While working on the cruise ship, I had the privilege to get off for a few hours and go on a tour through this coastal town, and to two incredible temples. I would like to share a little history of Sri Lanka with you. I learned all this on the tour. These guides are incredible. They really are good with people, and they know how to share history with you without making you bored.
Sinhala and Tamil are the two official languages spoken here, and English is defined as a link language. English is used in education and for commercial use. It is pretty common to speak English with a lot of natives.
The flag of Sri Lanka is something I found quite interesting. It was adopted in 1972, and it is referred to as the Lion flag. The lion depicted on the flag is holding a kastane sword (traditional ceremonial sword) in his right paw, and in each corner of the flag, there are leaves. These leaves represent Buddhism, the major religion in Sri Lanka. The bo leaves are special, they come from a sacred fig tree, which many believe is the tree that Buddha sat under when he achieved enlightenment.
Something else on the flag, that to me, is quite unique and beautiful, are the colours, the green and orange stripes are equal in size and they represent the two main minority groups in the country; the Tamils and the Muslims. The maroon background represents the Sinhala ethnicity. Here is a little table the details the meaning of each symbol on the flag
On this trip, we went to one temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, and another temple dedicated to Buddha. The first temple, dedicated to Hinduism, is called the Koneswaram Temple. When we arrived at the temple, we had to take our shoes of and women had to cover their shoulders. There is a nice little building just before the temple itself with some shoe cubbies that you can put your shoes in. Walking up the temple was incredible, it is so vibrant and full of life, and every person there seemed to be happy and calm. Everyone there was their or their own reasons, and it was so beautiful so see how people experience their religion and customs.
This is my supervisor in housekeeping, wearing my fluffy socks that I lent her, because she didn´t want to be barefoot. Lol. I personally loved walking around in public without shoes, I wish my hippy ass could do it here in South Africa too, but unfortunately people here stare too much and it just not worth the hassle.
Now this is something that stood out for me, are these cribs or cradles. There were made by families who aren`t able to conceive a child, they dedicate this cradle to temple in hopes that it will bring them luck. As our tour guide also explained to us, this cradle is called a blessing. And it is also a promise from the parents that if they do conceive, they promise to take care of the child and love it unconditionally. I thought that was so sweet, no matter what religion you are, or even if you aren´t religious (like me) there is no denying that this is a special tradition.
Another cool tradition I was lucky enough to observe, was the breaking of coconuts. Breaking the coconut means breaking your ego, in order to live an ego less life. It is also the favourite fruit of Lord Ganesha. Coconuts are considered lucky in the Hindu religion. I took the video below, you can see a man saying a prayer, and breaking it on a rock.
The next temple we went to is called Velgam Vehera, it is a historical Buddhist temple. This temple has been declared a archaeological protected site in Trincomalee. This temple is incredibly old, it is believed to have been built during the reign of King Devanampiyathissa, who ruled from 3047-267 BC. Walking around there was the most peaceful experience I have had in a long time. It is quiet and tranquil here. You can walk around and just breathe…
The history on this temple is also quite interesting, it was invaded by the Indian Cholas in 993 AD, and a lot of shrines were destroyed, one that stood out for me was this temple, (pictured above) the Indians believe that this pyramid contained gold, bad tore it apart looking for it.
Here is a picture of a Buddhist Monk I sneaked. I think he looks hella chill.
We were also taught a greeting to use to greet Buddhists, it goes like this, you press both your hands together like you’re praying and put them under your chin. Then you say the phrase ´´vannakkam´´, which means may you be blessed with a long life. Awesome, right? I thought so too.
And lastly, here´s dorky me posing outside the temple just before we went back to the ship.
All in all, I have to say that this was an amazing trip. Sri Lanka is beautiful, it´s lush and green and friendly. I you have a chance to check it out, please do, you will not regret it.