After some 900 years the Anuradhapura Perahera is to be held again on July 18 . The grandeur of the perahera that was in the days of the first kings, it would probably be impossible to completely recapture. But its a start. The perahera is based on the documentation of Fa- hsien the Chinese priest who lived in Anuradhapura for two years.
The Cultural Triangle hopes to reconstruct the perahera according to the vivid descriptions of Fa hsien But for starters the pageant will feature only one elephant and will begin at the Sri Maha Bodhi on the 18, which is the Esala poya.
Anuradhapura is a place any Sri Lankan should visit, at least once. Besides the obvious places of worship, Ruvanweliseya and Sri Maha Bodhi, the city , the first kingdom, dating many centuries before the birth of Christ holds many an interesting site. In the city itself, whether one is on pilgrimage or examining the ruins, there are not many places offering comfortable accomodation.
Here, the two Rest Houses in Anuradhapura, Nuwarawewa and Tisawewa lead the way. Offering airy spacious rooms, delicious fare and homely service to their customers for the past 25 years, the two rest houses have become part and parcel of the city itself, often cited as landmarks when giving directions to travellers.
In the wee hours of the morning, just before dawn, take a walk along the Nuwarawewa bund, just a step away from the resthouse. In the vast expanse of rippling water before you, wading birds are looking for their morning feed. The Mihintale peak is a clear silhouette across the tank as you savour the quiet of pre- dawn in the shade of giant mara trees. The sun, a ball of orange fire rose in the distance throwing light on the dagaba on Mihintale. Rest house staff say that on most mornings the sunrise is very clear over Nuwarawewa. At dawn the area is also a haven for feeding birds and a bird watchers dream. So dont forget to pack your binos and notebook
Nuwarawewa Rest House today is very different to the original building that had five rooms, when Quickshaws, the managing company took it over on a long lease from the Tourist Board in 1966. Today it has 70 rooms all air-conditioned with hot/cold water, a large dining area, buffet table and a pool. The recently completed new wing has 20 spacious rooms. Ask the managements advice if you wish to tour the ruins and sites. They will recommend to you Banda Aiya, a guide, an ex- Archaeological Department employee, who knows the city like the back of his hand. After a tour of the city, hot and thirsty, there is nothing like sipping fresh fruit juice (very cold) in the resthouse verandah, listening to the wind rustling through the garden trees. The food at Nuwarawewa is exquisite, and served with old world charm by genial white clad waiters. Especially recommended delicacy is crumb fried Tilapiya fillets fresh from the tank. The evening when the sun is not at its scorching best is a nice time to enjoy a dip in the pool. The water, you will find is actually warmer than the air when you emerge. Relax in the pool watching the stars above you and the leaves as they twirl in the wind and fall into the lit up pool.
Tisawewa Resthouse embodies much character. The sprawling colonial building in a 11 acre garden was built nearly a century ago as the first hotel in Anuradhapura. It is a refreshing sight. From the arched porch to the long shady verandahs and high ceilinged rooms the resthouse bespeaks of colonial charm. Seated on the verandah one could see the glistening white Mirisawetiya Chaitya just across the garden. The entire garden often is full of monkeys swinging from the old mango trees looking for food, sometimes boldly venturing even into the dining room. The five cosy, old rooms upstairs are much in demand. Probably for their wooden ceilings as well as for the wide verandah over the porch, which the rooms open into. The area is tastefully decorated with period furniture, relaxing cane chairs and cushions. The resthouse has 25 rooms, some airconditioned, all left unchanged for long years.
The original dining room has been left intact and the main building has no alterations, since the Archaeology Department has interest in it. The Rest house also has a separate annexe section with five rooms which are let individually or in whole for a large group. Just as Nuwarawewa affords a spetacular sunrise, so its sister rest house offers an equally wonderful sunset. On the Tisawewa bund, sitting on the root of an ancient Mara tree, the water lapping at your feet and watching people bathing and frolicking in the tank, you are treated to the sight of the dying sun, dipping below the horizon, the same golden orange,as was when rising.
