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Sri Lanka Buddha

An Archaeological Study Tour
Sri Lanka
November 9, - 25, 2014
17 Days
Led by Prof. B.D. Nandadeva, University of Kelaniya


Among the world’s first great Buddhist kingdoms, the island of Sri Lanka offers the traveler wonders far exceeding its small size. As we explore this mystical place where history and legend are almost inseparable, its ancient cities will reveal the intertwining of the earliest forms of Buddhism with Hindu and animist cultures. We will have a glimpse of life under kings who created sophisticated irrigation systems, built magnificent temples and huge dagobas, carved 40-foot-tall Buddhas and one who chose to build his royal residence resplendent with gardens and pools on the top of a 600-foot rock outcropping. We will experience the spectacles of Sri Lanka’s colorful rituals and festivals and the variety of its lush vegetation and wildlife. As we travel through the countryside we will share the highways with working elephants and the sites with Sri Lankan pilgrims. Our journey will take us to six World Heritage sites as well as jungle wildlife sanctuaries, tea plantations, colonial hill stations and monasteries resplendent with fabulous art, giving us an understanding of Sri Lankan culture and history.

Sunday, November 9: Independent departures from our home cities.

Monday, November 10: COLOMBO: We arrive into Colombo and transfer to the Cinnamon Grand Hotel. Our tour begins with dinner in our hotel.
Meals: Dinner

