Day 17 - Ambalangoda incl a local bus to nearby Karandeniya (Galagoda Sailatharamaya Temple)

I timed my arrival in Ambalangoda for the Vesak celebrations. The Vesak Festival is celebrated as a religious & a cultural festival in Sri Lanka on the full moon of the month of May, for two days.

The most important part of the Buddhist poyas (full moon days), is a threefold celebration commemorating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment & death, all of which are traditionally thought to have happened on the day of the Vesak poya. In addition, the last of the Buddha’s three alleged visits to Sri Lanka is claimed to have been on Vesak poya day. Lamps lit in front of houses, & pandals, (platforms decorated with scenes from the life of the Buddha) are erected throughout the country. Buses & cars are decorated with streamers, & free food (rice and curry) is distributed in roadside booths known as dansals.

Many devout Buddhists wear simple white dresses & spend the whole day in temples with renewed determination to observe the observance of the Eight Precepts of Buddhism. The day after Vesak is a public holiday. During these two days, the selling of alcohol & flesh is prohibited.

I had my breakfast at the family's home, they served up plenty of toast, tea & bananas, (no eggs as most of the shops were closed as it was a bank holiday). They also gave me some special rice cake that's normally served during Vesak which I thought was very kind of them.

After breakfast & just as I was about to leave my apartment the fisherman who I’d met the previous night turned up & basically started to follow me as a left to go into town! He seemed friendly enough, but I was convinced all he was after was my rupees for whatever tours he could show me! He followed me in a few mask shops, which started to become a little annoying as I really just wanted to be by myself. I started to drop a few hints & when after coming out of the mask museum he was no longer to be seen, I realised he must have got the message!


My apartment in Ambalangoda (Still being rebuilt after the 2004 Tsunami)


Ambalangoda is quite famous for it's mask shops. Most masks were originally produced to be worn by performers in low-country dances, either in devil or kolam dances. Many Sri Lankans believe that disease &  illness can be caused by demons, & the purpose of the devil dance is to summon up the demons who are causing the person's sickness, make offerings to them & ask them politely to leave their victim in peace. Kolam are dance drama performances, supposedly date back to Queen Menikpala.

There are three kinds of masked dances. Kolam masks are used in storytelling performances. Raksha (Demon) masks are apotropaic, used in processions & festivals. Sanni (Devil Dance) masks are also apotropaic, used in curing ceremonies.


'Southland Mask Shop' in Ambalangoda


'Southland Mask Shop' in Ambalangoda


Mask shop in Ambalangoda (The switches are for the ceiling fans!)


I later walked along the beach & slowly headed back towards my apartment, whilst taking a few photographs of the glorious palm trees & blue skies. I then made my way to the bus station to catch the bus to the Galagoda Sailathalaramaya Temple (15 LKR). It's only a few kilometers inland & is home to Sri Lanka's longest reclining Buddha, measuring 35 meters in length (the precise measurements remain unknown since it's considered blasphemous to measure it), & it is said to be 200 years old.


The wonderful beach at Ambalangoda


The wonderful beach at Ambalangoda


The wonderful beach at Ambalangoda


The new harbour in Ambalangoda (The original was destroyed in the 2004 Tsunami)


The small yellow boat was owned by the family who were looking after me!


The new harbour in Ambalangoda


Reclining Buddha - Galagoda Sailathalaramaya Temple (Karandeniya)


Galagoda Sailathalaramaya Temple (Karandeniya)


Sri Lanka's longest reclining Buddha - Galagoda Sailathalaramaya Temple (Karandeniya)


Galagoda Sailathalaramaya Temple (Karandeniya)


Listening to a senior monk during Vesak (Karandeniya)


After my visit to the temple, I caught the bus back to Ambalangoda & walked around the town again. I visited another mask shop ('L.A.R Nandana' on Sriniketharama Rd), where there was just one man in a small workshop, and he seemed very genuine & his prices were quite reasonable unlike some of the other shops I'd visited earlier. I told him I may well return in a day or so, as he did have some masks that I really liked. After leaving the mask shop I later witnessed a Vesak procession, where people were carrying new clothes for the monks & locals were giving their blessings. People were also handing out free food & drink on the streets which was great!


Vesak celebrations in Ambalangoda


Vesak celebrations in Ambalangoda


Vesak celebrations in Ambalangoda


During the evening I chilled out a little in my apartment, before having my evening meal at my hosts home. They were a very nice family, I learned my host had a sister who had married a man from Sweden many years ago, & as a consequence had travelled to many Scandinavian countries whilst keeping in touch with her. They had two daughters living quite nearby & they were also grandparents & his wife was a big fan of Princess Dianna & the whole family recently watched the royal wedding on the TV!

After my evening meal I walked around the town for an hour to see the night time Vesak celebrations, with all the streets & houses decorated with the wonderful lanterns. I stood for a while outside the very large Pandal (just up the road from my apartment), where lots of people were gathered, eating & drinking and listening to the load music that was being played. Everybody seemed to be enjoying the spectacle.


video
Vesak celebrations in Ambalangoda




No comments:

Post a Comment