Pahiyangala caves – a trip down the corridors of time

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Pahiyangala caves lies in Yatagampitiya, which is a remote village about 5 km away from Bulathsinhala, in the Kalutara District. Two mountains, Pahiyangala and Thibottuwawa in this area was affected by the recent rainfalls and resulted in earth slips. There was also rumours of possible cracks in the rock surface of Pahiyangala.

Two weeks later the ban on visitors to Pahiyangala caves was lifted and we were able to climb up and explore it with barely anyone else in the precincts. At the foot of the hills is a small monastery that supports the priests practicing meditation and living in isolation.

Some call it Fahiyangala however, in the absence of a letter ‘f’ in the Sinhala alphabet Pahiyangala is more commonly used. The place is actually named after the Chinese scholastic monk Fa-Hsien who is supposed have stayed abode the rock cave in the 5th century. Fa-Hsien having explored many parts of Asia was enroute Bulathsinhala, Kalawana, Nivitigala, Ratnapura and Gileemale to reach the Sri Pada when he had stayed at the rock caves in Pahiyangala. Archaeological excavations of recent years unearthed a vessel used by the monk for his travels.

From the road we saw a mountain where the sides were ripped open exposing brown earth that had washed down. A large monumental rock face rose up amid this range of mountains, trails of Manna hanging from pockets scattered across the flat rocky surface. In the ledge of this huge hooded formation is found Sri Lanka’s biggest cave. As we start an upward trail the incline was stupendous along the sloping road and up the concrete steps. Signage pointed out rare species and plants that are found in the surrounding.

As we reach the high abode a large cave with a wide breadth came into view. The cave is supposed to be of four parts, but only two was in view. On the right is the first of the caves where easily one thousand could fit in. Excavations done by archaeologists deep into the floor of the cave are supposed to be linked with the underground tunnels. Layer and layers of granite is exposed. A level above this the cave that reaches gigantic proportions. In the intersection of the two is a newly erected image house with a statue of a reclining Buddha. At the center of the cave is another gaping hole and a stairway leading down.

Although the site was discovered in 1968 it was much later that attention was draw away from Fa-Hsien and discovery of the early man was made. During 1986-87 Archaeological department has unearthed remains of a pre-historic man dating back 58,000 years. The ancient man is supposed to have a short vertebral structure, wide jaw bones, a large palette and big grinding teeth. Monolithic stone and bone tools used for hunting as well as remains of wild fruit used as part of his diet had also been uncovered. Since then this cave dweller is known as Pahiyangala Manawakaya (Pahiyangala Man).

Just before we left the caves one look at the beautiful scenery that has always captivated my heart in this region. As much as it’s a wonder of nature, this great edifice rising from the forest covered hills of Sabaragamuwa the recent wreckage has opened our eyes to changing times. Battling with impacts from Climate Change – extreme weather conditions. During the ravages of floods and earth slips ancient caves such as those found Pahiyangala is in danger of been destroyed.

Lankathilaka – a Magnificent Architectural Edifice of Gampola Era

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Murals, sculptures and architecture makes the Lankathilaka Viharaya a sight to behold. The last of the three historical sites visited enroute to Kandy, this place tops the list.

Taking off the Colombo – Kandy route at Pilimathalawa junction we come 4 kms along the Dualagala road and past the Gadaladeniya temple to reach the Lankathilaka Viharaya. The approach to the temple is an upward climb using steps cut on the rock. As you stop a bit to catch your breath on the ascend, you can take your time to enjoy great views of the lush green valleys below.

Lankathilka which is considered as the most magnificent architectural edifice was created during the Gampola era. Built by Parakramabahu the Great, who took to throne from 1153 AD and remained in power till 1186 AD, the Lankathilaka Viharaya, is characterized by the best features of Sri Lankan architectural style. The temple also underwent subsequent renovation during the reign of Dabadeniya in the 13th century.

According to the Professor Senarath Paranavithana, South Indian architect Sathapati Rayar designed this temple using Sinhalese architecture of Polonnaruwa era combined with Dravidian and Indo Chinese architectural patterns.

The most striking feature about the Lankathilaka it that it is built on a natural rock called Panhalgala Rock. Among the buildings the image house is outstanding with pillars endowed in intricate sculptures of vines and flowers. This structure is done in rock and covered with white plaster.

At the entrance is an impressive Makara Thorana above the giant doorway, the workings of which trails down is held by two lions. The steps that make way to the entrance is entirely done in rock with the traditional welcome of a Sadakadapahana (half-moon structure) at the base and Gajasinghe sculptures on either side of the balustrade. A magnificent 12-foot image of Buddha takes center place in the interior. Some of the other sculptures are showing signs of decay. However the murals covering the walls and the ceilings of the image house are amazing. One has to have hours to spare to observe the detailed embellishments lovingly crafted by the masters in these paintings and murals belonging to the Kandyan era.

According to the facts recorded in the Lankatilake copper plaque, this image house was construct as a four storied mansion with height of eighty feet, but today only three stories can be seen. The image house has five devales devoted to four deities with separate entrances.

