Friday, November 14, 2014

2014, Day 317 - Monklets

Today was the day of a million steps.  That is a bit of an exaggeration but it certainly didn't feel like it at the time.  Our day started before sunrise and we lingered just long enough to brush our teeth, put on sunblock, and have a quick cup of coffee before running out the door and hopping in to our waiting vehicle.

Nanda, our intrepid driver, whisked us a couple hours away to Sigiriya.  The name literally means Lion Rock and 660 feet up at the top of the giant rock formation King Kasyapa built his palace.  More than halfway up the final ascent is a stairway carved into the rock between two massive lion's paws.  There was once a lion's head to accompany the paws but it collapsed centuries ago which is unfortunate because it would have completed the effect nicely.

Legend has it that Kasyapa was engaged in battle with his half brother who was the rightful king.  During this battle Kasyapa moved his war elephant and his army misinterpreted the maneuver as a signal of retreat when he was merely trying to take the strategic advantage.  Thus, abandoned by his army, King Kasyapa took his own life rather than accept defeat at the hands of his half brother.  It is hard to feel bad for Kasyapa because, if the story is true, he seized the throne by murdering his father so it seems like a case of karmic justice.

Once we completed our descent we decided it was time to stop for lunch.  Predictably it was another buffet.  We seem to have little luck finding anything small and local near these sites.  It was okay and, like yesterday, during the course of our lunch thunder boomed and it started to dump rain.

In the downpour we returned to the car to make for our next stop in Dambulla.  Here we went to see the Golden Temple of Dambulla.  Fortunately by the time we arrive the rain had let up and we were left with a light misting as we climbed yet more steps in the boiling humidity of a fresh rainfall.  At the top there were about five chambers each with numerous statues of the Buddha and several stupas.

Frustratingly you have to climb down to climb yet more stairs to go to the massive golden Buddha statue that looks out over Dambulla.  It was a bit like Buddhist Disneyland as there were lots of statues of monks made out of fiberglass lining the walkway.  But it was impressive nonetheless.

Feeling spiritual, we left the temple and started on our way back to Kandy.  We stopped briefly at a spice plantation and again at a Hindu temple called Sri Muthumariamman Thevastanam.  When we arrived they had started lighting the lanterns at the various altars and the ceremony was accompanied by percussion and wind instruments.  It was rather beautiful.

All templed out we set out again to return to our guesthouse where we had dinner waiting for us.  It was an excellent meal of fish and rice cooked to perfection and followed by a big plate of papaya.  Everything was delicious and I am now fighting off a food coma.  More to come tomorrow!

Fuji X-T1, Fujinon 10-24/f4R OIS
24mm, f4, 1/950 sec @ 200 ISO

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