Safely into Colombo harbour last night, albeit in a cargo berth with a view of three silos from our window and a rather oily atmosphere overnight. Nevertheless, the Easter Bunny found us!
A little plate of eggs and a chocolate bunny was awaiting us when we got back from dinner last night and the whole ship has a decidedly chocolatey theme to it today.
So, at six this morning, we were scheduled to make the move from the less glamorous bit of the seaport to the passenger terminal and as soon as we did, we were off to explore Colombo.
The buildings around the port area were interesting and had a distinctly Sri Lankan flavour…
Our first stop was the Kelaniya Temple where, as soon as we stepped out of our shoes and into the temple complex, our breath was taken away by the sheer decorative beauty of the place. Walking barefoot on wet sand, we pottered about outside watching the families arrive to visit the temple and make offerings in their quiet, dignified way.
In the meantime, there was so much to see, so many small details, we didn’t know where to look first.
As usual, my eye went straight for the colour and the area where flowerbuds, water and prayer flags had been left.
The fresh blossoms signify youth and remind the worshippers of the transience of life.
I wanted to ask our guide about the thread held by the girls but sadly forgot. Another thing to add to my ever lengthening list.
As we stood admiring the flowers a woman brought over a single blue lotus flower, suggesting to our friend that she offer it for someone dear to her. The flower itself was magnificent, appearing to have some kind of inner light in the centre. I had not seen that particular kind of lotus flower before and must say that my photograph doesn’t really catch the irridescence of the real thing.
But if outside was breathtaking, the inside of the principal building was in another league. We began in the entry hall, where every surface was decorated with dark, rich painting of awe-inspiring detail.
This, one small corner of it gives some kind of impression of what greeted us when we stepped inside.
Each small area was a masterpiece in itself and we could have stayed much, much longer, peering in the half-light at these beautiful images.
But clearly, there was more to see. In the next room lay a reclining Buddha, which reminded me that I didn’t have the answer to my earlier question – was this a reclining Buddha sleeping, or passed away? Our guide had the answer: four features define these two states and this one was sleeping because his eyes were partly open, his headpiece was bright and shiny, his toes parallel and his chest expanded. Now I know what to look for!
More blossoms along the shelf in front of this huge Buddha, tiny scented jewels every one.
The figure itself was magnificent, even shrouded in the net curtain.
The next room was altogether different in feel from the first, being painted top to bottom in a more watercolour style, almost arts and crafts/pre-raphaelite in flavour.
Here, Buddha sat in front of a mountain scene, serenely in an arch.
Remnants of saffron cloth were wrapped here and there, toning beautifully with the ochre patterns on the walls.
Once again, the small scenes depicted were exquisite in detail and rewarded a close look.
We could have spent hours in this room too, gazing at each wall in turn, but as usual, it was time to move right along.
Stepping outside into the bright sunshine – sorry about the shadow – there was an elaborate moonstone as we’d come to expect now.
The archway was supported by a fine elephant, too. We were to find out more about the features of the doorways later on, when we visited the museum. For now, we simply admired.
All the time we were admiring, the visitors to the temple were going about their business, making their offerings and prayers in their traditional, quiet manner. Though I felt that we were intruding, we were reassured that this was not the case.
This monk was completely at peace in a busy thoroughfare
and another had found a shady spot for his meditation.
Leaving the temple behind, passing by the flower sellers in the car park, we really would have felt satisfied had our tour ended there. Already we had seen and absorbed so much and it wasn’t even 9am!
But there was more to come. Firstly, a flavour of Colombo’s young men and their “cars” – or rather three-wheelers, which amused us with the slogans and little personalisations
These little vehicles are the mainstay of life here, as in other places we’ve visited recently. But here in Colombo, they are far from the rickety, held-together-with-string-and-a-bit-of-tape variety we’ve seen in Chennai. No, here they are souped-up, designer three-wheelers! What fun!
So, there’s more to come. We’ll visit the museum and the Hindu temple this afternoon, but for now…enough!