Sunday, May 27, 2018

Pilgrimage place in Sri Lanka - Sigiriya

Sigiriya or Lion Rock in Sri Lanka

The next place we visited after Dambulla Cave and Golden Buddha Temple was Sigiriya - also well known as the Lion Rock. It was located about 20 km away from the Golden Buddha Temple. We took tuk tuk there that cost us LKR 1,200 per trip.

Sigiriya entrance ticket

We purchased our ticket at the building where the museum was located. The ticket cost very expensive. For foreigner I had to pay LKR 4,650 (USD$30/pax) while for tourist from SAARC countries paid half of it (LKR 2,325). The ticket included the entrance to the museum, which located at second storey.

The start of our journey to Sigiriya - Sri Lanka

The weather was hot before we reached Sigiriya. However, just after buying the ticket, heavy rain poured down from the sky. We took a rest then decided to visit the museum. Just nice, after finished browsing the museum, the rain stopped. Buddha bless us!!! :) We were blessed with such a pleasant weather to climb the rock up!!!

Gateway to the palace in form of Lion's Rock at Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Sample of the frescoes painting in Sigiriya (Source: Post card photographed by Juergen Schreiber)

"According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa, this site was selected by King Kasyapa for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock (nearly 200 meters high) and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure —Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock.

In 477 CE, Kashyapa, the king’s son by a non-royal consort, seized the throne from King Dhatusena, following a coup assisted by Migara, the King’s nephew and army commander. The rightful heir, Moggallana, fearing for his life, fled to South India. Afraid of an attack by Moggallana, Kashyapa moved the capital and his residence from the traditional capital of Anuradhapura to the more secure Sigiriya. During King Kashyapa’s reign (477 to 495 CE), Sigiriya was developed into a complex city and fortress. Most of the elaborate constructions on the rock summit and around it, including defensive structures, palaces, and gardens, date from this period.

Kashyapa was defeated in 495 CE by Moggallana, who moved the capital again to Anuradhapura. Sigiriya was then turned back into a Buddhist monastery, which lasted until the 13th or 14th century.
The capital and the royal palace was abandoned after the king's death." - Source:

How the metal staircase was secured into the rock - Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

The metal staircases installed there looked scary. Not only this one (the photo above), but also the one in spiral shape (the picture below).

Spiral metal staircase to Sigiriya - Sri Lanka

Sometimes I was wondering how in olden days they climbed the rock up safely without such metal staircases installation around. Especially when they built the capital up there with palace and monastery. What remained now was just ruins just like what you see below.

The view from the top of Sigiriya - Sri Lanka

Ruins of Sigiriya - Sri Lanka

Panoramic view from top of Sigiriya - Sri Lanka

Water garden on top of Sigiriya - Sri Lanka

Audience Hall on top of Sigiriya - Sri Lanka

The throne seat in Sigiriya - Sri Lanka

View of Garden of Sigiriya from the top - Sri Lanka

After browsing around the area we went down.

View of Pidurangala and the Lion's Paw (gate of Sigiriya) - Sri Lanka

We spent less than 1.5 hours to climb up, browse the area around and go back down. It was said there were around 1,200 steps to reach to the top. Bring water at the Cafetaria near the museum before going up as there was not any shop after that. The rain earlier was really giving us advantage as the air was cooling after that. We felt we were really blessed during our journey.

Close-up view of the Lion's paw at Sigiriya - Sri Lanka

By the time we walked down there was only less people around. It was good for us to take photo (when we climbed up there were many Chinese tourists around). And I saw a local family wearing white top and white bottom (what they usually wore when visiting temple). I asked them if I could take photo with them and they were so friendly, agreed it almost immediately :) So here we were!!!

Selfie :D Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Visit to Sigiriya on 12th April 2018 - Sri Lanka

My last photo alone there in Sigiriya - Sri Lanka

Our last selfie there together - Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

With that, it closed our 2 days 1 night pilgrimage journey to Anuradhapura (Mihintale and 6 pilgrimage sites), Dambulla, and Sigiriya. From Sigiriya we took tuk tuk to Habarana Junction railway station but when we reached, the railway station location was quite deserted. There was no restaurant nearby. So we asked the driver to bring us to the nearest town where we could have our dinner. Luckily we did not wait there as wild elephants might come in that area and could attack human easily - from what we heard.

