ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “heritage

HERITAGE VOGUE OF HOLLYWOOD ROAD (荷李活道), Central – Sheung Wan (中上環), Hong Kong

For two years in a row in 2017 and 2018, part of Hollywood Road in Old Central was closed off to host an one-day street carnival known “Heritage Vogue • Hollywood Road”. Live performances, activity booths, and temporary displays were set up to promote heritage preservation in Hong Kong. Being the second oldest street in the city and home to a range of heritage buildings, Hollywood Road in Central and Sheung Wan offers the perfect venue for such an event. In fact, Hollywood Road has long been an urban magnet for all history buffs and foreign tourists. Completed in 1844, Hollywood Road in Central – Sheung Wan was the vital connection linking the military barracks at Possession Point and the city centre in Central during the early colonial times. Today, it passes by some of Hong Kong’s most well known attractions and heritage buildings: Hollywood Park (荷李活道公園), Lascar Row antique market (摩羅街), Man Mo Temple (文武廟), Former Police Married Quarters PMQ (元創方), and Former Central Police Station Tai Kwun (大館), and also popular areas including the foodie paradise of NOHO, the entertainment Mecca of SOHO, and the vibrant Graham Street Market (嘉咸街市). To the disappointment of some people, Hollywood Road has nothing to do with the Hollywood in LA. Instead, there are two main theories behind the street’s naming. First, some say there were once holly trees, also known as Christmas berries, planted along the road. However, historical accounts dispute that holly trees were actually imported to Hong Kong years after the road was built and named. One type of holly tree (冬青) were actually widely planted in the Tai Ping Shan area as a type of Chinese medicine when Western medicine has yet being widely accepted by the people in Hong Kong. The second theory refers to the Hollywood House in Henbury, which was the former residence of John Francis Davis, the second governor (1844 – 1848) of colonial Hong Kong.

For decades, visitors coming to Hollywood Road would notice the abundance of antique shops and art galleries. Before massive land reclamation took place over a century ago, Hollywood Road was not far from the waterfront. Traders, sailors and smugglers would bring their overseas merchandises to sell at Hollywood Road. Gradually, Hollywood Road has become a vibrant marketplace for trading all sorts of curios and antiques from China and around the world. Today these antique shops and galleries continue to attract tourists from all over the world. The former Police Married Quarter, a listed modernist building, was preserved, renovated and opened to the public in 2014 as a mixed use art and design compound known as the PMQ. The project has brought new life into the historical street. In 2018, the long awaited Tai Kwun, or the former Central Police Station Compound also opened its doors to the public. Took 8 years and HKD 3.8 billion to complete, Tai Kwun is the most extensive conservation and revitalization project in Hong Kong. World renowned architect Herzog & de Meuron was involved in the master planning and architectural design of Tai Kwun, transforming the former police compound into a welcoming heritage and art centre. The completion of Tai Kwun and PMQ have dramatically transformed the cultural scenery of Hollywood Road, consolidating Hollywood Road as a primary tourist attraction in Hong Kong.

