Sifting through these photos of Sri Lanka, I realize life is all about connecting. Why do we do anything? Listen to music. Watch a movie. Play in a band. Write a novel, a blog. Travel abroad. Take photos. Go to a bar. Say a prayer. Watch the sunset. Connection. Connection with nature, humanity, the ethereal, an idea, ourselves.
If we didn’t, life would have little meaning.
The volume of cave paintings at Dunhuang, China versus Dambulla, Sri Lanka is without parallel, but the beauty, reverence and auspicious feng shui definitely are. Created by monks and artists around 100 BC, Dambulla Cave Temple contains hundreds of captivating murals and statues depicting Sri Lankan kings, Hindu Gods, the Buddha and his many acolytes. Carved into a colossal rock over 500 feet in height, the stunning visuals leave a transcendent impression on one’s heart and imagination.
On my 4th and 5th day, I travel to the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya, the eastern point of the Golden Triangle where 80’s synthpop group, Duran Duran, filmed their enchanting video, Save a Prayer.
Walking amidst stone temples, palaces and stepped pyramids, I notice a striking resemblance to the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat located 4,200 miles to the east. Both cultures must have come from a similar place of origin and/or shared a common architectural blueprint. Whichever the case, they are both immersed in mystery and magic.
Throughout my second day in Anuradhapura, I explore more temples and stupas and acquire firsthand knowledge of Sri Lankan history. For instance, I learn that a fig from the same Bodhi tree where Siddhartha Gautama reached enlightenment beneath was planted here in 288 BC, eventually becoming the oldest planted tree on record. Since it was heavily-surrounded by colorful flags and a golden fence, I was unable to snap a photo that gave its ancient beauty any justice.
In addition, I learned why some statues near the Jetavanaramaya stupa had European-styled sideburns painted on their austere faces. Occupying Sri Lanka from 1815 to 1948, British officials mandated that various statues integrate a British likeness to them, the two below being altered in 1936.
Feasting on a Sri Lankan dinner, I wonder what other sacred statues around the world have been altered with European noses and big, bushy sideburns.
Recently I traveled along what was once the Silk Road. Of course what remains doesn’t reflect the grandeur of ancient times, but with a little help from Google, a compass and friendly locals, I was able to locate a few gems (big ones!). Traveling from east to west, they are Maijishan, Mati Temple and the Mogao Grottoes.
Maijishan @ Tianshui, China
Mati Temple @ Zhangye, China
Mogao Grottoes @ Dunhuang, China
Her hair flows freely
like a monk’s silken robe:
Her hands bloom softly
above fertile soil:
Her eyes glow faintly
behind endless cloud:
She sees all
She hears all
She feels all
She gives all
– Quiet –
My quiet doodle of a plant that never stops giving: the bamboo