Saturday, June 25, 2011

Trincomalee and Pollanaruwu

Konneshwaram Temple in the morning!
The last two weeks passed really quickly and I am really going to miss MEF a lot( not the dung cleaning part though). I headed east last night on a train from Polgahawela to Trincomalee. Trincomalee is the largest port in the country and has two natural harbors. The city has been developed on the peninsula that divides these two harbors. My train reached early in the morning at around six. Deciding to immediately go and cover the Konneshwaram temple during the morning pooja I hired an auto. After a lengthy exercise in translation I managed to get him to understand where exactly I wanted to go but he still dropped me only at the base of the hill. I did manage to hike up(I haven't done any climbing whatsoever since the Guadalupe escape!)  I hadn't really done my research on the temple so I was pleasantly surprised to find the temple on top of a hill which gives a panoramic view of both the harbors in Trincomalee. What I found quite interesting was one of the bays is known as Chinabay, simply because of the Chinese trade taking place here since the time of the Dutch. Though it had been destroyed several times by different colonialists, the temple always had been rebuilt by the generous donations of the Tamil population in Trincomalee. The Dutch fort is actually what surrounds the hill which the Konneshwaram is built on. So after the morning rituals I walked down the hill and took in as much of the scenery as I could. The Frederick Fort( or the Dutch Fort)  is probably the only colonial fort in Sri Lanka that is still operational. The Sri Lankan Army occupies most of the insides of the fort and life inside the fort seemed like a throw back to the British occupation of Ceylon.
After finishing the fort in a couple of hours I walked endlessly along the beach which was calm and serene compared to the water at the Unawatuna beach in Galle. Quite hungry I stopped by a seaside bakery and grabbed my favorite Sri Lankan quick snack, Eluwalu roti. I walked some more till the bus station and enquired about a bus to Polonnaruwa. It was a quite a pain to get the information from most people here and it is not that people aren't helpful. And this is why I  wish the Government of Sri Lanka would provide Tourist information centers in all their big tourist spots.
Reclining Buddha at Gal Vihara
The bus to Pollonarruwu left around 11:30 and there ended my short and sweet visit to Trincomalee. We reached Pollonarruwu around 2:00 and I decided to hurry before all the tourist places shut down. Polannaruwa is undoubtedly one of the cleanest Sri Lankan cities I've seen. This relics have been declared a World Heritage site for its magnificent sculptures of Buddha( at Gal Vihara). The ruins of the ancient city lie of the eastern shore of the Topa Wewa lake, which is an artificial lake so large you cannot see the other side. Built in the 12th Century by King Parakramabahu, the lake, according to a simple guidesheet I found outside, still serves as an excellent water system for the entire province and beyond. Gal Vihara Rock Temple, unparalleled among such ancient monastic edifices, takes the form of a group of colossal Buddha statues carved out of a granite boulder. Most prominent is the standing image which is over seven meter tall.
Next to it is an enormous fourteen meter wide reclining Buddha. The head rest on the right palm, while the left hand is stretched along the left side of the body. The dent on the pillow caused by the weight of the head and the slightly drawn in left leg add life to the superb rock carved work of poise and balance.

I finished this leg of my trip and headed to the Polonnaruwa railway station to find some dinner before taking the last train to Polgahawela. The day has been nothing short of tiring and I am just waiting to get back into a proper bed!

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