SRI LANKA
Wonder of Asia

  • Sri lanka
  • Anuradhapura city
  • Colombo(capital of sri lanka)
  • Galle-island
  • Kandy
  • Matara
  • Polonnurawa
  • Ratnapura
  • Sigriya

 Sri lanka

The Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century B.C., probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced beginning in about the mid-third century B.C., and a great civilization developed at the cities of Anuradhapura (kingdom from circa 200 B.C. to circa 1000 A.D.) and Polonnaruwa (from about 1070 to 1200). In the 14th century, a south Indian dynasty seized power in the north and established a Tamil kingdom. Occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century and by the Dutch in the 17th century, the island was ceded to the British in 1796, became a crown colony in 1802, and was united under British rule by 1815. As Ceylon, it became independent in 1948; its name was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted in violence in the mid-1980s. Tens of thousands have died in an ethnic war that continues to fester. After two decades of fighting, the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam began a ceasefire in December 2001, with Norway brokering peace negotiations.

History
The civilisational history of Sri Lanka is more than 2500 years old. In earlier times it was known as Ceylon. Sri Lanka's first settlers were the nomadic Veddahs. They were conquered by the Sinhalese around the 5th or 6th century BC. A number of Sinhalese kingdoms, including Anuradhapura in the north, took root across the island during the 4th century BC. Buddhism was introduced by Mahinda, son of the Indian Mauryan emperor Ashoka, in the 3rd century BC, and it quickly became the established religion and the focus of a strong nationalism. Anuradhapura was established as capital of Sri Lanka in ancient times. Continuous struggle between South Indian kingdoms and Sinhalese kingdom went on for over 1000 years. In 11 century AD, the capital was shifted from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa.

The Portuguese arrived in Colombo in 1505 and gained a monopoly on the invaluable spice trade. By 1597, Potuguese had taken formal control of the island. But they failed to dislodge the powerful Sinhalese kingdom in Kandy. With the help of Dutch the Sinhalese kings were able to expel Portuguese from Sri Lanka in 1658. The Dutch were more interested in trade and profits than in ruling the country. They only half-heartedly resisted when the British arrived in 1796. In 1815 Britain defeated the Sinhalese kingdom of Kandy and became the first European power to rule the entire island. Coffee, tea, cinnamon and coconut plantations sprang up and English was introduced as the national language.

Sri Lanka achieved independence in 1948 and adopted democratic system of governance. In 1972, the country became a republic and adopted Sri Lanka as its official name-hitherto it was known as Ceylon. Shortly after independence an ethnic conflict between majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils started. The conflict has taken a heavy toll on the island country and has resulted in the death of thousands of people. Peace talks brokered by Norway resulted in ceasefire in 2001 and currently the peace talks are going on between the two sides.

Anuradhapura
Anuradhapura is an ancient city, located at a distance of 206 km from Colombo. The city is in northern Sri Lanka and is the capital of North-Central province. Anuradhapura was established in 4th century BC. It was the first capital of Sri Lanka and remained so until 8th century AD. Anuradhapura is an archaeologist's delight and contains several monuments of historical importance. The city is considered very sacred by the Buddhists and is home to the largest dagobas in Sri Lanka. A dagoba is a dome enshrining sacred relics or the bodily remains of the Buddha, or articles used by Him like the alms bowl and other objects of veneration. It is built in different sizes on a pedestal with a spire on top crowned with a pinnacle. The earliest dagobas had a stone umbrella on top of the dome in place of the spire.

Tourist attraction

Sri Maha Bodhi Tree
The right branch of the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya in India under which the Buddha attained enlightenment was brought to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC by princess Sanghamitta, the daughter of Emperor Asoka. It was planted in Anuradhapura and is venerated to this day by the Buddhists from many countries of the world. This is the oldest recorded tree in the world whose exact age is known.

Thuparma Dagoba
Thuparama is the first dagoba to be built in Anuradhapura during the reign of King Devanmpiyatissa (3rd century BC) enshrining the right collarbone of the Buddha, His alms bowl and other relics.

Ruvanveli Dagoba
Ruvanveli Dagoba built by King Dutugemunu who ruled the country in the 2nd century BC is a huge dagoba measuring 103 metres in height with a circumference of 287 metres.