There are many other features in the temple premises including a large imprint of the Buddha’s foot, (Sripathula) found near the Bo tree.

As you stroll in the ample space of tranquility you can almost feel the pulse of the men and women of yesteryear – those you came for peace of mind like anyone of us.

Enticing Wood Carvings at Embekke

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Embekke Devalaya, 14th century complex where every roof, pillar and post is covered with intricately crafted flower vines, dancers, animals and birds pays silent tribute to the craftsmen of the past. Among the carvings, there are 125 series of decorations, 256 Liyawel, 64 lotus designs in Pekada, 30 decorative patterns on timber, roof members, making a total of 514 such exquisite carvings.

This historical site is one of the three been explore en-route to Kandy and is located close Daulagala, some 12 kms from Kandy.

Many a legends tell an interesting tale of the origin of this splendid place. So according to the epic Embekke Varnanawa composed by Delgahagoda Mudiyanse, it was built during the Gampola period of King Wickrema Bahu II (1371 AD). One of his consorts named Henakanda Biso Bandara, in association with a drummer named as Rangama, as told in a miraculous dream, is supposed to have built this Devale dedicated to God Kataragama. The building complex at that time was three-storeyed. Which is not surprising given other architectural feats achieved during that time.

The entrance to the Devalaya is through a waiting room with half raised walls and a sloping roof with flat tiles and tell-tale embellishments atop. The Devale is in two segmented buildings, the Digge (Dancing Hall) and Drummers Hall (Hewasi Mandappaya).

The wooden capital pillars have assumed varied shapes moulded skilfully into these intricate wood carvings. The bottom square is octagonal with carvings, while its top terminates in a leaf emanating from square. The other intricate but unique piece of woodcarvings rest on the Pekada.

Enticing woodcarvings are also carved on some beams, rafters, doorways, and doors as well. Among the best masterpieces on the capital pillars are thus: Hansa Puttuwa (entwined swans) double headed eagles, and entwined rope designs, mother breast-feeding child, soldier fighting on horseback, female dancing figures, wrestlers, women emanating from a vein, bird with human figure, combination of elephant-bull and combination of elephant-lion. Among such wonderful carvings, what attracted me most was the elephant-bull carving and that of the elephant with its elongated trunk which is mystically manifested.

The roof of the Embekke Devale bears some ingenuous carpentry in fixing the rafters. The ‘Madol Kurupuwa’ is one of the finest examples of medieval carpentry excellence. It is a wooden pin (this Madol Kurupuwa) which holds together 26 rafters at the hipped end of the roof of the Digge of Embekke Devale. The giant pin is carved with Pathuruliya, Patha motifs.

A little distance away lies another assembly of stone pillars on which are carved the very replicas of the wooden pillars of the Embekke Devale. It is believed that the wooden beams of the roof had rested on carved wooden Pekada, which are no longer to be seen in the site. Rope design, entwining swan, berunde bird, dancing girl are some of the creations found on these stone columns, quite akin to the woodcarvings at Embekke Devale.

The villagers still remember the existence of this Ambalama with the wooden roof about 100 years ago. This building is also called Sinhasana Mandapaya. In ancient times, the king and his royal entourage used to rest here and watch the Perahera when it was held.

 

Embekke  Devale is part of three ancient sites closely located Pilimathalawa enroute to Kandy, others been Gadaladeniya and Lankathilaka temple complexes.

 

Every child need someone who believes in him

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‘Perhaps the most inspirational teacher leadership story ever told. Published in the Home Life Magazine in 1976, written by Elizabeth Silance Ballard’

Mrs. Thompson exemplifies the type of leadership we should all take notice of. She helped this little boy, Teddy, feel like he was important and changed his life. It’s amazing what kindness can do. Teachers are some of the greatest leaders there are. This is a great holiday; make you feel good, type of story. I hope it is meaningful to you in each of your leadership capacities at work, home, clubs or wherever.

As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big ‘F’ at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, ‘Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners… he is a joy to be around.’

His second grade teacher wrote, ‘Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.’

His third grade teacher wrote, ‘His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn’t show much interest, and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.

Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, ‘Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class.’

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, ‘Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to.’

After the children left, she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her ‘teacher’s pets.’

-Every child need someone who believe in him

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that she was the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honours. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer…. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, ‘Thank you Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.’

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, ‘Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach until I met you.’

 

Harpos Colombo Fort Cafe at the Fort Dutch Hospital – Eat, Share & Connect

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An ideal place to chill out after work, to catch up on an old friendship or make it a family outing. during the weekend. A choice of mouthwatering and delicious combinations of Italian food will help you enjoy your night. Eat, Share and Connect is what they profess.

The Colombo Fort Café by Harpos is a popular restaurant among the dozen of restaurants available for choice at the Colombo Dutch Hospital. When you say Dutch Hospital it may sound strange to a foreign visitor but not to the local clientele who frequent the place. This colonial building complex that was once actually a hospital serving the foreign occupied forces Dutch, Portugese and British. It was beautifully renovated and elevated into grand scale a few years ago. Every attempt was made to retain the original Dutch architecture. As a visitor enters the Dutch Hospital and walks into the stone paved courtyard you automatically begin to relax.

