Ancient Island of Sri Lanka: the Land of Delights
Sri Lanka Holidays: Total Holiday Experience
Sri Lanka Holidays takes you to the ancient glory of the ancient nation of Sinhalese of Ancient Sri Lanka. The ancient island of Sri Lanka makes your touring holidays a total holiday experience (THE). During your Sri Lanka Tours you will have the opportunity to visit no less than 6 World Heritage Cultural sites within 65,525 square kilometers (25,299 Sq. miles).
The glory of the Sinhalese of Ancient Lanka
Sinhalese are an endangered nation.
"When the Guide of the World, having accomplished the salvation of the whole world and having reached the utmost stage of blissful rest, was lying on the bed of his nibbana; in the midst of the great assembly of gods, he, the great sage, the greatest of those who have speech, spoke to Sakka' who stood there near him: "Vijaya, son of king Sihabahu, is come to Lanka from the country of Lala, together with seven hundred followers. In Lanka, O lord of gods, will my religion be established, therefore carefully protect him with his followers and Lanka. When the lord of gods heard the words of the Buddha he from respect handed over the guardianship of Lanka to the god who is in colour like the lotus."
History: 2550 years of unbroken recorded history beginning from 543 BC
Ancient kingdoms: Anuradhapura (437 BC-845 AD), Polonnaruwa (846 AD-1302 AD) (entire cities are UNESCO World Heritage Sites)
Ancient citadels: The Lion Rock citadel (Sigiriya) (479-496 AD) (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Medieval Kingdoms: Kandy the Royal City (1469-1815 AD) (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Invaders: Dravidians from South India (Intermittent invasions 161 BC-1236 AD), Portuguese (1505- 1655), Dutch (1656-1795), British (1796-1814)
Colonialist ruler: the British (1815-1948)
Cultural triangle: Mihintale, The Lion Rock citadel (Sigiriya) (WHS), Golden Dambulla Rock Temple (WHS), Anuradhapura (WHS), Polonnaruwa (WHS), Kandy the Royal City (WHS). Since five centuries prior to the birth of Christ, Lanka, Taprobane as Ptolemy called it, has been a throbbing isle of vitality and a well-ordered civilization of advanced network of irrigation engineering, rainwater management, hydraulic achievements & river basin management which made it the Granary of the Orient with trade relationship with the Roman Empire.
Cities, castles, palaces, fortresses, tens of thousands of rain water reservoirs, parks, temples, monasteries, monuments of art bear testimony to the character, imagination, culture, philosophy, faith & nature of the people of the Resplendent Isle. The vestiges of this ancient civilization, which are abundantly extant today, substantiate the ancient history recorded in the ancient chronicle of Lanka, Mahawamsa.
Epigraphica ZeylanicaThe University of Cambridge, England has 274 volumes of 'Epigraphica Zeylanica' with over 3000 inscriptions from Ceylon (that is more inscriptions than the whole of mainland China has, even though Sri Lanka is only 1/2 the size of the state of New York), including one dating back to 6th century BC. Over 2000 of these have been deciphered, indicating the consistent development of the Sinhalese language.
Irrigation"Neither in the lands of their (i.e. of the Indo-Aryan settlers) origin nor in South India did there develop an irrigation system of the magnitude or the complexity of that which the Sinhalese afterwards constructed in Ceylon; nothing comparable & contemporaneous (i.e.1st century A. D. - 12th centaury A. D.) with the ancient dam, canal & tank system of Ceylon, mingling the water of rivers flowing in different directions is known in continental India"
(A Short Account of the History of Irrigation Works, C. W. Nicholas, JRASCB 1960, 43-69)
"In no other part of the world are there to be found within the same space, the remains of so many works of irrigation, which are, at the same time, of such great antiquity, & of such vast magnitude as Ceylon. Probably no other country can exhibit works so numerous, & at the same time so ancient & extensive, within the same limited area, as this island"
Colonial Governor of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Sir Henry Ward (1885-1860)
Architecture"The constructive & artistic genius of the Sinhalese race proceeded in the following century (i.e.2nd century B. C.) to develop the design to an extent not found elsewhere. The most important examples erected in Ceylon are comparable with the greatest pyramids of Egypt. The two largest dagobas at Anuradhapura surpass in contents, three exceeded in height all but the two enormous pyramids Khufru & Khafra at Gizeh"
(Ancient Ceylon, H. Parker, 262)
Literature"One of the greatest contributions of the Sinhalese people to the cultural development of South & South East Asia & to world literature is the creation of a historic literature. It is well-known that on the Indian sub continent before the invasion of the Islamic conquerors virtually no historic literature had developed... Sri Lanka tells a different story. In the Dipavamsa & Mahavamsa & in various other Sinhalese texts, we are given an account of the political & cultural history of the island from earliest times until the present time"
(Wilhelm Geiger - His Life & Works, Heinz Bechert, 2nd ed., 69)
Colonization"The Sinhalese voluntarily surrendered their island to the British Sovereign with full reservation of their rights & liberties. They may thus claim to be one of the few ancient races of the world who have not been conquered."