The rates at Nuwarawewa are Rs. 600 for a single or double room. Here they offer a special package price of Rs. 800 nett full board per person. At Tisawewa the rates are Rs. 500 for single/ double non airconditioned and Rs. 600 for air conditioned rooms.
41/2 hours from Colombo via Kegalle. 5 1/2 hours via Puttalam
On your next visit to Anuradhapura, dont simply visit the larger, better known sites there and turn back. The city is literally littered with interesting places, which need only a little investigation and unearthing. Ask for help from the Cultural Triangle offices or Archeology Department Tourist Information Centre or buy the maps and guidebooks available at the famous sites like Samadhi statue or Isurumuniya. A few lesser known interesting places are listed here for visitors information.
A site we found particularly interesting is the Gal palama, translated- stone bridge. This is an actual ancient bridge, built over the Malvatu Oya. Only a quarter of it is left standing, the rest of the bridge lay in ruins in the oya. The sheer technology of the bridge, where columns of rock (granite) are fixed into the river bed and smoothly cut rock slabs are laid over the cross beams, again made of rock is awesome. The bridge is quite wide and in its day would have been used as an access to the northern area. There is documentation that the road led towards Jaffna and Mannar.
Asokaramaya is a monastery, overgrown and tucked away from the main routes. The access to it is through a farmers garden, and along the earth bunds of a kumbura (paddy field). Here lies a beautiful limestone statue of a seated Buddha, a temporary shelter built over it. Around it are ruins of a once large monastery with a bathing pond for the monks. The place is not cleared and one has to make way through weeds and watch for stone slabs under the overgrowth.
Make a visit to the Kuttam pokuna or the two ponds where monks used to bathe. The restored pokunas are all of solid granite blocks. One sports a detailed carving of a five hooded cobra. The ponds have an interesting water supply and filteration system which would be explained by any experienced guide. Dont attempt to purchase carved stone statues and Buddha head figurines from souvenir sellers there. No authentic statues are on sale.
The western monasteries, where monks of the Pansakulika order dwelled are beautifully designed with moats and secluded spots used for meditating. This order is said to have lived close to the cemeteries of that era, which were to the west of the city. They sewed their robes off the cloth used to wrap dead people, hence the name of the order. Their monasteries also have exquisitely carved bidets and urinals. Some are conserved while other monasteries are yet in a ruined overgrown state.
If time permits visit the old citadel, the palace of King Vijayabahu, the ruined Dalada Maligawa and the fortress that once protected the inner city.
This week we offer an exciting holiday package for all those oout there who want to feel the antiquity and experience the ancient glory of Lanka, or merely relax and watch the sun setting over Tisa wewa.
Answer the question on the coupon given below and each of the first three correct entires drawn would be entitled to a free weekend package for two ( Friday night to Sunday lunch) at either Rest House- Nuwarawewa or Tisa wewa.
The Sunday Times P.O Box 1136 Colombo. email: email@example.com
Entries should reach us before July 16 Watch out for the names of the winners in the Travel Page on July 20.
Q: When did Quickshaws takeover Tissawewa Resthouse?
A: .......................................................................... Name:..................................................... ................................................................. Address:.......................... .......................... ...................................................................
In The Sunday Times of June 22 we featured a leading sports resort , The Club Intersport, Bentota. In association with Keells Hotels, we offered readers the chance to experience the special atmosphere of this resort by the sea-by winning three wonderful weekends for two.
Well, we had a flood of entries and here are our three lucky winners who can now look forward to an unforgettable weekend on the beach at Bentota. Congratulations to:
1. Sonali Fernando, 74/2C, Prathibimbarama Rd.,Kalubowila, Dehiwela
2. Warren Rosairo , 221/1, Mihindu Mw., Warahanthuduwa, Mahara, Kadawatha
3. Dudley Zoysa, 123, Campbell Place , Col.10
Your entries were the first three correct ones drawn. Keells will be in touch with you shortly.
We thank all you readers who wrote in, and if you were not among the winners today, dont despair.
The Sunday Times has got many more exciting holiday packages from some of the countrys most exotic holiday spots lined up for you.
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