our team sighted 36. Not all could be photographed with acceptable quality. Some were “record shots” as we call it. The collection below contains a Yellow footed Green Pigeon (which incidentally is a state bird of Maharashtra state, India), a Peacock, Green Bee Eater, Weaver Bird on the nest, a pair of spoon bills and a pair of Malabar pied horn bill.
Galle was the next destination. After spending one full day in the Yala national park, and overnight stay in Yala. Galle, the ancient seaport was in use by Indian, Persian, Arab, Greek, Roman, Malay, and Chinese traders. The main commodities being trades included cinnamon, ivory, peacocks…Tea was added later, probably after western rule. In early 16th century, the Portuguese took over Galle, after a small fleet of Portuguese ships, under the command of Lourenço de Almeida, on their way to the Maldives, was blown off course by a storm in 1502. Portuguese surrendered to the Dutch East India company in 1640 The Dutch built the present Galle Fort, with solid granite fortified walls and three bastions. The British took over the country from the Dutch in 1796. The British preserved the fort unchanged and used it as the administrative center of the district.
We spent more than half day in Galle enjoying for street photography and Historic colonial architectures.
The collection below shows the famous “stilt fishermen”, a style of fishing started in the second world war. Food shortages and overcrowded fishing spots prompted some clever men to try fishing on the water. At first they started fishing from wrecks of capsized ships and downed air crafts, then some began erecting their stilts in coral reefs. What we photographed was surely “staged” for tourists.
Also included below are pictures of a colourful street shop, selling Batik and other fabrics to tourists, an old wall of the historic maritime museum, and old lady sitting in the veranda, observing the tourists go by. I saw an old hand printing press, which I found interesting. A search on the internet revealed that this “Albion press” was originally designed and manufactured in London by Richard Whittaker Cope around 1820. This press was an innovation over the earlier hand printing press and used a simple “toggle” action to apply pressure. This type of press was in use till 1930 or so. what a beauty!
The last two pictures are the the board of Lloyd’s Agency, and “Ships’ Arrival Board”. Lloyd,s of London, the famous insurance market, was founded by Edward Lloyd at his coffee house on Tower Street in around 1686 for marine insurance. The board must have been used in old days to announce arrival of ships. A visit to an old British ruled port cannot be complete without photographing these!
We travelled about 1200 km in the southern part of Sri Lanka. The Route was meticulously marked by my friend and member of our group, Mr. Sumatilal Lodha. I have included the map below with his permission.
For our road trip of 1200 km or so, we used Toyota 21 seater bus, very clean, air conditioned, with a refrigerator on board. Very helpful driver and his assistant. In general, I found the people very friendly and honest. We did not observe a single pothole in the roads. The traffic and driving discipline was excellent. No trash on the roads, the toilets were reasonably clean. We did not see beggars anywhere…