Dinner, dessert and beer celebration! Succession of our pilgrimage trip :D - Sri Lanka

We found a nice restaurant (Hot Dish Restaurant) where we had our dinner and took a rest (after such a long day!!!) We both were very tired and hungry too! We cleared our plates without any trace left then went to Cargills Food City Express (supermarket in Sri Lanka that mostly sold food and beverage) to get ice cream - to sweeten my day that had already been so sweet :D, then looked for alcohol shop to taste the local Sri Lanka beer - Lion Beer - strong one with 8.8% alcohol (just to chill out and celebrate the succession of our first trip in Sri Lanka!).

Took train back from Habarana to Ragama Junction - Sri Lanka

We headed back to Habarana railway station an hour before our train's departure time by tuk tuk. We waited there chit chatting until the train finally came at 9.55 pm. We managed getting seat and after continued our chit chat, we finally had a sleep and reached Ragama Junction railway station at 4 am. We took tuk tuk back home, unpacked, took a bath, and finally slept. Thank SB for protecting us all throughout our first journey outside of Colombo. And thank you Sonam for becoming my guide throughout this journey. Thank you, thank you, and thank you! :)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Pilgrimage place in Sri Lanka - Dambulla Cave Temple

Anuradhapura (old bus stand) to Dambulla - Sri Lanka

After browsing enough pilgrimage sites in Anuradhapura (took us 1.5 days to visit 6 places and Mihintale), we continued our journey to two other places - Dambulla and Sigiriya. There was AC van available from Anuradhapura old bus stand to Kandy, but we would drop in Dambulla. It cost LKR 200 per pax but worth taking as the weather was too hot outside and we sure got seat all the way.

The bus left at around 10.30 am and reached Dambulla 1.5 hours later. By the time we reached it was lunch time. We stopped at Ninu Restaurant to have our Sri Lanka food. I had Chicken Kottu (stir fried shredded roti with chicken, egg, chili flakes, and many other sauces) while Sonam ordered a set menu (his favorite veg fried rice with veg, Devil chicken, chili paste, and fried egg on top), and we quenched our thirst with a glass of orange juice each. The weather was really hot there!!!

Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka

We took tuk tuk to Dambulla Cave Temple from the town. The distance was less than 4 km away and we paid LKR 200. Foreigner had to pay LKR 1,500 per pax (it was expensive as it was the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka and also included in the list of World Heritage sites by UNESCO).

Dambulla Cave Temple in Sri Lanka

"The area is thought to be inhabited from as early as the 7th to 3rd century BC. Statues and paintings in these caves date back to the 1st century BC. But the paintings and statues were repaired and repainted in the 11th, 12th, and 18th century AD. The caves in the city provided refuge to King Valagamba (also called Vattagamini Abhaya) in his 14-year-long exile from the Anuradapura kingdom. 

Buddhist monks meditating in the caves of Dambulla at that time provided the exiled king protection from his enemies. When King Valagamba returned to the throne at Anuradapura kingdom in the 1st century BC, he had a magnificent rock temple built in gratitude to the monks in Dambulla

The rock towers 160 m (520 ft) over the surrounding plains.There are more than 80 documented caves in the surrounding. Major attractions are spread over 5 caves, which contain statues and paintings. This paintings and statues are related to Lord Buddha and his life.

There are a total of 153 Buddha statues, 3 statues of Sri Lankan kings and 4 statues of God and Goddess. The latter 4 include two statues of Hindu Gods, Vishnu and Ganesh. The murals cover an area of 2,100 m². Depictions in the walls of the caves include Buddha's temptation by demon Mara and Buddha's first sermon." - Source:

The first cave - Cave of the Divine King at Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka

The first cave was called Devaraja lena (lena in Sinhalese meaning cave), or also called "Cave of the Divine King." This cave was dominated by the 14-meter statue of the Buddha. It had been repainted countless times in the course of its history. At his feet was Buddha's favorite pupil, Ananda, while at his head, Vishnu, said to have used his divine powers to create the caves. Source:

The second and largest cave - Cave of the Great Kings at Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka

In the second and largest cave, in addition to 16 standing and 40 seated statues of Buddha, were the Gods Saman and Vishnu, which pilgrims often decorated with garlands, and finally statues of King Vattagamani Abhaya, who honored the monastery in the 1st century BC., and King Nissanka Malla, responsible in the 12th century for the gilding of 50 statues, as indicated by a stone inscription near the monastery entrance.

