A very full today visiting some of the most impressive structures I have seen, dating from the 2nd century to the 12th century today. Unfortunately I also ended up with a slight cut on my right foot as all visitors are required to remove their footwear, an issue at most Sri Lankan religious sites.
The Anauradhapura Stupas I visited have been in active use until the 13th century and semi-active use for a little while afterwards. This is the Mecca of Buddhism in Sri Lanka based on being the location of a sapling from the tree that the last Buddha patently sat under when he become enlightened.
Buddhists all over Sri Lanka come to this place to mediate and make offerings. On this Saturday there were a large number of locals attending to provide gifts to the monks, the numbers apparently were greater due to upcoming year 12 exams with families and students wanting to ensure they are spiritually centred before their tests.
I watched this area become more overcrowded as more and more local communities come up with music (usually drums) playing. It definitely felt like something positive, great and even spiritual was occurring here.
There are six major Anauradhapura Stupas in the area, I visited these four (in order);
While I saw the remaining two Stupas, Ruwanweli and Lankarama I did not walk up to or around them. The most magnificent of these Stupas and the one near the enlightenment tree is the Mirisawatiya, a huge white Stupa with a gem at the top that is next to impossible to see the top of when standing near.
The other stand out is the Petavanarama which is made entirely of bricks and which I first glanced during an earlier museum visit. This Stupa was totally covered in trees and grass when it was re-discovered in the 1930s and has slowly be restored.
Another highlight of the Anauradhapura religious area was the Moon Stone and the Guard Stone both symbolising Buddhist principles. The Moon Gate in particular reflexes the undying flame of greed in humans and the need to control this flame to be truly happy. I should also mentioned that there were monkeys everywhere in the Anauradhapura who seem right at home with no one bothering them other than the occasional Western tourist taking photos.
In the afternoon we moved onto Mihintale, where Buddhism was first introduced to Sri Lanka. On this rock are many shrines. A stairway of around 1,840 steps made of 15 feet wide granite slabs leads to the top. The local workers had a great idea and got tourist to carry small, but heavy, bags of small stones to the top for them. I gather I get some karma points for this 🙂
Unfortunately as a religious site that meant the footwear had to go which proved problematic when climbing the last rock steps to both the Stupa and the Rock lockout (which was even a little dangerous at times). One result was getting s small cut on my left foot despite still wearing socks, so I left a little blood as my parting gift.
Still I ended up with splendid view of the surrounding countryside. The monkeys playing and jumping into a small pool also made me laugh.
Before I knew it was I saying goodbye to my guide Jehan for the last time as I returned to the Palm Garden Village and settled in for a quiet dinner. Tomorrow I join the On The Go – Best of Sri Lanka & Test Cricket Tour.