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Esala Poya & Kandy Esala Perahera

Esala Poya is the night in which the Bodhisattva was conceived in the womb of his mother Queen Maha Maya. Esala Full Moon Poya is also the day in which Prince Siddhartha renounced his royal lifestyle. Esala Poya falls in the month of July and is a very important day for Buddhist devotees. Esala Poya is a holiday in Sri Lanka and families visit the many Temples situated around the island to offer flowers and pay homage to Lord Buddha, who preached many valuable sermons about the ideal way of life for all living beings.

Queen Maha Maya and King Suddhodhana did not have any children for twenty years. One Esala Full Moon night she dreamt that she was carried by Devas to a lake where they bathed and anointed her with perfumed oils. Then a white elephant with six white tusks and carrying a white Lotus flower in its mouth appeared and circled the Queen three times after which he entered her womb from her right side. The Queen awoke then and realized that she had been given a very important message. Ten months later she gave birth to Prince Siddhartha who went on to attain Enlightenment and become the Buddha.

It was on yet another Esala Full Moon day that Prince Siddhartha, at the age of 29, renounced his royal title along with his luxurious lifestyle and left his father’s palace seeking the truth and searching for a means to end universal suffering. Accompanied by some of his followers he led the life of an ascetic and strove to attain Enlightenment. He subsequently returned to the palace seven years later as the Buddha. The day he left the palace was also the day his only son, Prince Rahula was born.

Another important event in the life of Lord Buddha which is commemorated on Esala Full Moon day is His first sermon delivered two months after attaining Enlightenment. Known as the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta ( the wheel of Dhamma), this sermon was delivered to His five disciples Kondangna, Wappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanama and Assaji at Isipathanaya in Benares (Baranasi). In this sermon He told them that there are two extremes of living – one is a “Life of Pleasure” and the other a “Life of Self-mortification”. The Blessed One advised them to follow the middle path which consists of purity, virtue and righteousness.

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Poson Festival

Marking the birth of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Poson poya day is much celebrated event and dates back in 3rd Century BC when king Devanampiyatissa was converted to Buddhism by Arahat Maha Mahinda, the son of King Asoka, the Emperor of India, after which Buddhism was declared the State religion.

The entire country celebrates this significant milestone, but it all culminates at Mihintale, known as the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, for it is believed to be there that the conversion took place. In fact it is in the Ambasthale Dagoba, the temple in Mihintale, accessible by 1840 steps, that it is in believed that the historic encounter took place.

On Poson poya day, many devotees make their way to temple to spend reflective hours in meditation while there are also several sil campaigns, Dan Sal, Poson devotional songs and pandols among others.

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Vesak Festival

Vesak is the main Buddhist religious festival in Sri Lanka. During this time, people celebrate the triple anniversary of Lord Buddha – his birth, his attaining of Enlightenment and his passing away into Nirvana.

Also known as the Buddhist Festival of Light, colorful bamboo framed lanterns adorn the interior of every home and incredible luminous displays decorate the streets of most towns. Visit Bhauddoloka Mawatha, the main street in Colombo, to catch this glowing spectacle in full glory.

Vesak marks the first month of the Buddhist Calendar. This is a day spent in reflective prayer as people cease wordly pursuits and engage themselves in religious activities. Devotees Buddhists pray in temples from dawn until the dusk. As the sun sets, devotees partake in processions and return to the temples in the evening to hear monks read stories from sacred texts.

Stalls on the roadside distribute free refreshments to passers-by and there are some fantastic mime and street theatre performances, staged on tall platforms near temples in cities and towns throughout the country.

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Sinhala and Tamil New Year Festivals

Date: 13/14th April

Venue: Around the country

Sinhala and Hindu New Year, one of the most celebrated festivals, symbolizing prosperity and ethnic harmony in the country, is the time of joy and renewal for Sinhala and Tamil population in Sri Lanka. April 13th marks the journey of the Sun from Meena to Mesha (from Pisces to Aries) in the Zodiac advocating the dawn of a new year for Sri Lankans according to the Sinhala calendar. The New year vibe spreads all over the island since the beginning of the month of April although celebrated on 13th and 14th of April. New year festivals are held around the island throughout the month, comprising of different traditional games where both children and adults take part in to cherish this joyful period of the year.