Statues of the King inside the Cave of the Great Kings at Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka

This cave was accordingly called Maharaja lena, "Cave of the Great Kings." The Buddha statue hewn out of the rock on the left side of the room was escorted by wooden figures of the Bodhisattvas Maitreya and Avalokiteshvara or Natha.

Dagoba or stupa inside the second cave at Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka

The spring which dripped water from the crack ceiling (inside the cage) - Dambula Cave Temple in Sri Lanka

There was also a dagoba and a spring (inside the cage), which dripped its water, said to have healing powers, out of a crack in the ceiling.

Beautiful tempera paintings above the cave ceiling - Dambulla Cave Temple in Sri Lanka

More ceiling painting inside second cave at Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka

Distinctive tempera paintings on the cave ceiling dating from the 18th century depicted scenes from Buddha's life, from the dream of Mahamaya to temptation by the demon Mara. Further pictures relate important events from the country's history.

The third cave, the Maha Alut Vihara, the Great New Monastery at Dambulla Cave Temple, Sri Lanka

The third cave, the Maha Alut Vihara, the "Great New Monastery" acquired ceiling and wall paintings in the typical Kandy style during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747–1782), the famous Buddhist revivalist. In addition to the 50 Buddha statues, there is also a statue of the king.

The fourth cave at Dambulla Cave Temple in Sri Lanka

The fifth cave at Dambulla Cave Temple in Sri Lanka

The above were the fourth and fifth cave.

Dambulla Cave Temple - Sri Lanka

And the above showed you the outer part of the cave, how it looked like. The expensive ticket, climb under hot sun was worth it! :) From there we walked down through the road path that led us to the Golden Buddha Temple. It took us around 10 minutes there.

The Golden Buddha Temple - Dambulla, Sri Lanka

We went up to see the Golden Buddha statue and circumambulated one round. There was small book shop inside the building but most books were in Sinhalese language.

The Golden Buddha Temple - Dambulla, Sri Lanka

People offered the alms to monks statues - Golden Buddha Temple at Dambulla, Sri Lanka

At the front part of the temple, there was a golden stupa. Fyi, the toilet there was charging so expensively!! They charged LKR 100 per pax while usually public toilet charged us LKR 20 ^^"

Sonam and I with the Golden Stupa at Dambulla, Sri Lanka

With the above picture, our visit to the Cave and Golden temples in Dambulla was over. We moved on to another site. Stay tune! :)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Pilgrimage places to visit in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Jetavanaramaya Stupa - Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

There were many pilgrimage sites you could visit in Anuradhapura. In this post I would cover places that Sonam and I visited on my 6th day in Sri Lanka, after finished browsing around Mihintale.

1. Jetavanaramaya

Jetavanaramaya Stupa - Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Jetavanaramaya Stupa in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Jetavanaramaya Stupa was located in the ruins of Jetavana, in the sacred world heritage city of Anuradhapura. Mahasena of Anuradhapura (273–301) initiated the construction of the stupa while his son - Maghavanna I - completed it. A part of a sash or belt tied by the Buddha is believed to be the relic that is enshrined here. It was one of the tallest structures in ancient world (at height of 122 meter or 400 feet) and it belonged to the Sagalika sect. The compound covered approximately 5.6 hectares and was estimated to have housed 10,000 Buddhist monks. (Source:

2. Ruwanwelisaya

Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

From Jetavanaramaya Stupa, we continued our visit to Ruwanwelisaya on foot, since the location was within the walking distance of approximately less than 10 minutes to reach. We reached there in evening time and many local came wearing white top and bottom going there for praying. Many came with their family members and in a group. This place was amazing and a-must-visit place in Anuradhapura!!! 

Lighted up the butter lamp at Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Towards the entrance you could purchase butter lamp, incense stick, and Lotus flowers for offering. There was a building for you to light and put the butter lamp, plus to burn and put the incense stick at the place provided (just outside the building).

Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba - Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Ruwanwelisaya was a sacred Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, as the stupa contained Buddha's relics. On the outer wall, there were elephant head sculptures. It was one of the oldest stupas in Sri Lanka, built by King Dutugemunu in 140 B.C. with the height of 103 meter or 338 feet. It was renovated in the early 20th century and was finally crown in June 1940. (Source:

Ruwanwelisaya Dagoba in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

There were many devotees sitting in a group chanting paritta (prayers in Pali language) with books on their hands, sometimes led by monk with orange robe. It was such a serene place and peaceful, reminded me so much with Bodhgaya. Some paritta recited by them sounded very familiar in my ears. I felt like stopping and joining them in the group :)

I told Sonam I was feeling very happy visiting this place, felt like being home. Seeing many people devoted their time to be there made me envy. I wished there were also pilgrimage site like this near my home, where I could visit on foot, anytime I wanted to. Hehe...  However, it did not stop me to feel very grateful for being there at that moment of time. We circumambulated the big stupa 3 rounds, recited prayers inside my heart and smile was appeared all over my face. Thank you SB for the good karma! Thank you, thank you, and thank you!!! :)

3. Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi
Still barefooted we continued walking towards the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi. Same thing, it was reachable within few minutes from Ruwanwelisaya on foot. Beautiful Lotus flowers were again sold outside the compound area. You could purchase some for the offering to the Buddha statues.

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi was a sacred fig tree in the Mahamewna Gardens - Anuradhapura. It was said to be the right-wing branch (southern branch) from the historical Sri Maha Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya under which Buddha attained the enlightenment. It was planted in 288 B.C. and was the oldest living human-planted tree in the world with a known planting date. Today it was one of the most sacred relics of the Buddhists in Sri Lanka and respected by Buddhists all over the world. The other fig trees that surround the sacred tree protect it from storms and animals such as monkeys, bats, etc.

In the 3rd century BC, it was brought to Sri Lanka by Sangamitta Theri, the daughter of Emperor Asoka and founder of an order of Buddhist nuns in Sri Lanka. In 288 B.C. it was planted by King Devanampiya Tissa on a high terrace about 6.5 m above the ground in the Mahamevnāwa Park in Anuradhapura and surrounded by railings. (Source:

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

"Buddhists in the Island have had a practice of visiting and paying homage to the most sacred Bodhi tree since time immemorial. It is an annual custom for pilgrims from far-away villages to visit the city of Anuradhapura and to pay homage to the Sri Maha Bodhi. The caretaker of this site provides various offerings on a daily basis since time immemorial. The Buddhists in general have a strong belief that offerings made to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi have produced significant and positive changes in their life. It has also been customary for many Buddhists to make a special vow before the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi for the safe delivery of their babies without malformations, to cure various ailments and for many other cures. It has also been a long tradition among farmers around Anuradhapura to offer the Sri Maha Bodhi tree the rice prepared from their first paddy harvest. They strongly believe that such offerings lead to a sustained paddy production with the least sufferings from drought, pest attacks including elephant damage." - (Source:

Priest gave blessing - white thread as bracelet or necklace at Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Sonam and I went three rounds upon the Bodhi tree, entered the temple for praying, got blessing from the Priest, took the fallen Bodhi leaves as souvenir, and this place reminded me of Bodhgaya once again. Thank you SB for the good karma :)

4. Thuparamaya

Thuparamaya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Thuparamaya was an ancient Buddhist temple in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Located in the sacred area of Mahamewna Park, the Thuparamaya Stupa was one of the earliest Dagoba to be constructed in the island, dating back to the reign of King Devanampiya Tissa (247-207 B.C.).

Mahinda Thera introduced Theravada Buddhism and also Chaitya worship to Sri Lanka. At his request, King Devanampiya Tissa built Thuparamaya in which he enshrined the right collar-bone of the Buddha. Thuparamaya Dagoba was built in the shape of a bell. This dagoba was destroyed from time to time. During the reign of King Agbo II it was completely destroyed and the King restored it. What was seen presently was the construction of the dagoba, done in 1842 AD (Source:

5. Isurumuniya Temple

6th century Gupta style Isurumuniya Lovers stone carving - kept inside the museum

The name of Isuru-muniya (Isurumuniya Lovers) - the 6th century Gupta style carving on the stone - was said to represent the King Dutugemunu's son, Saliya, and maiden Asokomala (low caste), for whom he gave up the throne.

Entrance ticket to Isurumuni Raja Maha Viharaya - LKR 200 for foreigner

Isurumuniya temple was built by King Devanampiya Tissa (307 B.C. to 267 B.C.) who was at that time ruling the ancient Sri Lankan capital of Anuradhapura. After 500 children of high-caste were ordained by Maha TheraIsurumuniya was built for them to stay. Entrance ticket was LKR200 for foreigner and free for local resident.