Jetavana Dagoba
Jetavana dagoba was built in the 3rd century AD by King Mahasena. It is an enormous brick structure standing in the centre of a large monastic complex measuring 3.2 hectares in extent and is rated as the largest and tallest brick built monument in the world. The structure has been declared a World Heritage Site.

Abhayagiri Dagoba
This Dagoba was built by King Valagam Bahu (1st century B.C.) and it is the Sri Lanka's second highest dagoba. It was at the Abhayagiri complex that the sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha brought to Sri Lanka was first housed.

Samadhi Buddha
This 4th Century AD statue of the Buddha in meditative pose is a world famous Buddha statue and acknowledged as a masterpiece.

Isurumuniya
It is a picturesque rock temple built in the 3rd century BC. The beautiful stone sculptures seen at the temple are considered the most beautiful works of art in Anuradhapura.

Mihintale
Thirteen kilometers from Anuradhapura is the sacred mountain of Mihintale, the site of introduction of Buddhism to Sri Lanka in the year 247 BC. World's first fauna and flora sanctuary was established at Mihintale in the 3rd century BC. Today the peak of Mihintale, approached by a grand stairway of 1840 granite steps, has many temples, lodgings for monks and several splendid statues of the Buddha. Each June on the full moon there is a pilgrimage commemorating the date when Mahinda first preached the Buddhist doctrine in Sri Lanka and many thousands of pilgrims flock from all over Sri Lanka to meditate on the holy peak.

Awkana
Awkana-located 51 km southeast of Anuradhapura-is famous for 12 metres tall granite statue of Buddha, hewn out of solid rock in the standing posture on a lotus pedestal. The statue was built during the reign of King Dhatusena in the 5th century AD.

Kuttam Pokuna
Kuttam Pokuna or the Twin Ponds-the two breathtakingly beautiful bathing ponds aligned lengthwise-is a manifestation of the artistic achievements in the field of hydraulic engineering in ancient Sri Lanka. They date back to around 8-10th century AD.

Colombo
Colombo - the capital of Sri Lanka-is the largest city and main port of Sri Lanka. It is also the commercial and financial center of Sri Lanka. A bustling metropolis, the city is an attractive blend of old and new. It has the lazy charm of the bygone era combined with the verve and vivaciousness of a modern city. Colombo is an ideal location to start the Sri Lanka sojourn.

Tourist attraction

The Fort
Originally a fort during the Portuguese and Dutch periods but now a major commercial center of the country and housing major offices, big hotels, some of the better shops, airline offices, banks, main post office, immigration office, travel agents and restaurants. Within Fort are several places of tourist interest, which can be conveniently seen on foot.

Pettah
Adjacent to Fort is Pettah-Colombo's leading bazaar district. It has narrow cobbled streets lined with shops and street stalls that offer the most fantastic bargains and the most unimaginable range of goods varying from bright printed fabrics, suitings, undergarments, children wear, footwear and handbags to electrical goods, semi precious jewellery, watches, rare first edition books, cutlery and other household items. Each criss-crossed lane of Pettah leads to the main street and each has developed its own specialized characteristic. For example, household goods are found on Keyzer Street. Prince Street is famous for glass, mirrors and electrical items. Malwatte Avenue sells English, Sinhala and Tamil music cassettes.

Galle Face Green
A promenade on the sea face stretching one and a half kilometers, it is a relic of the British era. Laid out in 1859 it was used for horse racing. Today it is the largest open space in Colombo and a famous picnic spot.

Slave Island
On the south of Fort, is a long, narrow island-where the slaves had their night quarters-called Slave Island. Today the spot is surrounded by the remains of the former Beira Lake and is home to many office buildings, hotels and stores.

Mount Lavinia
Mount Lavinia is a beach just 12 km from Colombo. It was a famous beach even during the colonial times. The Governor's House built in 1805 by Sir Thomas Maitland now forms part of the famous Mount Lavinia Hotel.

Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara
It is a famous Buddhist temple and is believed to be at the spot where the Buddha preached 2000 years ago. It has an excellent carving of a reclining Buddha, and is the site for an annual perahera (religious procession) in January.

Dehiwala Zoo
It is about 11 acres in extent and has very fine collection of fauna from all over the world. The highlight of the show is the elephant show, which is held every evening.

National Museum
Housed in a grand colonial building, the National Museum is the custodian of Sri Lanka's cultural heritage. Among its exhibits are a vast collection of half a million books, more than 4000 archaic palm leaf manuscripts, rock sculptures from the ancient cities, bronze brassware and royal weapons of Sri Lankan kings, fascinating paintings of by gone eras and an excellent collection of antique demon masks. The most interesting among the exhibits are the regalia of the Kandyan Kings dating back to the 17th century.