(Sketches of Ceylon History by Sri Lankan-then called Ceylonese-Tamil scholar Ponnambalam Arunchalam, 1906)
"The Sinhalese people are not, in my opinion, happier or better than they were in the eighteenth century. Talk of progress, & the reality, are not the same. Civilization is supposed to advance by the creation of new desires, to gratify which the individual must endeavour to improve his position. But in reality it is not quantity, but quality of wants that may be taken as evidence of progress in the Art of Living. No one acquainted with modern Sinhalese taste will pretend that it gives evidence of any improvement in the quality of wants. Indeed, it is sufficiently obvious that quantity, variety, & novelty are not really compatible with quality."
Mediaeval Sinhalese Art: Sri Lankan - then called Ceylonese - Tamil scholar Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1908) comparing the period prior to British rule with the period of British rule.
Buddhist Bhikkus (monks)"Go and talk to the yellow robed and tonsured recluse - not of course through an interpreter, or out of a book of phrases: you must know not only his language but something of Buddhist ideas; and you must speak to him as man to man, not as the wise to the barbarian. You will certainly be courteous; for whatever else a Buddhist Bhikkhu may be, he will be sure to give proof of courtesy and a dignified demeanour. And it will be strange if you do not find a new world of thought and of feeling opening out before you."
Rhys Davids, Professor of Pali in the University of London at Manchester during 1882-1904
Creation of an IslandMount Meru or Mount Sumeru is a sacred mountain in Hindu mythology in considered to be the center of the universe. It is believed to be the abode of Brahma and other deities. The mountain is said to be 80,000 leagues (450,000 km) high and located in Jambudvipa, one of the continents on earth in Hindu mythology. Many Hindu temples & Angkor Wat, the principal temple of Angkor in Cambodia, have been built as symbolic representations of the Mountain. Legends say that Mount Meru and the wind god Vayu were bosom friends. However, the sage Narada approached Vayu and incited him to humble the mountain. Vayu blew with full force for one full year, but Meru was shielded by Garuda with his wings. However, after a year Garuda took respite for some time. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Vayu unleashed an assault with all his might. Thus the apex of the mountain was broken and it fell into the sea and created the island of Lanka.
The capital of Lanka too was then called Lanka. It is said to have been built of gold by Viswakarma, the architect of the gods for the residence of Kuvera, from whom it was taken by king Ravana.
Naming an IslandThe island was renamed Sri Lanka, meaning "resplendent land" in Sanskrit, in1972.
In Hindu epic Ramayana the island was known as Lanka.
Sri Lanka was known in many names:
Ratnadivpa (i.e. the island of precious stones),
Lanka & Lankadweepa (in Hindu epic Ramayana)
Heladiva (island of Hela=island of Sinhalese)
Tambapanni (Copper-coloured beach)
Simoundou, Taprobane by the Greeks & Romans (from Sanskrit Tambapanni)
Serendib (from the Sanskrit Sinhaladvipa, i.e. the island of the Sinhalese)
Si-lan by Chinese, Seylan by the Arabs
Celao during Portuguese era, Zeilan in the Dutch era
Ceylon during the colonization by the British.