During the “Heritage Vogue • Hollywood Road” event, Hollywood Road was closed off between Tai Kwun and PMQ to host the street carnival. Live performances, activities booths, and temporary displays were set up to promote heritage preservation in Hong Kong. [Tai Kwun at Hollywood Road, Central, 4th November 2018]
The carnival was a rare opportunity in Hong Kong to promote heritage preservation through a large scale public event. [Junction of Lyndhurst Terrace and Hollywood Road, Central, 4th November 2018]
Passing by a number of heritage buildings, temples, and antique markets, the 1km Hollywood Road is a popular historical trail among tourists.
Trippen, a German shoemaker that we love, marks the intersection of Hollywood Road and Queen’s Street Central. The emergence of Trippen several years ago signaled a change of identity for Hollywood Road from traditional to modern and hip. [Junction of Hollywood Road and Queen’s Street Central, Sheung Wan, 2020]
In the recent ten fifteen years, restaurants, pubs and art galleries have taken over some of the old retail spaces along Hollywood Road. While 208 Duecento Otto serves Neapolitan pizza and other Italian culinary delights on Hollywood Road. The adjacent Chachawan, on the other hand, offers dishes from Thailand’s Northeast Isaan Region. [208 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, 2021]
Since 2008, art gallery Contemporary by Angela Li has been an active player in the art scene in Hong Kong, curating exciting exhibitions in Sheung Wan. [Shop window displaying an installation from The Lost Time Travel Machine, an exhibition by artist Angela Yuen at Contemporary by Angela Li, Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, 2020]
In the past, Hollywood Road Park (荷李活道公園) was named as Possession Point. This was where the Royal Navy landed and raised a British flag on Hong Kong Island before signing the Treaty of Nanjing in 1841. It was also the site of a former Dai tat dei (大笪地), a night bazaar with affordable eateries, stall vendors and street performers. [Hollywood Road Park, Sheung Wan, 2020]
Possession Point in the 19th century. [CC BY_NC_ND 4.0, Photograph by Robert Crisp Hurley. Image courtesy of Sixty Diamond Jubilee Pictures of Hong Kong, Historical Photographs of China, University of Bristol (www.hpcbristol.net)]
26 January 1841, Commodore Gordon Bremer formally took possession of Hong Kong Island. They landed at an area known as Possession Point (水坑口). Today, Possession Point is marked by Hollywood Road Park as well as Possession Street (水坑口街). [Junction of Possession Street and Queen’s Street Central, Sheung Wan, 2020]
The western half of Hollywood Road is the world famous antique marketplace. [Junction of Hollywood Road and Possession Street, Sheung Wan, 2020].
Each antique shop on Hollywood Road has its unique style and shopfront design. [Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, 2021]
Each antique shop at Hollywood Road might have its unique specialty. For example, Ever Arts Gallery is specialized in wooden furniture from the Ming and Qing Dynasty, while its neighbour focuses on old jade stones. [Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, 2021]
Liang Yi Museum (兩依藏博物館) hosts one of the largest furniture collection from the Ming and Qing Dynasty. [Near the Junction of Hollywood Road and Tank Lane, Sheung Wan, 2020].
Predating all antique shops on Hollywood Road, Man Mo Temple was the hub for the Chinese community during the early days of the founding of Hong Kong. [Man Mo Temple, Sheung Wan, 2020]
Especially attractive to foreign tourists, some antique shops still maintain a traditional appearance. [Friendship Trading Company (興華工藝古玩行), Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, 2020]
Shopfront of many antique shops appear like a treasure trove that welcomes anyone who has the patience for a treasure hunt. [True Arts and Curios (趣雅閣), Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, 2020]
The minimalist facade of Gallery 149 emerges as an interesting addition to the traditional cluster of antique shops on Hollywood Road. Specialized in Asian art and antiques, the gallery presents a fusion of styles between the old and new. [Gallery 149, Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, 2020]
Aberdeen Street marks the boundary between Central and Sheung Wan Districts. At the corner of Aberdeen Street and Hollywood Road stands a heritage building compound known as PMQ, the former Police Married Quarter. [Junction of Aberdeen Street and Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, 2020]
In 2014, the compound has been converted into a hub for artists and designers to exhibit and sell their creative products. [Near junction of Aberdeen Street and Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, 2020]
Painted figures of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin and Frank Sinatra dominate the podium facade of Madera Hollywood Hotel. On the ground floor, Villepin Art Gallery bravely entered the art scene of Hong Kong during the year of the pandemic. Founded by Dominique de Villepin, France’s former Prime Minister from 2005 – 2007, and his son Arthur de Villepin, a prominent art collector, Villepin is specialized in Asian art for collectors. [Junction of Peel Street and Hollywood Road, Central, 2020]
Opened in 1948 by Lam Fong Nam, a sugar cane farmer from the countryside, Kung Lee Sugar Cane Drink (公利真料竹蔗水) has been around for over 70 years. Dated back to about 1919, the historical building where Kung Lee situates is an iconic heritage building in the area. [Junction of Peel Street and Hollywood Road, Central, 2020]
Today, Kung Lee Sugar Cane Drink is operated by the fourth generation owner, who successfully modernized the business to attract younger customers, introducing new products such as sugar cane beer, and repainting their metal gate with colourful street art. [Junction of Peel Street and Hollywood Road, Central, 2017]
Apart from new products, Kung Lee Sugar Cane Drink still maintains a nostalgic ambience with decorations from its heyday. [Junction of Peel Street and Hollywood Road, Central, 2020]
Beyond PMQ towards Central, Hollywood Road has entered the entertainment area known as SOHO. The street has become livelier with more retail boutiques, pubs and restaurants. [Junction of Lyndhurst Terrace and Hollywood Road, Central, 2020]
Despite the changes of retail shops and facade decorations, the bend at the junction of Lyndhurst Terrace and Hollywood Road and the old fire hydrant have remained unchanged for decades. [Junction of Lyndhurst Terrace and Hollywood Road, Central, 2020]
Further east towards Central, the Central – Mid Levels Escalators bends up Shelley Street towards SOHO entertainment district and the Mid Levels residential area. [Junction of Central – Mid Levels Escalators and Hollywood Road, Central, 2020]
From the Central – Mid Levels Escalator, Hollywood Road [Junction of Central – Mid Levels Escalators and Hollywood Road, Central, 2020]
The former Central Police Station Compound, also known as Tai Kwun, marks the ending of Hollywood Road. After years of renovations, Tai Kwun opened to the public in 2018 as a art and heritage centre. It immediately became a cultural and tourist hot spot in Hong Kong. [Tai Kwun at Hollywood Road, Central, 2020]