The Viharamahadevi Park
Located next to the National Museum, it is Colombo's largest park. The park is famous for its flowering trees, water channels and fountains.

Wolvendaal Church
It is Colombo's oldest Dutch church. Its floor tiles are made from tombstones from the Dutch church in the Fort, and were brought here in 1813.

Hindu Temples
There are several Hindu temples, which are called Kovils in Colombo. In the Sea Street in Colombo are several Hindu temples, the Ganeshan, the Old Kathiresan and the New Kathiresan with their colourful Gopurams (doorways). Other important temples are the Shiva Subramania Swami temple on Slave Island and the Sri Muthumariamman temple.

Galle
Galle - located 116 km to the south of Colombo on the southwest corner of the island-was founded in the 16th century by the Portuguese. It is the best example of a fortified city built by Europeans in South and South-East Asia, showing the interaction between European architectural styles and South Asian traditions. Galle has been declared a World Heritage City by the UNESCO.

Tourist attraction

Dutch Fort
Built in 1663, the fort still retains the atmosphere and charm of Dutch days. Many old Dutch buildings are still intact inside the fort. The best way to see the fort is by walking around at the time of sunset.

Dutch Museum
The Dutch Museum which is housed in a restored Dutch mansion of the time, contains paintings, prints, documents, furniture and ceramics from the Dutch colonial era.

Koggala
Koggala, near Galle is the hometown of a famous local writer Martin Wickramasinghe. The museum of Folk, Art & Culture built in his honour at his old residence has an excellent display of local folk items. They include the costumes of folk dancers, sports items, household items and furniture and vast arena of the folk life of the early 20th century. Take a boat trip in the lagoon and Kogggala Lake to see many of its small islands, which is a popular destination for bird watching.

Dutch Reformed Church
Built by a Dutch Army officer at the site of a previous Portuguese church and completed in 1754 the church is situated close to the new entrance to the fort. The church contains record of marriages since 1748 and baptism from 1678. The major highlight of the building is there are no pillars inside the building and the weight of the roof is supported by the walls.

Ahangama / Midigama
Home to a unique type of fishing technique. Silt fishing is a popular fishing method in the area and a very beautiful scenery to watch especially during sunset. Ahangama is also a popular surfing location

Kandy
Kandy-a major tourist destination-is also known as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. Nestled in the hills at an altitude of 488 m, it is located at a distance of 115 km from Colombo.

Kandy has a rich history. It was originally known as Senkadagala pura after a hermit named Senkada who lived there. Many of Sinhalese people call it Mahanuwara meaning the Great City. The name Kandy was derived by the colonial rulers from the word Kanda in Sinhala, meaning a hill.

Kandy was the stronghold of the Sinhalese kings, who promoted and protected the local culture until the city fell to the British in 1815. Today a bustling commercial city, Kandy is famous for the Kandy Perahara- a huge cultural pageant that takes place in the month of July or August. It is one of the most colorful processions of the world. Thousands of drummers and dancers accompanying a parade of ornamented elephants perform in the streets of Kandy. The leading tusker carries the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, while the spectators pay homage to it. The procession moves along the streets for seven consecutive nights and concludes on the day of the August full moon.

Tourist attraction

The Temple of Tooth
Also known as Dalda Maligawa, it is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the world. Here, one of the Buddha's teeth is kept. The temple was built in the 17th century. A golden canopy has been added recently. Daily rituals are performed three times a day-at 4.30 a.m., 10.30 a.m., and 6.30 p.m. respectively.

Gadaladeniya Temple
Built in 1344, the temple is situated on a hilltop at a distance of 15 km from the town. The temple is inspired by Dravidian architecture and gives a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.

Peradeniya Gardens
The garden-a paradise for nature lover- was built in 14th century during the reign of king Vikrama Bahu III. The best-known attraction of the garden is the orchid House, which houses more than 300 varieties of exquisite orchids. A spice garden located here gives you a first hand account of the trees and plants used in the traditional Ayurvedic medicine.

Embekke Temples
This 14th century temple is famous for the intricate wooden carvings dedicated to God Katargama. Almost the entire structures of some wooden buildings are decorated with dancers, musicians, wrestlers, legendary beasts and birds. Nearby are the ruins of an ancient rest house with similar pillars carved in stone.