Edward Barbosa, a Portuguese captain who visited the island in 1515, tried to persuade his countrymen to adopt Tennaserim, which in an ancient Indian language meant "Land of Delights", but they had already settled on Celao. To Marco Polo it was "a land like no other".
Cosmas Indicopleustes, the Byzantine author of "Christian Topography" twisted the Arabic into Sielediba, but the 18 th century English novelist Horace Walpole stuck to the original for his fairy tale, "The Three Princes of Serendib", & used it to coin "serendipity", meaning discovery by happy accident.
With us, Riolta Lanka Holidays, you too will have your own load & log of serendipitous discoveries over & above the scheduled discoveries.
SinhaleseThe Sinhalese are the indigenous people in Sri Lanka, and have lived in the island for over 2550 years. 'Sinhala' means 'of lion blood', because the prince who first settled in the island (with 500 followers in 6th century BC) was believed to have had a lion for a grandfather. The Sinhalese are of Indo-Aryan descent, and speak 'Sinhala', the oldest of the living Indo-Aryan languages. The Sinhalese have the oldest, continuously recorded history in the world-the story of the Sinhalese is traced back to 2550 years.
The first recorded hospital in the worldThe history of medical care began early, for in the fourth century BC King Pandukadhaya (437-366 BC), in the course of sanitizing the town constructed an Ayurvedic hospital.
At Mihintale you will witness the Ayurveda Medicine trough, a ruin of a hospital built in the ninth century AD. In the fourth century AD King Upastissa the second provided quarters & homes for the crippled & the blind. King Buddhadasa (337-365 AD) himself a physician of great repute, appointed a physician to be in charge of every ten villages. For the maintenance of these physicians, one tenth of the income of the fields was set apart. He also set up refuges for the sick in every village. Physicians were also appointed to look after the animals. King Kassapa the fifth (914-923 AD) founded a hospital close to the southern gate of Anuradhapura. General Sena in the tenth century is believed to have built a hospital close to the ceremonial street (Managala Veediaya).
The oldest recorded tree in the world: Sri Maha Bodhi (Sacred Bo-Tree)A sapling of the sacred Bo tree (Peepal) (Ficus religiosa) in the shelter of which Prince Siddhartha Gauthama attained supreme enlightenment & became Buddha (6th century BC) was brought to Sri Lanka by Buddhist nun Sanagamiita, as a gift from her father Mauryan Buddhist Indian Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BC. Today, the huge specimen of this Ficus religiosa has no rival to the claim of being the oldest historical tree (i.e. having the longest recorded written history) in the world. It has been protected by an uninterrupted series of Buddhist monks since it was planted.
The world's first museumThe world's first museum was built in Sri Lanka 2200 years ago. It housed the parts of the ship that brought the Bodhi sapling to Sri Lanka from India in 3rd century BC. Sri Maha Bodhi (Sacred Bo-Tree).
The world's first recorded (247 BC) wildlife and nature reserveSri Lanka was the setting - Mihintale being the site - of the world's first recorded (247 BC) wildlife and nature reserve, established by King Devanam Piya Tissa, a convert to conservationism preceded only by biblical Noah in the annals of human race: deeply influenced as he was by the inspirational message of the Buddha imparted to him by Arahat Mahinda. Further evidence of this deep-rooted concern for wildlife and the commitment to conservation is found in an inscription engraved on a stone slab at Anuradhapura's majestic millennia-old Ruwanweliseya Stupa. The inscription attributed to the 12th Century King Nissankamalla of Polononnaruwa, forbid the capture, killing or commercial trafficking of any animals, birds and fish within a radius of 7gau (4 miles) from the city. References to royal protection and preservation of wildlife are extant throughout the Mahavamsa and this traditional care and concern for creatures of the wild continues to this day.
Most possibly the oldest steel plant in the worldThe earliest evidence of steel making in the ancient world, dating back to 300 BC, has been found in the Samanalwewa reservoir area. In comparison, England's first steel making occurred in 1491. The early furnaces were ingeniously powered by natural draught-the monsoon winds-rather than the forced draught (bellow-operated) method employed elsewhere. Recent excavations found the ruins of a steel plant (built circa 300 BC) manned solely by wind power. Sri Lanka did indeed export high quality steel to Persia to make the famed Persian swords.
