25. The End of Days

@Kelaniya, Western Province, Sri Lanka.

It was our last day at Sri Lanka on that Ramayana tour and just like any other final day at any foreign country, it was over so fast. This was immediately after the Colombo city trip which was quicker, and there was also a Hanuman temple to visit on the way which made Kelaniya too far an attraction for a few minutes, but fortunately, the journey speeded up. Kelaniya is actually a small town near Colombo, in the Gampaha District of Sri Lanka; a place which I didn’t check in the maps before I visited. It is blessed by the Kelani river, but the water body does face the same problems as any other in the world, in the developing countries. Even recent tests have indicated that the purity level of the water is diminishing; a comparison to some of the rivers of India would make this situation look okay, but considering the beauty of the river and it’s surroundings as well as the beautiful temple which lies close to it, there is need for a better situation, but still nothing from it did affect our journey as we had to go to Kelaniya and then to the Bandaranaike International Airport.

Before getting further into the best thing, the wonderful temple of Kelaniya, it has to be said that it is another symbol of religious tolerance. It is a Buddhist temple and it might be one of the most sacred Buddhist sites, but it also has a small temple to Vibhishana, the noble and good natured brother of the demon king Ravana of Ramayana, who later became the king of the island of Lanka and he was supposed to have shifted the capital to Kelaniya. Vibhishana still continues to be worshipped by some adherents, mainly in the Kelaniya area as well as the tourists from the north. It is actually a small part of the large temple area. The god-king is depicted with a blue coloured body wearing gold crown with ornaments and as holding a sword in his right hand. He has two teeth protruding when the mouth is closed, which seems to be peeking out like the vampire teeth, but smaller and he certainly is a good-looking god-king according to the picture inside the temple. There are other Hindu deities around and there are beautiful curtains which makes the place look nice even if it is a simple abode for the legendary king.

Moving back to the Buddhist temple, it is a great structure, not the biggest or as imposing as the Temple of the Tooth of Kandy, but still something which is special and something which catches the attention especially as we move towards it. There is a gopuram-like structure on one side and there is a big tree which resembles the Bodhi tree, something which I have noticed near almost all of the Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. Both looked significantly old and the only thing which might look older might be the temple itself. The temple coloured dark yellow just like the gopuram was located right on the side of a big white stupa which seemed to compete with the temple in it’s looks. It is said that the Portuguese destroyed all those sculptures and the paintings of antiquity during their conquest of Kelaniya, but still inside that temple, it is a wonderful world awaiting us. We can still see lots of paintings and carvings relating to Sri Buddha and his stories. There is also a quite big golden coloured statue of Lord Buddha lying on the bed. There are also other statues of the Enlightened one as well as a number of incidents related to Buddhism, most of them depicted as paintings which are beautiful, but still kind of simple in nature.

After seeing those paintings on the walls, roofs and everywhere around that wonderful world inside the temple, the huge white stupa structure awaited me. It was just like the same things I had seen all around Sri Lanka, but this one was surely bigger and more captivating and it was surrounded by statues and it matched the sky in colour. This mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics was like the centre of spirituality and the temple seemed to pale in comparison. So many people were praying in front of it with such a devotion which made the retreats look like a common daily prayer. It didn’t lose any of it’s spiritual content even as it was a heavy tourist centre visited by so many people. The temple procession held on the pre-full moon day of the month of January every year is huge and famous thing, but we were not to stay there till then, and there will be other people from all around the world to witness it; and it shall be crowded, there will be so much people around, considering it was already enough crowded during the time we visited; there was still silence and peace, but still taking photos was not easy with so many interruptions in the form of people walking all around.

As it is located 10km east of Colombo in Colombo-Kandy Road and still quite close enough to the airport, it should be a favourite destination of all those tourists who wander around Colombo and Negombo. Sri Lankan Buddhists believe that Lord Buddha visited Kelaniya in order to quell a quarrel between two Naga leaders who fought over a priceless throne, and later converted to Buddhism. The sculptures on the outside include those of nagas and apsaras, as well as that of Vibhisana being crowned the king of Lanka by Sri Rama. There are also other Hindu gods and godesses around as the Buddhist flags fly in the yard. The University of Kelaniya is also situated at Kelaniya near the Colombo-Kandy Road and their Faculty of Humanities which provided the courses of Master of Arts in Drama and Theater as well as Linguistics did catch my attention a lot, as it was the first time I saw Literature divided and studied; the same can be said about their Faculty of Social Sciences; it was different and it looked good from the outside, and I would have loved to have studied there for a change, but I am not to be certain about myself or anything.

It was where we had the last Sri Lankan local tea; it was at a small shop in front of the temple and it was found by one of the uncles who had great love for tea; almost the same love I had, as if he also knew that tea was forever and even had a perfect time table for drinking it. It is always good to have tea finders with you; saves you a lot of time to find the right tea shop and the perfect source of tea. It was the cheapest tea I ever had, priced at five Sri Lankan rupees or so, which would be less than three Indian rupees after conversion and it was still good tea, just like being at any tea shop in Sri Lanka. It was also the smallest shop explored there by me, and anything smaller was far beyond my tea radar and also impossible to find when on a journey; but being at bigger shops was preferred by the guide considering it her responsiblity to keep everyone away from stomach upsets. But as it was the last day and the worst thing would only happen after we are left at the airport or inside a flying machine, on that day it was fine. After the temple visit, we also had the opportunity to do a little shopping, but it was kind of low level shopping and I guess it should have stopped with the temple and the tea.

Diving out —>