Lankatilaka Temple
Lankatilaka temple dates back to 14th century. It is built on the summit of a rock called Panhalgala. The temple provides a magnificent panoramic view of the surrounding hills, paddy fields and the diverse vegetation around it.

Knuckle Mountains
The Knuckles range is about 90 square miles in extent and is a detached block of the central highlands separated from the main highlands by the the Dumbara Valley. There are 35 peaks rising to more than 3000 feet (915 m) in the Knuckles range. It has a rich variety of flora and fauna.

Hanthana Mountains
Hanthana Mountains are spread on the outskirts of Kandy and are a source of many rivulets and streams. They are an ideal destination for the trekkers.

Udawatte Kele
Udawatte Kele is a primeval forest located above the Dalada Maligawa. It is also known as the Forbidden Forest of the Kings of Kandy. It contains a variety of trees such as Talipot trees, cinnamon, olive, rattan cane, betel, bo-trees, kitul palms, jak, mara, betelnut and arecanut.

Hindu Shrines
There are four Hindu shrines dedicated to Gods Vishnu and Natha and Goddess Patthini in Kandy. Three of them are located adjacent to the Temple of Tooth, while the fourth one is towards the town.

Buddhist Temples
There are many Buddhist temples surrounding Kandy. Famous among them are Malwaththa and Asgiri temples located on the shores of the lake.

 

 

Matara
Southern most major town in Sri Lanka and the terminus of the coastal rail line, Matara is located at a distance of 160 km from Sri Lanka. The Nilwala River, which is the lifeline of the region, runs through the town. Matara is famous for its natural beauty-white sandy beaches, lush paddy fields, verdant tea estates, and fragrant spice plantations. The town was earlier under the Portugese and Dutch rule.

Tourist attraction

Matara Fort
Built by the Dutch around 1640, Matara Fort is a fortification of a Portuguese garrison. The old Dutch church is one of the oldest structures in the Fort. There are many other structures of the Dutch and the British era most of which have undergone many changes. The star fort built in a shape of a star was built to provide additional protection to the main fort across the river.

Dondra / Devinuwara
Dondra or Devinuwara 6 km east of Matara is the southern most point of Sri Lanka. A 40m high lighthouse was built in 1890 to provide guidance to the shipping route south of Sri Lanka. The shrine dedicated to Hindu god Vishnu at Devinuwara is a popular local attraction. The annual festival held in July / August is the major event of the temple.

Weligama
About 15 km from Matara towards Galle is a popular resort town of Weligama. The town is famous for its beaches. The rest house at Weligama is one of the oldest rest houses in Sri Lanka. The Aggrabodhi Vihara about 1 km from the rest house towards inland is an ancient temple established in the 3 century BC.

Tangalla
Tangalla, located 48km east of Matara, is one of the most pleasant places in the region for a lazy beach holiday. Facing east, the village center straddles a freshwater lagoon where a small river flows into the sea, with a fishing harbour at its mouth. North of the harbour is the long stretch of white sand known as Medaketiya. To the south, beyond a low headland, is a series of small sandy coves.

Mulgirigala Rock Temple
At Mulgirigala, 16krn north of Tangalla, this cave temple in a monolithic rock contains reclining Buddha figures in smiling repose as well as standing and seated Buddha figures, surrounded by wall paintings depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha. A Buddhist shrine crowns the rock.

 

 

Polonnurawa
Polonnurawa - located at a distance of 216 km from Colombo-was the capital of Sri Lanka in medieval times. Used by the Sri Lankan kings as a 'country residence' from the 7th century, Polonnurawa became Sri Lanka's capital in the 11th century AD.

During its time the city was fortified with three concentric walls, beautified with parks and gardens and sanctified by many a shrine and sacred place. The city and the surrounding area were watered by a unique irrigational complex known as the Sea of Parakrama (Parakrama Samudra).

Tourist attraction

Parakarma Samudra
Parakarma Samudra is a man made irrigation tank spread over an area of 5940 acres, built by the King Parakramabahu. It is one of the most striking features of Polonnurawa.

Royal Citadel
The Citadel housed the palace and the administrative buildings of King Prakramabahu who ruled in12th century AD and is enclosed by a huge rampart more than a metre thick. It is an impressive building with fine stone carvings. The Royal Bath is outside the rampart with a flight of steps leading to it. The beautiful bath is made of stone with a small pavilion probably used as a changing room.

