Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sri Lanka Visit

I was on a three day visit to Sri Lanka for a Bosch Business meeting. On 13 May'2008 I emplaned from the lovely Nedumbasseri International Airport near Angamali. This is probably one of the best airports in India at present. The building architecture is traditional Kerala style & there is so much space all around the Airport, that there is no question of a traffic congestion ever occurring.
We had reached Angamali the previous night, visited Kalady, the birth place of Adi Sankara, and after worshipping there we spent the night at Hotel Abad Airport.
The carrier was Sri Lankan and the flight duration from Nedumbasseri to Bandaranaike Airport was approximately 55 minutes. The plane touched down around 10.30 IST. There is no time difference between IST & Sri Lankan time. The airport is in Katunayake around 25 Kms north of Colombo. It is a spanking new airport built to international standards & comparable to the best airports in the world like Singapore & Bangkok. We were received by a coach & driven straight to Colombo ( one hours drive) for lunch at the Taj Samudra. Colombo city appeared to be old, dusty, underdeveloped & war torn - in fact it presented the sight of an ancient city right out of the distant past. Sri Lanka is about 70 percent Buddhist with large concentrations of Christians, Hindus and Muslims as well. The destructive path of the tsunami in Sri Lanka killed over 30,000 people and left hotels, homes, and buildings in complete shambles. No Buddha statues were reported as being broken, cracked or destroyed during the onslaught of the massive tidal wave.
Post lunch we resumed the coach journey southward on the Colombo-Galle highway along the coast line & after nearly 2 1/2 hours drive reached Bentota & checked into the lovely & scenic Taj Bentota hotel. Enroute we crossed the towns of Dehiwala, Moratuwa, Panatura, Kalutara & Aluthgama. The coast line was splendid, has retained its natural beauty and generally unencumbered by needless construction.
Taj Bentota is an exotic hotel right on the South Western Coast of Sri Lanka. Rooms are neat & well furnished with a sea facing balcony. On 13th evening there was a gala cocktails & dinner accompanied by entertainment by Sri Lankan folk dancers. On 14 th morning we went on a coach tour to a turtle conservation hatchery followed by a visit to Kandi Vihara which has a large Buddhist Temple & a smaller Vishnu shrine adjacent. The Buddha statue here, that was built around two hundred years ago, is the highest in Sri Lanka.
We had a business session in the afternoon lasting around 4 hours and that was followed by more entertainment - fire dance, fire works on the beach, turkish belly dances amidst constant flow of alcohol & snacks.
Next day (15 March'08) we checked out early after a quick breakfast. Reached Colombo for a spot of shopping followed by lunch in a vegetarian restaurant run by Sri Lankan Tamils & finally reached Bandarnaike Airport to catch the late evening flight back to Nedumbassery.
The trip was indeed memorable with several nice moments.
Mahinda son of Asoka an ardent follower of Buddhism, led the mission to Sri Lanka in 246 BC where he converted the King of Sri Lanka to Buddhism. From then on, the royal families patronized and encouraged the spread of Buddhism, aiding Buddhist missionaries and building monasteries & Viharas. Sanghamitra, daughter of Ashoka, brought a shoot of the Bodhi Tree from Bodh Gaya to Sri Lanka and established the Order of Nuns. Around 200 BC, Buddhism became the official religion of Sri Lanka. The Relic of the tooth of Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka in 4th century AD by Prince Danta and Princess Hemamla.
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