Sri Lanka, once the island fortress of Ravana’s, is known not just for its picturesque beauty but also for its rich historical past. A land which held captive Devi Sita; whose capital was set ablaze by Lord Hanuman; and the kingdom whose invincibility was broken by Lord Ram who along with his vanar sena crossed the sea to rescue Devi Sita; it boasts of eight UNESCO-listed sites, wildlife including elephants and leopards, picture-postcard beaches, famed tea plantations, and of course countless scenes from Ramayana.
You can follow the cultural triangle of the ancient cities of Kandy, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, with their magnificent jungle-set palaces and temples dating back 2,000 years. Out of this the 16th century hill kingdom of Kandy set deep in Sri Lanka’s mountainous jungles is the most picturesque. If you opt to go by road en route you will see rice paddies, which give way to extravagantly lush hillsides of fig, banana (92 varieties), papaya, coconut, mango and pineapple plantations. You will also get to see Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, a rescue centre for orphaned elephants.
There are many pure, pristine and beautiful beaches in the island; however the city of Galle is the most popular. It is often dubbed Sri Lanka’s Goa as its elegant mansions, historic churches and laid-back bars overlook some of the world’s best beaches. The solid granite city walls built by Dutch colonists in 1640 saved Galle’s historic World Heritage-listed town centre when the devastating tsunami crashed ashore in 2004.
The Yala Safari Park has one of the world’s largest number of leopards. Guided walks and bike tours are a great way to see the sights. Or hop on The Viceroy Special, a 1927 steam train that winds through the steamy rainforest, visiting a tea plantation, a spice garden and a tear-inducing elephant orphanage en route. These days Colombo is a destination in itself, as stylish restaurants, handsomely
RAMAYANA CONNECT: DID YOU KNOW?
- Ravana abducted Sita and brought her to Weragantota in Lanka in the Pushpaka Vimana.
- Ravana moved Sita from Sita Kotuwa to Ashok Vatika the salubrious garden in the mountains. The route was said to be spectacularly beautiful, as Ravana wanted to show Sita the beauty of his kingdom. The Chariot Path atop the mountain range is still visible. The Sita Tear Pond close to the Chariot Path is believed to have been formed by her tears. Visitors can also see the famed Sita Flowers which are endemic to this area.
- The Hakgala Gardens located at the base of the Hakgala Rock forms part of the famed Ashok Vatika. The Sita Pokuna is a barren area atop the Hakgala Rock Jungle where Sita was kept captive. Sita is said to have bathed in a stream at Sita Eliya. The Sita Amman Temple is located at this spot.
- Whilst crossing the ocean, Hanuman was tested by Surasa Devi, the Naga maiden en route to Lanka. This place is now called Nagadeepa.
- Ussangoda is one of the areas that was said to be burnt by Hanuman’s tail.
- Neelawari, located in the north of the country in the Jaffna Peninsula, is a place where lord Ram shot an arrow to the ground to obtain water for his army upon arriving in Lanka.
- During the height of the battle, Indrajit, the elder son of Ravana beheaded a lookalike of Sita in front of Hanuman to break his spirit. This place is known as Sitawaka in the Avissawella area.
- Yudhaganawa, battlefield in Sinhala is a place in Wasgamuwa where the major battles took place.
- After Ravana’s death, his body was kept at Yahangala, Divan or Bed Rock in Sinhala for the countrymen to pay respect to their departed King.
- When returning to India, Ram felt he was followed by a ‘Brahmahasti Dhosham’, a dark cloud capable of taking his life, as he had killed Ravana, a Brahmin. Ram felt safe from the ‘Brahmahasti Dhosham’ at Munneswaram. This is the place Ram prayed to Lord Shiv, who asked him to install four lingams to get rid of the Dhosham. These four lingams were installed at Manavari, Thiru Koheneshwaram, Thiru Ketheshwaram and Rameshwaram in India.restored colonial buildings and lush parks are appearing across the city.