CYCLE OF DESTRUCTION, Citadel of Aleppo, Syria

2006.05.10.

From the Great Mosque, we headed east and arrived shortly at the gate of Aleppo Citadel.  Perched on top of a limestone hill at the centre of the old city, Aleppo Citadel is the most dominating structure in the old city.  We crossed the moat via the imposing stone bridge and entered the citadel complex, which contained restored stone buildings from the Medieval Ages.  The citadel was once a powerful stronghold of the Muslims to defend their homeland against the crusaders, and is today considered to be one of the largest citadels in the world.  Apart from its size and dominance of Aleppo’s skyline, it is the citadel’s complex layer of history and cycles of destruction and restoration that captivate people’s imagination.

Most of the remaining structures in the citadel were erected by the Ayyubids in the 12th and 13th century.   A 2009 excavation showed the citadel hill has a much longer history, as remains of a Bronze Age Neo-Hittite temple dated to the 3rd millennia BC was unearthed.  The hill was first used as a fortress and acropolis in the 4th century BC during the reign of Seleucus I Nicator.  Since then, the citadel had changed hands many occasions, and had been destroyed and restored many times due to warfare and earthquakes.  In the Medieval era, the citadel served as a Muslim stronghold, and a number of crusaders were imprisoned here.  Then the citadel was sacked by the Mongols two times before taken by the Ottomans in the 16th century.  After a mid 19th century earthquake that destroyed much of the complex, the citadel was first extensively restored by Ottoman Sultan Abdulmejid I, and then later by the French Mandate after the First World War.  The latest ordeal came from the Battle of Aleppo (2012 – 2016) in the Syrian Civil War, when 60% of the old city was destroyed.  The mighty citadel suffered significant damages from bomb and missile attacks.  The cycle of destruction and restoration has once again came to a full circle.  Let’s hope one day a long lasting peace would arrive and break the cycle of destruction once and for all.

06ME22-25Sultan Ghazi reinforced the Citadel in early 13th century.  His works included deepening the moat and constructing a tall entrance bridge / viaduct.

citadel 2_01As a famous defensive structure, the Citadel was guarded by a bent entrance complex where intruders would need to go through six turns up a vaulted ramp via a killing zone where hot liquids or stones would be dropped.

06ME22-27While the Outer Gate was damaged in the Battle of Aleppo, the imposing Inner Gate seems to be intact.

06ME22-29Sometimes considered as a city within a city, Aleppo Citadel contained dwellings, palaces, bathhouses, temples, mosques, as well as military barracks.