Ancient Sinhalese shipsAt one time, the Sinhalese ships were the biggest at Shanghai harbor (Chinese records), and history records a time when the representative of the Sinhalese sat on the right hand side seat of Claudius Caesar.
Elephants of Ancient LankaThe excellence of elephants of Sri Lanka was well known to the Greeks as far as back on 3rd century BC, in the time of Alexander the Great. Onescritus, an admiral of the fleet of Alexander the great stated elephants of Lanka "are bigger, more fierce & furious for war than those of India" Greek writers Megasthenes (300 BC) & Aelian (44AD) corroborate this. Sixth century writer Cosmos Indicopleustes says that the elephants from Sri Lanka were highly priced in India for its excellence in war.
The Ancient Maritime Sea route (250 BC-250 AD)In Topographia Christiana of the 6th century AD, Sri Lanka is referred to as an important sea trade center on the Maritime Silk Route. Sri Lanka is also mentioned in The Periplus Maris Erythraei, a guide to trade on the Red Sea & India, written by an author in Alexandria, supposed around 40 AD. The Ancient Maritime Sea Route (250 BC-250 AD) extended from Alexandria to China: Alexandria - Nabataean Kingdom - The Red Sea - Himyante Kingdom (Yemen) - The Arabian Sea - Satavahanos Kingdom (India) - Ruhuna Kingdom (Sri Lanka) - Malacca - Don Song Kingdom (Cambodia) - China.
One & only monument of the world built in honor of a fallen enemySri Lanka is the only country in the world known to have a monument built in honor of a fallen enemy (2nd century BC). Tamil invader Elara was killed in the epic war by the Sinhalese prince from Ruhuna who rose to become the hero of the nation. The victorious King Dutugamunu of Lanka decreed that anyone passing the monument pay homage to the dead king, who even though an invader. A Sinhalese aristocrat did so at the cost of his life as recent as 1815, while fleeing from the British who were at his heels. The ancient Sinhalese believed neither in being ruled by foreign powers nor the contrary. Whenever there were invaders, they were successfully overthrown, but once the kingdom was won back, these very same invaders were 'allowed to live as they pleased' (ancient inscriptions). The kings even built religious monuments for these very same invaders, some of which exist to this day. The ancient concept of tolerance of the Sinhalese has been inspired by the gentle sway of Buddhism.
Your tour & your holidays with usThis is a Tour De Resplendent Isle. Taprobane as the Greeks called, The Pali form was Tambapanni. High Value Asian Holidays with the concept of "High Definition". Stillmore, our tour packages offer highly personalized services to cater to each & every need of our guest. The Pearl of the Orient. Ultimate Asian Tour Packages designed for relaxing, reinvigorating, rejuvenating, entertaining, enlightening & enriching holidays in an Island just 30km of shallow sea (Palk Straits) across India. In India it was called Lanka (meaning beautiful). Enlightening & Educative Holidays in terms of Human Condition, History, Buddhism, Auyrvedic Medicine, Ancient Art & Sculpture. Awe-inspiring ancient monuments. Ancient yet sophisticated vast Irrigation network consisting of well over 10,000 massive Rainwater Reservoirs (fervet opus = the work seethes) which to date irrigate the island making it self sufficient in Rice. The Island was called the Granary of the Orient during the reign of King Parakramabahu the great (1153-1186) who proclaimed that "not a single drop of rainwater should flow into the sea without serving the purpose of man". ecce signum! (Behold the proof!)
Enriching & Informative Tours with respect of Ancient Culture, Buddhist Architecture, Buddhist Art, Hindu Influence, Moorish Influence, Colonial Heritage, Biodiversity, Ecology, and Geography. Tour Lanka, which withstood & fought out thousands of years of invasions from powerful Dravidian kingdoms of South India. Tour Serandib, a treasure trove of a Spice Island, the Island of Gems, which attracted the Moorish traders, then battled out by the Portuguese & Dutch with Sinhalese for 300 years & colonized by the British, for 200 years. Serendib in Arabic, Ceilao in Portuguese, Ceylon in English. All stem from the Pali word Sinhala or Sinhaladipa.