Isurumuniya Temple in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

There was a temple connected to a cave (old shrine room) and above that, there was a cliff. A small white stupa was built on it. It could be seen that the constructional work of this stupa belonged to the present period.

A horse with a man stone carving at Isurumuniya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

On the rock just next to the old shrine room there was the figure of a horse with a man stone carving. Sonam and I almost missed it and found the place before we left :)

Elephants carving on the rock at Isurumuniya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Pond at Isurumuniya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Lower down on both sides of a cleft, in a rock that appeared to rise out of a pool, had been carved the figures of elephants.

Royal family carving stone at Isurumuniya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka (Photo source:

The above royal family carving was carved on a granite plate, could be found inside the museum in this place. The middle man in the carving above was King Dutugemunu himself.

Isurumuniya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

It was quite few areas to browse at. Inside the new shrine room, you could get the blessing from the monk who recited prayers and tied the white thread as bracelet onto your wrist, which was said to give you protection and good luck. Outside the building there was a cave with many bats hanging on top - you could see it from the outside.

6. Mirisawetiya

Mirisawetiya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

From Isurumuniya we took tuk tuk to Mirisawetiya. The distance was less than 2 km between two places.

Mirisawetiya in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

King Dutugamunu (161 B.C. to 137 B.C.) built the Mirisaveti Stupa after defeating King Elara. After placing the Buddha relics in the sceptre, he had gone to Tissa Wewa for a bath leaving the sceptre. After the bath he returned to the place where the sceptre was placed, and it is said that it could not be moved. The stupa was built in the place where the sceptre stood. It is also said that he remembered that he partook a chilly curry without offering it to the sangha. In order to punish himself he built the Mirisavetiya Dagoba. The extent of this land is about 50 acres (20 ha). Although the king Kasyapa I and Kasyapa V renovated this, from time to time it was dilapidated. (Source:

There was another place you could visit there in Anuradhapura called Abhayagiri Dagoba (major monastery site of Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana Buddhism), but we did not have so much time as we planned to be in Kurunegala on 13th April to experience Sinhalese New Year at friend's friend's place (but we ended up not going as the Sinhalese New Year were actually falling on 14th April), and we had few more places to go before going back to Ragama. Lucky that many places mentioned above opening until night time so we could visit few of them in one day.

We were lucky too being able to find a very nice place to stay (very very last minute - when we were at Thuparamaya Dagoba (our last place to visit that night) by checking Google map for the location and browsing Agoda for the fare and review. The tuk tuk driver was able to recognize the name of the place too - called Lievi's Tourist Accommodation - lucky us because we both were very hungry and tired, the sky had already been so dark, the small town was very quiet at night and the guest house's location was not so obvious - a bit isolated (not at center area - really not as what I imagined).

Lievi's Tourist Accommodation in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. Highly recommended!!! :)

The room and bathroom was clean and nice (except the pillow was too hard). The ceiling fan was there. The place was quiet and view was beautiful. Most important, the staff was amazing! He was friendly, able to offer us the price as per Agoda's rate (room - with fan and breakfast for two at LKR 3,000 with dinner was charged separately). He arranged our dinner and breakfast perfectly. Food was nice and up to the standard. He lent us mosquito electric repellent and hair dryer upon my request. He was even able to drive us to Isurumuniya the next morning (by tuk tuk). He told me his name but I forgot. Anyway, if you are looking for a place to stay, you can try this one! :)

Overall we had wonderful time visiting all the places mentioned above even though we both were very tired from the long train journey, climbing up staircases, walking down places, stomach hungry from the missing lunch and finally had late dinner at 9.30 pm, with backpack following me throughout the whole journey, and so on.

We also had hard time remembering and spelling the right name of each places we were going to visit (as sometimes we had to take tuk tuk and had to tell the driver the place name) - Anuradhapura or Anudharapura? Jetavanaramaya.. uggghhh.. so long!!! Isiru... I mean Isurumuniya.... (while looking at Google for the right spelling). Lol!  It was all worth it anyway! I loved the places very much and grateful for being able to visit them. Well, let me stop here and stay tune for more posts!!! Hope you enjoyed reading it so far! Cya! :)
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