06ME22-30Originally built as a Byzantine church, the Mosque of Abraham has a tranquil little courtyard to welcome worshipers.

06ME22-32The amphitheatre in the Citadel is actually a modern addition from 1980s to hold concerts.

citadel 6_01The stone wall of the former palace is decorated with exquisite carvings of Islamic patterns.

06ME22-35Destroyed by an earthquake in the 19th century, the Throne Hall built by the Mamluks is one of the splendid structures restored in the Citadel.

Streetscape 8Before the civil war, lookouts from the Citadel offered some fine views of the bustling Hawl al-Qalaa Street below.

06ME22-31The prewar Aleppo was long gone.  Photographs from 2016 and beyond show significant destruction of buildings surrounding the Citadel.

06ME22-34The Grand Serail served as the former governor house from 1933 to 2008.  The building was completely destroyed in August 2014 by an underground explosion.

06ME23-04Inside the Citadel, the main street connects the Entrance Gate to Ayyubid Palace, Mosque of Abraham and the Big Mosque with its prominent minaret.

06ME23-06Most buildings in the Citadel survived the war but significant damages were made at various parts of the complex.

citadel 3Walking in the Citadel before the war was a peaceful experience to learn about the history of the great city.

citadel 1Decorative stone details at a doorway in the Citadel.

06ME25-26During the Battle of Aleppo, the Syrian army used the Citadel as a military base, shelling the surrounding areas through arrow slits on the ancient walls.  A part of the wall was destroyed in the battles.

06ME25-29In prewar Aleppo, the area around the Citadel was the most peaceful and atmospheric in the evening.

06ME25-27It might still be years away before Aleppo can regain its peaceful atmosphere, rise up from the ruins and proudly showcase its cultural heritage to the world once again.


NATURE’S SCULPTURE PARK, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

2006.05.07

Our bus arrived in Goreme at around 08:00.  Surprisingly the bus went all the way to the village centre, instead of the otogar at Nevsehir.  Arriving at Cappadocia in early morning felt like waking up in another world: minimal traffic, occasional herds of sheep, stone houses and cave dwellings.  But it was the bizarre rock formations, some of which towering straight up the sky known as fairy chimneys that captured our imagination.  The unique rock formations of Cappadocia began 2.6 million years ago when eruption of the ancient volcano Mount Erciyes covered the area (about 20,000 square kilometres) with lava and ash.  The ash later solidified into soft rocks exposed to erosion from wind and water.  As most of the soft rocks were eroded away, the remaining hard rocks appeared like stone chimneys towering towards the sky.

We checked in at Hotel Elif Star to begin our temporary stay in a cave.  The owner Jacky and her cat welcomed us.  Jacky pulled out a map and recommended to us a number of hiking trails around the area, and a few lookouts for sunset watching.

1In the midst of fairy chimney rock formations, unique valleys and the open air museum, Goreme is the main tourist hub in Cappadocia.

2Inhabited since the Hittite era (1800-1200 BC), cave dwellings had been constructed in the era for thousands of years.

3Throughout history, cave dwellings and underground structures have been carved out from the volcanic tuff.  These rock-cut houses of Cappadocia provided homes and hideouts for people escaping from wars and persecutions from close and afar.

4This world famous UNESCO world heritage town receives significant amount of tourists, reaching a record high of 3.8 million in 2019.  When we visited in 2006, Goreme still maintained a relatively peaceful ambience.

5Souvenir shops lined up the main street of Goreme.

6Remnants from the past were still visible on the fairy chimneys in the side streets of Goreme.

7Other than cave dwellings, other buildings in Goreme are also constructed with the local stones.

8We stayed at Elif Star, one of the many cave hotels in Goreme.

9This people-friendly cat approached us during our breakfast time at Elif Star.

10Late afternoon offers the best moment to photograph the unique rock formations.

11There are several popular spots to watch the sunset in and around Goreme.

12Everyday, if weather is fine, tourists should be able to appreciate the scenery of fairy chimneys blanketed in the orange glow.