Ancient Inscriptions of Sri LankaThe earliest archaeological remains connected with the Sinhalese, which are still preserved without alteration in later times, are many hundreds of caves with inscriptions engraved on their brows, found in various parts of the island. These caves are found among the numerous boulders which litter the sides of hills in certain places like Mihintale, Ritigala, Dambulla & Situlpahuwa (We will be visiting the famous sites) & at other sites.
The artificial improvements effected to these caves consist mainly of a drip line cut along the brow, so as to prevent rain water flowing into them. Some of these caves were provided with walls as well as the face of the rock inside, were covered with a coating of lime plaster & painted in some instances. In most of the caves, an inscription has been incised below the drip line.
The script of these records is the same as that of the most ancient historical inscriptions in India. The edicts of Emperor Asoka are in the same script. Closer examinations of the script of these records reveal that the forms of the individual letters were imperceptibly undergoing change during the period in which they were being written. A comparison of the letters in these records from Sri Lanka with the forms in Asoka inscriptions & others in India, to which definite dates can be given, enables us to conclude that these cave inscriptions have been made in dates ranging from approximately the last quarter of the century B.C. to about the end of the first century A.C.
Like the script, the language of these documents is akin to that of the earliest records found in India. These various dialects belong to a family of languages-namely the Indo-Aryan of which the most highly cultivated is the Sanskrit, & to which belong the languages spoken today in North India as well as by the Sinhalese. A study of the language of the records in the caves in Sri Lanka enables one to conclude that it has, by gradual changes following natural phonological laws rise to the Sinhala that is spoken today. The Aryan languages are spoken today in the North of India. The Languages of South India is included in a different family, the Dravidian. These inscriptions thus collaborate to the literary tradition according to which the Sinhalese migrated to this island from Lala, a region in North India. Considering that there is, between Sri Lanka & the regions in which the Aryan languages are spoken in India, an extensive area in which the language spoken by the people are Non-Aryan, the original Sinhalese, as their traditions testify have arrived in this island by sea-routes.
The oldest Sinhalese inscriptions are found in the North as well as in the South of the island, in its western regions as well as in the East. They are also found at sites in the hill country, though the majority of sites containing early Sinhalese inscriptions are found on the plains. These inscriptions bring forth testimony to the fact that the Sinhalese have occupied practically the whole of island.
The inscriptions dated in the reign of the kings of the Lambakanna dynasty (65 AD-432 AD) are numerous. They are sometimes of considerable length, & are generally in agreement with the chronicles. There are inscriptions which furnish us with genealogical information not given in the Chronicles, & indicate the dynasty's continuity where the Chronicles would lead us to conclude that there was a break. These records register the donations made to the religious institutions by kings & nobles, but do not refer to political events directly. The records however, furnish us with valuable data concerning the land tenure, revenue system & the administrative, economic, social & religious conditions of the time. They also enable us to understand the gradual evolution of the Sinhalese language.
Historical chronicles of Sri Lanka
Uniqueness of MahawamsaThe Mahawamsa is one of the most remarkable histories in existence, unrivalled-with perhaps the sole exception of the Shu King records of the Chinese emperors.
But then again, while Mahawamsa is a continuous narration of unbroken civilization & history of 2550 years, Shu King is simply a collection of historical memoirs over a time span of 1700 years, but on no connected method, & with frequent & great gaps between them.
Accuracy of MahawamsaThe accuracy of the Mahawamsa as historical record of ancient Sri Lanka is generally accepted by means of other numerous local & Indian edicts (for eg., King rock edict of Indian Emperor Asoka & records of Roman historian Pliny), inscriptions, historical works, literary works as well as by way of ruins, renovated historical & Buddhist monuments, ancient yet sophisticated irrigation networks, which extend the lifeline to date, consisting of intact & renovated massive rainwater reservoirs & canal systems.