The ambiance was wonderfully set for dinner with my colleague facing the open courtyard at the restaurant. A candle was at the center of the table adding a glint of romance to the evening. Inside the restaurant consisted of dim lit space with rows of tables lining the room. The whole place had a rustic feeling. However seating outside under the patio I felt was a better choice. The open space with the wind blowing in your hair was relaxing.

We were actually their to review the food . So to get down to business we politely requested for the menu. The food selection was made easy with a menu that carried detailed descriptions of items. The full spread of selection included roast meat, batter fried sea food, a range of pastas, tapas, pizzas and lots more.

Accompanied by a glass of red wine that was specially selected by the Restaurant Manger, Winslow Quyn we were served batter fried Calamarie and hot chillie sauce as a starter. The Calamarie was fresh and succulent, the crispy golden coating added spice to every bite. The main course was roast beef steak by choice because a restaurant that gives a good roast will most likely get everything else right.  My colleague selected chillie prawns accompanied by long-thin pasta.

The steak was wonderfully done, tasted so good I thought it was the best I’ve had in town. Two-thumps-up for getting the roast right. We enjoyed every bite. This was accompanied with vegetables and French fries.

So to comment about the rest the chillie prawns sitting on a bed of vermicelli, stirred in a thin sauce was both a simple and elegant choice of food. The prawns tasted delicious wrapped in rounds of pasta dripping in the sauce. Having been served large prawns made it easy to handle the crust.

The choice of dessert was far too many each sounding equally delicious. We selected Chocolate Mouse which was a wonderful chocolate cream melting in the mouth and a mound of passionfruit-cheese cake dressed with fresh strawberries and sweet caramel sauce. The creamed cheese blended well with deep sour taste of the passionfruit, tiny black pip scrunched with every mouthful – I was actually sorry when the dessert was done. The dinner ended with a hot cup of cappuccino which helped us relax further in the comfort of the courtyard, chat and watch other customers at their tables equally enjoying their dinners.

Colombo Fort Café by Harpos goes well recommended for those seeking a long meals to catch on an old friendship.

Location:
Harpos, Fort Cafe

Old Dutch Hospital Complex Echelon Square, Hospital St, Colombo
T:011 2 434946

Open: 7 AM – 10 PM

How to get there: Google Map

Ancient temple of Gadaladeniya etched in stone

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Kandy is a beautiful city of culture located in the up country 115 kms and 3 hours ride from Colombo. Along the way past the Kadugannawa climb and close to Kandy are three major architecturally rich sites belonging to the Gampola period. The first of these important architectural sites is found in Pilimathawa and 7km interior along Daulagala road. Then you find the Gadaladeniya temple complex of the 14th century, perched on a rock outcrop.

Early morning mild winds blew over the hill area. As I clambered up the steps cut on the rock a striking building arose into view. It had close resemblance to a Hindu shrine with those tall Shikaras. As if the design was a battle between two, even though the temple had an unusual likelihood of a Hindu shrine, the one with taste for Buddhist architecture seem to have won. On top of massive, flat granite slabs, were bubble shaped pagodas. A large stupa was taking the center place with two other smaller ones on either sides. Through the main entrance and into the belly of the temple complex was the image house. Inside under a decorative Makara Thorana was a large statue of Buddha in seated position. Other images and paintings on the walls were fading with age. Taking the full circle around the temple complex two other smaller rooms were found to be shrines belonging to Hindu deities. Strong influence of Hinduisms flowed into Buddhist temples following the Polonnaruwa era and is even seen today.

Two small natural pools on the rocky surface were filled with water and had purple water lilies floating in them. Nature on its own accord pay respect to the many Gods, without human intervention. At the entrance to the image house are two elaborately carved stone pillars that were impressions to behold. On either side of the steps are two proud Gajasinghe carvings on granite with artfully curling tails and startling eyes. These mythical creatures are a combination of elephant and lion.

In close proximity to Gadaladeniya temple are two other places forming an architectural trinity of sorts beckoning travelers taking the Colombo-Kandy route. The other two are Embekke Devale and Lanakathilaka temple.

I have a dream by Martin Luther King Jr

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I was a nervous teenage school girl as I went up the platform to deliver this very speech I am making to you today. That day I thought I would never live till it was all done. I did not succeed to impress the audience or any one on the panel of judges. But it was one small step in overcoming the fear in public speaking – a giant leap toward what I have become today.

The famous speech I Have  Dream was delivered on 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights based on Christian beliefs. In the speech he speaks on behalf of his fellow black men, and women fighting for freedom.

I remember my father quoting Luther-King:

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”

It had a tremendous effect on me as I prepared for other speeches later on. He was a big big figure in my father’s life and so in mine as well.

Martin Luther King was shot years before I was born in Memphis, Tennessee. It was April 1968.


I have a dream … delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!3