13Around Goreme, there are a number of hiking trails to explore the interesting rock formations.

14Even without exploring the surrounding valleys, visitors at Goreme can still get close to the fairy chimneys.

15Cappadocia offered one of the best sunset scenery we have ever experienced.

16We watched the sunset everyday while we were in Cappadocia.

17At night, Goreme returns to its former tranquility after tourists make their way back to their hotels.


COTTON CASTLE, Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey

2006.05.06

Three hours of bus ride took us from Selcuk to Pamukkale.  Like everyone else, we came to Pamukkale for the spectacular travertine terraces.  As we hopped off the bus, we were immediately approached by bus companies selling us tickets onward from Pamukkale.  Along the path to the pools, we stopped by a small shop for a bowl of spicy Korean noodles.  The first glance of the white travertine pools cascading up the slope under the blue sky was a truly spectacular sight.  Pamukkale in Turkish literally means “cotton castle”.  To many, the otherworldly scenery of the white and reflective travertine pools is one of the two most iconic natural wonders of Turkey (the other being the rock formations of Cappadocia).  The travertine terraces at Pamukkale is made from continuous mineral deposit of hot spring accumulated for thousands of years.  Calcium carbonate from the hot spring is deposited as a soft gel and gradually crystallizes into travertine.  Pamukkale has been a popular tourist attraction for over two thousand years.  Hieropolis, the spa resort town at Pamukkale, was founded in the 2nd century BC and flourished for centuries as a hot spring and healing resort in the Roman and Byzantine Empire.  Today, Pamukkale continues to see large number of visitors from all over the world.

We entered the gate and soon found ourselves arriving at the remarkable travertine area.  Shoes were not allowed, and visitor circulation was restricted to a designated path going uphill to the top.  The only way to truly experience the pools up close was to take off our shoes and hiked up the travertine path in barefoot.  Covered with layers of calcium deposit, walking uphill on the travertine was quite a torture for our feet.  Along the way, we were disappointed to see that most pools had been dried up.  Moreover, this site was just full of visitors jammed one after another on the path.  Unless visiting at 8am during low season, it was next to impossible to enjoy the natural beauty without getting frustrated from overcrowding and misbehaving tourists.  According to the UNESCO, this world heritage is threatened by over-tourism, hotel constructions near the pools, water pollution by bathers, illegal diversion of thermal water, etc.  In recent years, hotels near the pools were removed, vehicular access banned, and pool access for tourists has been restricted, but overcrowding remains as an issue for the management to tackle.

travertine pools 1The sheer scale of the white travertine terraces is quite spectacular.

travertine pools 3We were lucky to have perfect blue sky during our visit.

travertine pools 2The travertine terraces are as white as snow, but as hard as rocks.

travertine pools 4The lower section of the terraces look fairy-tale like from a distance.

travertine pools 5We were disappointed to see many terraces were dried up.

travertine pools 6The scene would be quite different if the hot spring remained flowing down the terraces.

travertine pools 7Other than Pamukkale, similar terraces and pools can be found elsewhere in the world, such as Hierve el Agua in Mexico and Huanglong in China.  Each site has its own unique qualities.

travertine pools 9The weather didn’t look too promising when we reached the top of the terraces.

06ME15-06Before the weather get any worse, we headed over to Hieropolis for a brief visit of the Roman ruins.


SELIMIYE MOSQUE, Edirne, Turkey

2006.05.02

Often compared to his contemporary Michelangelo in the west, Mimar Sinan was the greatest architect of the Ottoman Empire.  Out of the 370+ projects in his 50-year career, the famous chief architect of the Ottoman Empire considered Selimiye Mosque his true masterpiece.  The UNESCO seems to agree on this and granted Selimiye Mosque the status of a world heritage.  The huge complex is organized as a külliye, with a wide range of functions managed by the mosque.  At Selimiye, Sinan experimented with various configuration of domes, semi-domes and galleries to form an impressive and unified interior bathed with natural light.  The famous mosque was even depicted on the Turkish 10,000 lira banknote from 1982 – 1995.