Gal Vihara
It is a rock cut Buddhist shrine dating back to 12th century AD. It contains magnificent images of Buddha carved out of stone.

Vata-Da-Ge
A circular relic chamber built enclosing a dagoba that had been a popular architectural style in ancient Sri Lanka.

Hatadage
A relic chamber built by King Parakramabahu I to house the sacred Tooth Relic.

Lotus Pond
A stone pond built in the shape of a lotus flower in eight parallel tiers probably to provide seating to the monks while bathing.

Ratnapura
Ratnapura-located at 103 km from Colombo-is the famous gem-mining town of Sri Lanka. In fact the name Ratnapura literally means, the City of Gems. Sri Lanka has the greatest concentration of gems on earth and is ranked among the top five gem-bearing nations. One can find all types of gems in Ratnapura-from familiar to exotic. These include: white, yellow, pink, orange, purple and blue star sapphires, ruby and star ruby, cat's eye, topaz, amethyst, moonstone, aquamarine, tourmaline, garnet, zircon, spinel, alexandrite, citrine, etc., and the exotic ones such as patite, sinhalite, ekanite, enstatite, andalusite, kornerupine, etc., sought by the connoisseur.

Place of Interest

Maha Saman Devale
A devale is a shrine dedicated to either a god of the Hindu pantheon or a local deity, which is usually situated within a Buddhist vihara or temple. This unique devale, only a short distance from Ratnapura, is dedicated to Saman-the tutelary deity of Adam's Peak.

Annual Fair/Perahara
There is an annual fair and perahera in the month of July-August, which is among the largest to be held in the country. Its main feature is the Maha Baha a giant effigy who like the Roman Janus has two faces-one pink-cheeked and smiling, the other dour and black-visaged.

Sinharaja
The highland forest of Singaraja, located near Ratnapura is a nature lover's delight. It is the last remaining original tract of rainforest on the island.

Ratnapura is also one of the base camps to the pilgrimage trek to Adam's Peak.

Sigriya
Located in the north-central province of Sri Lanka, Sigriya-a city, palace and garden complex centering a 200 metre high rock-is unofficially known as the 8th wonder of the world. Literally, the word Sigriya means the Lion Rock. Sigriya is Sri Lanka's most recognizable landmark and has been declared as a World Heritage Site.

Built in the 5 century AD, this magnificent complex of geometrically laid gardens, pools, fountains as well as oldest surviving murals of maidens was palace of the King Kasyapa. The Complex consists of the central rock, rising 200 meters above the surrounding plain, and the two rectangular precincts on the east (90 hectares) and the west (40 hectares), surrounded by two moats and three ramparts.

The 650 ft monolith was once a rock fortress and a royal citadel from 477 to 495 AD. The most significant feature of the Rock would have been the Lion staircase leading to the palace garden on the summit. All that remains now are the two colossal paws and a mass of brick masonry that surround the ancient limestone steps and the cuts and groves on the rock face give an idea of the size and shape of the lion figure. There are also remains of paintings in some of the caves at the foot of the rock. Of special significance is the painting on the roof of the Cobra Hood Cave. The cave with its unique shape dates back to the pre-Christian era.

The pleasure gardens on the western side of the rock are studded with ponds, fountains and promenades showing a glorious past. The miniature water garden just inside the inner wall of the western precinct consists of water pavilions, pools, cisterns, courtyards, conduits and watercourses. The largest water garden has a central island surrounded by water and linked to the main precinct by cardinally oriented causeways. The fountain garden is a narrow precinct on two levels. Western half has two long and deep pools, with shallow serpentine streams draining into the pools. These fountains are still active during the rainy season from November to January.

Climbing up the rock you will see the Mirror Wall, a highly polished rock surface that has weathered the times to shine and reflect even today. In a sheltered pocket are the famous frescoes of beautiful maidens, which appear to rise out of the clouds. A climb to the top is rewarded by a panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.

Tour
Tour CodeNights/DaysPickup - DropPlaces
SRL 0014 N/5 D Sigiriya , Peradeniya, Kandy, Colombo, Pinnawala
SRL 0023 N/4 D Kandy, Peradeniya, Colombo
SRL 0033 N/4 D Bentota / Ahungalla, Balapitiya, Colombo
SRL 0042 N/3 D Kandy, Peradeniya, Colombo


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