Tuesday, November 11: COLOMBO: After an opening lecture by Professor Nandadeva, touring begins at the Gotami temple, which houses wall paintings by George Keyt. We will visit the small collection of archaeological and ethnographical material in the National Museum. The day ends with a visit to the Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya, where, according to legend, the Buddha converted the earliest inhabitants of Lanka to Buddhism. The temple is also renowned for its richly decorated walls, including murals painted by two well-known modern artists, Soliyas Mendis and George Keyt.
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Wednesday, November 12: ANURADHAPURA: Today we leave Colombo, stopping first at the megalithic burial site at Ibbankatuwa. After lunch, we will visit Mihintale, site of the island’s first Buddhist sermon and first conversion of a long line of kings, and continue to the Palm Garden Village for the night.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Thursday, November 13: HABARANA: Our day begins at the ancient city of Anuradhapura, royal capital from the late 5th century BCE until it was sacked and burned by Chola Tamils in 993 and the power of the Sinhalese kings was transferred to Polonnaruwa. It will take us the full day to examine the remains of 15 centuries of continuous occupation. As we stroll among the ancient buildings we will be awed by the huge dimensions of the three dagobas of the oldest periods and charmed by the unique architecture and moonstone thresholds of its monasteries and temples. We will also visit the site museum, which displays the sculptures, bas-reliefs and other precious artifacts from the site. Our hotel for the next four nights will be the Habarana Lodge, conveniently located in the middle of the cultural triangle.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Friday, November 14: HABARANA: The story of King Kasyapa’s retreat to his palace, built 600 feet above the surrounding forest on the rock of Sigiriya, is filled with intrigue, murder, revenge and suicide. It took him seven years to build his citadel and its spectacular gardens, pools and pavilions, designed to blend with the natural landscape. This extraordinary complex is no less beautiful today than it was in the 5th century BCE. We shall climb Kasyapa’s citadel slowly, stopping to enjoy the water garden terraces, the famous “Sigiriya maidens” painted in a rock gallery, and the magnificent views. We will have earned an afternoon at leisure before our BBQ dinner and traditional Devil Dance performance at a local residence.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Saturday, November 15: HABARANA: We will spend the full day at the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa. A series of great builders, including Vijayabahu I (1055-1110), builder of the first Temple of the Tooth, and Parakramabahu (1153-86), who built vast numbers of dams, reservoirs and canals, have provided us with a magnificent site with acres of unique architectural elements, delicately engraved columns and wonderful friezes. A visit to the new site museum will end this fabulous day.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Sunday, November 16: HABARANA: This morning we will visit the huge Aukana Buddha and the massive 4th-century CE reservoir at Kalavewa. We then continue to the great rock temple of Dambulla. The easy ascent rewards us with cave temples decorated with paintings and effigies carved out of the living rock. The afternoon will be at leisure. For those of us who have always wanted to try an elephant trek, our hotel will make the arrangements for this afternoon. An alternative option might be a guided walk in the nearby nature reserve to study medicinal plants and wildlife.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Monday, November 17: KANDY: En route to Kandy we will stop to visit Aluvihare, the site where the Buddhist doctrine Tripitaka was finally written down on talipot palm leaves. After viewing the cave temple’s graphic depictions of what awaits sinners, we have arranged an informal discussion about Sri Lankan Buddhism with the chief monks of this important temple. We will also visit a spice garden and stop for lunch at a charming restaurant created by a popular folk artist. Touring continues in Kandy at the Anglican Cathedral. This evening we will visit the Temple of the Tooth at the time of the puja, or prayer offerings. Our hotel, the Chaaya Citade Kandyl, is on the Mahaweli River, a short drive from the center of town.
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Tuesday, November 18: KANDY: Touring today begins at three temples of the Kandyan era: Gadaladeniya Viharaya, with its strong southern Indian influences reminiscent of the Hindu art of Vijayanagar; Lankatilaka Viharaya; and Kataragama Devale, famed for its carved wooden pillars. We then continue to the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage for lunch in a restaurant overlooking the elephants’ favorite bathing hole. We return to Kandy with time to visit a batik workshop and have some free time in town before attending a performance of traditional dance.
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Wednesday, November 19: NUWARA ELIYA: Before leaving Kandy we will visit the lovely Peradeniya Botanic Gardens. Our drive to Nuwara Eliya is along the edge of a lush highland landscape carpeted with green tea bushes. We will stop to sample the famed Ceylon teas and learn the secrets of fermenting and processing the tea leaves. Tonight will be spent in Nuwara Eliya, a former British mountain resort, at the very colonial Grand Hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Thursday, November 20: KATARAGAMA: Another spectacular mountain drive brings us to Ella Gap and lunch overlooking a precipice that affords us views across the hills to the Indian Ocean. We continue to Kataragama to visit the colorful markets and shrines associated with this pilgrim town. We will arrive at the Mandara Rosen Hotel with time to relax before our visit to the Kataragama Temple to witness its colorful and unique evening puja ceremony.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Friday, November 21: GALLE: Our early morning jeep safari to Yala National Park provides an opportunity to see wild buffaloes, black bears, elephants and, if we are really lucky, spotted panthers. En route to Galle we will stop at the Vishnu Shrine re-erected on the site of a famous pilgrim place. We will arrive in Galle in time to visit the Marine Archaeological Project before checking into the lovely Lighthouse Hotel.
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Saturday, November 22: GALLE: This morning we will visit the Martin Wikramasinghe Folk Museum for an excellent overview of traditional life in Sri Lanka. We then continue to the historical center of Galle, including its ramparts and fort, as well as the National Marine Museum, leaving time to stroll the lanes and enjoy the traditional Galle facades.
Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Sunday, November 23: GALLE: This morning our touring will include the fishing village of Weligama to see a megalith carved with a figure identified as Kushta Raja, the “leper king,” and the Purvarama monastery, whose image-house is considered to be one of the jewels of Buddhist painting. The remainder of the day will be at leisure before a performance of the Kolam Dance and our gala farewell dinner.
Meals: Breakfast & dinner

Monday, Tuesday, November 24 & 25: COLOMBO: On our way back to Colombo, we stop at Ambalangoda, known for its wooden mask craftsmen, arriving into Colombo for lunch at the Mount Lavinia Hotel. Tuesday we will transfer to the airport for our flights home. Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel.
Meals: Breakfast daily & 1 lunch


map of Sri Lanka





Sri Lanka Elephant Temple

Sri Lanka, Recliining Buddha


Sri Lanka, Young Buddhist Monks

Sri Lanka, Sigiriya Frescos

Sri Lanka Kandy