06ME06-08A statue of Mimar Sinan was erected in front of the Mosque to commemorate his architectural achievement.

06ME06-10Instead of a series of small domes, Sinan built a large central dome instead.  The size of the dome is similar to the one at Hagia Sophia.

06ME06-16As a külliye, the mosque complex also includes schools, covered market, clock house, outer courtyard and library, all being managed under one single institution.

Selimiye Camii 2Four identical minarets were erected by Sinan instead of a series of distinctive minarets like many of its predecessors.

Selimiye Camii 3At the four corners, minarets point up to the sky.

06ME06-23The interior is dominated by a series of semi domes and the central dome.  Lines are symmetrical, simple and elegant.

06ME06-28Just like the Hagia Sophia, celestial windows are provided at the dome base to lighten up the interior.

Selimiye Camii 6Supported by eight pillars, the dome is a stunning spectacle from below.

Selimiye Camii 8A drinking fountain is housed under a richly decorated structure.

Selimiye Camii 9Considered as one of the finest in Turkey, the mihrab is visible from any location in the mosque.

Selimiye Camii 10Several circles of lights are suspended over the vivid carpet to provide a warm ambience in the evening.


TEMPLE OF THE SACRED TOOTH RELIC, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.09

Day 5 (3 of 3).

It was about 2.5 hour drive from Dambulla to Kandy.  After settling in at our guesthouse, we hopped on a tuk tuk for Sri Dalada Maligawa, or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.  The temple is the most important attraction in Kandy and probably the most sacred Buddhist site in the country.  We wanted to visit during the evening puja, the prayer session when the altar door of the gold casket that carries the Buddha’s sacred tooth would be opened for blessing.  The tuk tuk dropped us right at the entrance of the temple compound, at a busy section of Kandy Road where it bends upon reaching the waterfront of Kandy Lake.  After security check and a pleasant stroll through the forecourt dotted with historical memorials, we stored our shoes at the shoe booth for foreigners.  At the temple entrance, we purchased some lotus flowers as offering.

Apart from its religious importance as a relic of the Buddha, the tooth relic has long been considered as the symbol of political power since the ancient times.  After a war was fought in India over the possession of the tooth relic 800 years after the Buddha’s death, the tooth relic was eventually brought to Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamali.  It was first housed in the Abhayagiri Vihara in Anuradhapura, then to Polonnaruwa and other cities in the nation as the capital city shifted from place to place.  In late 16th century, the tooth relic arrived in Kandy.  In the 17th century, it was periodically fallen in the hands of the Portuguese invaders.  With the aid from the Dutch,  King Rajasimha II  eventually drove the Portuguese away and recovered the tooth relic.  King Vira Narendra Sinha (reigned 1707 – 1739) was responsible for building the current temple that houses the sacred tooth.

01We approached the temple after walking through the forecourt.  Before entering, we left our shoes at the shoe storing facility.

02Paththirippuwa, the octagonal pavilion built in 1802 by Sri Vickrama Rajasingha, was intended for the king to showcase the tooth relic and address the public.  Since the British era, Paththirippuwa has been used as a library of the temple.

03We entered the temple complex through an arch passageway full of wall paintings.

04Time was still early for the puja, so we decided to visit the Royal Palace complex next to the temple first.   We ventured out into Maha Maluwa, the Great Terrace dotted with statues and pavilions, as well as Magul Maduwa, the Royal Audience Hall.  Looking back to the temple from Maha Maluwa, we could see the golden canopy of the main shrine.

05Magul Maduwa or the Royal Audience Hall was where the king met his ministers and facilitated public audience.  Built in 1783 by King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, Magul Maduwa is supported by two rows of elegantly carved wooden pillars.

06Maybe the time was late, most buildings in the Royal Palace area were closed.  Before heading back to the temple, we stopped by a prayer pavilion.

07Behind the main shrine we arrived at a prayer hall with a golden statue of the Buddha.  The room also houses a series of paintings depicting the legend of the Sacred Tooth.