Humanity of MahawamsaKings who rescued the Sinhalese race, the island & Buddhism from marauding Dravidian armies (of powerful South Indian kingdoms) hell bent on plunder & pillage, murder & mayhem, sack & ruin with sword & fire were given due credit. Kings who performed deeds of piety, who made the country self sufficient in rice by way of irrigation engineering, promoted Ayurveda medicine & medical practice, build Buddhist temples, stupas & reigned with efforts to follow Dasaraja Dharma (tenfold righteous path of a king, according to Buddhism) were showered with praise. Even prior to the advent of Buddhism, Lanka had much more than its share of benevolent rulers.
Mahawamsa chronicles represent King Bhatikabhaya, the Sinhalese king who presumably was responsible for sending the embassy to Rome during Emporer Caludius' reign, as a benevolent ruler. His conduct was narrated by Pliny to stand in opposition to that of the Roman principate. The idea of Taprobane (Sri Lanka) as a utopia, which was to become commonplace among Roman writers, occurs first in Artemidorus of Ephesus (fl 104-101 B.C) (as cited Pliny N. H. V11 2.30)
In Buddha's discourse of duties of ideal ruler, it was declared: the Righteous king will give protection, shelter & ward both to the different classes of human beings, & also to birds & beasts.
Compilation of Mahawamsa
Language: compiled in Pali, the language of Theravada Buddhism
Material: Ola leaves
Period: From the advent of Vijaya in 543 BC to Lanka's greatest betrayal of the nation in 1815; by the hill country (Kandyan) chieftains to the British, who were ruling the lower country plains.
4th century AD
Dipavamsa (Island Genealogy or Dynasty). Believed to be written by two Buddhist nuns Sivala & Maharuha from India.
6th century AD
Mahawamsa (Great Genealogy)
Classic adaptation of earlier Dipavamsa by Buddhist monk Ven. Mahanama Maha thera (an uncle of King Datusena (461-478 A.D.), who lived in the Dighasanda Senapathi Privena, which belonged to the Maha-vihara Fraternity in Anuradhapura. His works ends with Ch. 37:50
The rest of the Mahawamsa is known as Culavamsa, especially after Prof. Wilhelm Geiger, who is said to have made the division.
12h century ADCulavamsa (Lesser Genealogy)
Main body of Mahawamsa written by Buddhist monk Ven. Dhamma-kirti Maha thera who lived during Dambadeniya period (1220-1293)
17th century ADAdditions by Ven. Tibbotuwawe Sri Siddhartha Buddha-rakshita Maha Thera who, lived during the reign of King Kirti Sri Rajasinha (1747-1778) & Ven. Panditha Yagirala Sri Pragnanada, the Chief Sangha nayaka of Gonagala Sudharma-kara Pirivena.
18th century ADCulavamsa expanded by Buddhist monk Tibbaootuwawe Sumangala Thera
Year 1815: Chapter 101 was added as a supplement by Buddhist monk Hikkaduwe Sri Sumangala Thera
Year 1877 Chapter 101 was expanded by D. A. de Silva Batuwantudawa Esq.
Rosetta Stone of Sri Lanka & translation of Mahawamsa
Year 1826: Ceylon's Rosetta stone was found; ola parchment at Mulgirigala that led to deciphering of classical Pali scripts, & the translation of the Mahawamsa.
A provincial agent of British colonial rulers named George Turnour was burrowing in a temple on top of a 200-meter rock called Mulgirigala on the south coast came across a stack of palm-leaf parchment that provided the clues that enabled him to decipher the archaic pali script of ancient Sinhalese chronicle Mahawamsa.
In an Indian perspective, it is viewed as an invaluable text for historians, since it often relates to contemporary royal dynasties in the Indian subcontinent.
Mahavamsa: official translation by Dr. Wilhem Geiger in 1912
Chulawamsa: official translation by Dr. Wilhem Geiger in 1930
The first English translation of Mahawamsa from Dr. Geiger's native German was done by Mrs. Mabel Haynes Bode. Overall, the chronicle has over 200,000 words of text in about 960 pages. Dr.Geiger called the first part (Chapters 1-37) the Mahavamsa, the second part (Chapters 38-79) the Culavamsa 1 & the third & final part (Chapters 80-101) the Culavamsa 2.
Other ancient chronicles of Sri LankaRajawaliya
Attana-galu Vihara Vamsa
The Maha Bodhivamsa