Sri Lanka: A different viewpoint in black and white
The entire country of Sri Lanka is a vivid tapestry of amazing color, patterns and visual elements that are best portrayed in full color. But… I love challenges and knew that it would be a fun experience to present the country only in black and white and finding all the exciting imagery, design and elements that present a more exotic milieu sans color.
The varied textures, landscape, cuisine and people are all exciting to capture and are full of intrigue – I’m more fascinated with portraying Sri Lanka in this format covering its Colonial past, religious icons and temples, Unesco World Heritage sites and even its striking coastlines and tropical environment.
I delve head on into this photo journey that hopefully portrays Sri Lanka in all its stunning glory solely in black and white. Here are the results:
Sigiriya – the Lion Rock
The fortress and palace ruins at Sigiriya are referred by locals as the eight wonder of the world with its impressive natural landscape and archaeological history and importance. Sigiriya translated into the Lion Rock has the distinctive features of a lion with giant claws where the stairs lead you uphill to see the amazing views and ruins of this once pleasure palace of a doomed king and afterwards the fortress/palace was converted into a monastery until up to the 14th century.
Even though most of the ruins of the palace are now just the foundations of this once magnificent pleasure palace, the sheer magnificence of the mountain and landscape and panoramic views are worth visiting one of Sri Lanka’s most important Unesco World Heritage Sites.
In the North central region called the Golden Triangle of archaeological sites at Sri Lanka, is the 2nd ancient capital, Polonnaruwa. Containing a vast collection of temples, palaces and religious landmarks, the site remains as one of the best planned ancient site in the country. The area around the capital is vast with many partial ruins to almost intact statuary and pilgrimage artifacts of historic and religious value. I am drawn to all these amazing structures with their exotic motifs and relief carvings alluding to many references of a holy site and the ego of kings that have built these expansive treasures for us to explore and imagine life in this ancient capital.
The carved out Buddhas of Gal Viharaya, also known as the rock temple are filled with aromatic scents and candles, sweetly perfumed tropical flowers and the devout who come to visit the three giant Buddhas to find inspiration and have their prayers answered. Or maybe they just come to visit these holy relics to meditate and find peace and quiet from the busy world outside and enjoy the company of friends and family for a fun outing visiting the ancient ruins.
The stunning carved Buddhas stand out from their granite reliefs and almost present a 3 dimensional relief and craftsmanship that proves how advanced and talented the artisans were from this ancient capital. I sit in a yoga pose and admire all the amazing details of these huge statues and then my eyes wander to all the beautiful people who have come here to lay some flowers and pay their respect and homage to their deity and instantly feel a connection with the people and relics that they have come to visit.
In another ruined temple called Polonnaruwa Vatadage , sits four stone carved Buddhas looking out from the temple to the outside as if to greet all those that come to this holy place and spend a few minutes in front to meditate and become silent if only for a moment. It is believed to be the site where a tooth relic of the Buddha is held, which deems this temple of great significance to this holy shrine. Unlike other typical large scale stupas in Sri Lanka, a vatadage is circular in formation and are built around small stupas for their protection and adorned with elaborate carvings in stone or brick.
Walking around the interior and facing the Buddhas barefoot, I contemplate and imagine what this place was like in its full glory. I walk around these relics and admire the huge scale and yet approachable and human characteristics of each Buddha figure. Hopefully I’m thinking within that short timeframe of my visit, I may find inspiration or solace and connect with the spiritual energy of this place of refuge. And I do feel that connection immediately!
The colonial city of Galle
Along the southwestern coastline of Sri Lanka sits the old and still functioning colonial city of Galle. The city exudes all of that colonial past with a mixture of different architecture and design influences from the many rulers of this wall city and fortress starting with the Portuguese and then the Dutch and more recently, the English who came to expand on the spice trade and other precious minerals and materials from this exotic land. You will find a culture and people of mixed religion, heritage and traditions all in this compact city. In fact you can easily spot many religious temples and churches spaced relatively close to each other. There’s no animosity between the Catholics, Buddhists, Muslim, Hindu or many other denominations in the city, everyone lives cohesive with each other. It seems like this one spot if not all of Sri Lanka exemplifies all the wonderful essence of true acceptance of beliefs and religious freedoms within a small country. How wonderful and refreshing to see that this is a true model of acceptance and the one of the many positive characteristics of this colonial city.
Do you love outdoor markets? Well this one on the bay front of Galle is pretty cut and dry. Fishing boats dock up to the beach and impromptu covered tents are set up by the boats to protect the days catch and business is brisk for the freshest seafood caught the night before and through the early morning. You can tell the busy stalls typically either have the freshest catch or maybe the cheapest offerings for the day depending on how late in the day you arrive. In any case, it is such a wonderful place to take photos and absorb the daily life and commerce in this fish market.
An above city view of the ramparts and historic fort area of Galle with the newer city beyond. It is really a contrast of old and new, along with the tourist areas and commerce sections beyond. You can actually walk around the ramparts of the fort with stunning views to little coves and scenic vistas to the rugged coastlines.
The golden temple of Dambulla
While passing through the Golden Triangle, our group had a brief stop to visit the golden temple of Dambulla, which in this instance does not show the actual colors of its name in the photographs. But believe me, it is not necessary because the temple on its own presents its own exotic and spiritual presence from the many textures, patterns and sculptural figures that adorn the various stupas and temple grounds. The large golden face below with its large teeth seems both comical and frightening at the same time and unfortunately, I didn’t have time to explore the interior caves of these temple grounds. I will just have to come and visit Sri Lanka another time to get to see the wonders of the temple murals and the Buddha statues in the caves.
Fish market at Negombo
Of all the markets I visited in Sri Lanka, I was delighted to visit and smell the fresh and odoriferous sea food at the Negombo market. This is truly a local market where the fresh catch of the day is displayed with as much visual panache and loud barking to the entice a crowd of today’s fresh catch. It was truly eye-opening and I loved every moment capturing some amazing images including the cow and coconuts below.
The large Buddhist temple in Negombo is very ornate and yet dilapidated and in need of much restoration and I’m sure the local monks here would appreciate every donation for their cause . They followed me around to hopefully freshen up their donation coffers before I left the temple grounds.
Sri Lanka is a country filled with so many beaches and varied coastlines. I love the late afternoon to early evening timeframe when I find most of the beaches deserted and have these amazing sunset views until the twilight timeframe. It really is a moment to treasure when you have this scene almost to yourself to enjoy.
The People, traditions and culture of Sri Lanka
I’m so fascinated by the traditional costumes, dances and traditions of Sri Lankan performances and rites. They are seeped in such mysterious and exotic rituals and heritage. It speaks to a proud culture and ancient people who still hold their values and traditions of ancient beliefs to still be intact and important to their daily life.
A lion detail at Polonnaruwa
This is just a small glimpse to the ancient and exotic world of Sri Lanka featured in black and white visiting different regions around the country. I hope that you enjoyed the tour of Sri Lanka, and if you did, please do share this post with any of the social media buttons around the post, thank you.
I visited Sri Lanka for TBCAsia, hosted by Cinnamon Hotels. Thanks also to Sri Lankan Airlines for flying me there from London and CVisit Sri Lanka for taking me through all the stunning Unesco World Heritage sites in the Golden Triangle and around the country. All opinions and thoughts, as always, are my own.