08In front of the Palle Malaya or the lower level of the main shrine lies the Hewisi Mandapaya or the drummer’s platform.  Beats from the Hewisi drummers marked the moment of puja, the evening prayer.

09 Hewisi drummers dressed in traditional costumes perform their rituals twice daily.

10Visitors can walk around the richly decorated Palle Malaya (lower floor of the main shrine).

11Above the main shrine is the golden canopy built in 1987, while the upper floor of the main shrine, known as Weda Hitana Maligawa, is the venue where the main worship takes place in front of the shrine of the Sacred Tooth.

12The upper floor of the main shrine is known as Weda Hitana Maligawa, a beautiful timber pavilion where tourist and local worshipers wait for the opening of Handun Kunama, the main shrine that houses the Sacred Tooth.

13On the upper floor, we put down our lotus flower offering on the long table and sat down at a corner to wait for the actual ceremony.

14During puja, visitors are allowed to get close to Handun Kunama where the Sacred Tooth is housed.

15The Handun Kunama where the Sacred Tooth is housed is covered with golden decorations.

16The metal work of Handun Kunama is exquisite.

17During the actual ceremony, the window of Handun Kunama was opened, allowing us who queued for quite some time to get a quick peek at the golden casket of the Sacred Tooth.  After a quick peek, we left the Weda Hitana Maligawa altogether as it was getting really crowded and a little chaotic.

18On the lower level, tourists and worshipers lined up for entering different shrines and display areas.

19We left the temple through the same passageway we came in.

DSC_7624It was completely dark when we returned to the forecourt of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.

 


DAMBULLA CAVE TEMPLE, Dambulla, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.09

Day 5 (2 of 3).

We arranged a taxi from Sigiriya to Kandy, and made a stop at Dambulla to visit Sri Lanka’s largest cave temple complex. The UNESCO World Heritage site is usually visited along with Sigiriya or Kandy nearby.  About 80 caves are found in Dambulla, with most of the highlights found in five caves.  The 153 statues and 2,100 sq.m of murals of the Dambulla Cave Temple represent the finest example of Buddhist cave art on the island.

King Valagamba of Anuradhapura concerted earlier caves into a Buddhist temple in the 1st century BC.  Later kings continued to expand the cave complex.  By the 11th century, the caves had become an established religious centre on the island.  This significant religious hub remains to the present.  The white verandas and colonnades outside of the caves were added in 1938 as an embellishment to the two thousand year old cave temple network.

01The 10 minute climb up to the rock temple prepared us spiritually for the visit.

02Near the cave temple, a family of monkeys greeted all visitors with funny looks.

03At the temple entrance stairway, a cat was busy chewing onto grass.

04The 1938 verandas gave the ancient cave temple an elegant facade to greet visitors.

05The Cave of the Divine King is dominated by the 14m long reclining Buddha.

06Above the reclining Buddha, the walls and ceiling of the cave are covered with Buddhist murals.

07The statue of Ananda, favourite pupil of the Buddha, stand next to the feet of the reclining Buddha.

08A rather Western appearance of the 1938 veranda give the cave temple an elegant look, contributing to the fact that the cave temple is continuing to evolve as time goes by.

09Reinforcement were added to the cave entrances.

10Antique wooden booth inside the Cave of the Great Kings.

11In Cave of the Great Kings, the largest cave of the temple, a small stupa and a “healing” spring dripping from a ceiling crack are two of the distinct features apart from the collection of statues and murals.

12Every inch of the cave is covered by murals.

13In this cave, King Nissanka Malla of Polonnaruwa was responsible for gilding of 50 statues in the 12th century.

14Artificial lighting have been installed to replace candles from the past.

15Statue of what could have been King Vattagamani Abhaya or Valagamba, the first patron of the temple.

16Throughout history, these caves have been repainted over and over again.

17Lighting at some of the other caves are dimmer than the Cave of the Great Kings.

18We loved the tranquil atmosphere of the lotus pond, white veranda and rock caves.  After checking out the caves of Dambulla, we moved on to Kandy, the last historical capital of Sri Lanka before the colonial era.