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Tourism of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a paradise of unlimited sun, sea, sand and surf all year round. Sri Lanka is never out of season for a beach holiday. There is always some part of the beach that has friendly and warm waters. Known as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, Sri Lanka is a land with fascinating golden, sandy Beaches that attract many tourists to the country.

The island is blessed with 103 rivers, rushing down rocky precipices forming a number of roaring Waterfalls of various shapes and heights, all ending up in the Indian Ocean. Only a few of Sri Lanka’s waterfalls can be viewed with ease, where as the others can only be seen by penetrating thick forests and tea plantations.

A rich and exotic variety of wildlife exists in Sri Lanka. The jungles of Sri Lanka abound in a variety of Wildlife, which is surprising for an island of its size in the tropics. The best known national park is the Ruhunu National Park at Yala. Inginiyagala and Uda Walawe are also large national parks. Sinharaja, a special rain forest gives another exiting experience for  tourists & visitors.

Sri Lanka is Birds and ornithologist’s paradise, of the 435 recorded species, 230 are resident, and no less that 23 are endemic to the island. Most of the endemic birds are restricted to the wet zone. Others can be found throughout the island, although confined to small areas of humid forests.

The Island’s enticing Adventure opportunities will enthrall and fulfill travelers who thirst for exciting experiences, and the country is a nation of sportsmen. Many Sports & other clubs offer temporary membership to visitors and some of the games include Cricket, Tennis, Swimming, Golf, Canoeing, Rowing, Rafting, Diving and Windsurfing. In addition, facilities for Water Skiing, Sailing, Boating, Fishing, Yachting and Coastal Cruising are available in most beach resorts.

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Culture of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the few countries with a very vast and rich cultural diversity. The culture is itself very unique and thereby contributes to the Sri Lankan identity. Sri Lankan culture includes a lot of customs and rituals, which date to more than 2000 years which were handed down from generation to generation. The most prominent feature of the Sri Lankan is its colorful festivals, which is one of the main tourist attractions. Religion plays an important role in molding the Sri Lankan culture and traditions.

Sri Lankan culture if often reflected by the use of art, architecture, sculptures, and even food. Some people would say that Sri Lanka has a more conventional culture which is obviously influenced by the prominent religions prevailing the country such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. The Sri Lankan way of life is very simple and filled with humility and happiness, this is one of the reasons why the Sri Lankans have a very great sense in appreciating the simple things in life such as nature.

One of the main features of the culture is its Indian and Europen influence. Since most of the time Sri Lan

kan kings married Indian princesses they incorporated Indian culture into ours but still preserving the unique Sri Lankan identity. The European influence was a result of invasion from the Dutch and Portuguese and finally the British. Hospitality is also one of the prominent characteristics of the culture, making Sri Lankans one of the friendly nations in the world.

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About Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The island is historically and culturally intertwined with the Indian subcontinent but is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, island country lying in the Indian Ocean and separated from peninsular India by the Palk Strait. It is located between latitudes 5°55′ and 9°51′ N and longitudes 79°41′ and 81°53′ E and has a maximum length of 432 km and a maximum width of 224 km.

At a crossroads of maritime routes traversing the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka has also been exposed to cultural influences from other Asian civilizations. Ancient Greek geographers called it Taprobane. Arabs referred to it as Serendib. Later European mapmakers called it Ceylon, a name still used occasionally for trade purposes. It officially became Sri Lanka in 1972.

The pre-history of Sri Lanka goes back 125,000 years and possibly even as far back as 500,000 years. The era spans the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and early Iron Ages. Among the Paleolithic human settlements discovered in Sri Lanka, Pahiyangala (named after the Chinese traveler monk Faxian), which dates back to 37,000 BP, Batadombalena (28,500 BP) and Belilena (12,000 BP) are the most important. In these caves, archaeologists have found the remains of anatomically modern humans which they have named Balangoda Man, and other evidence suggesting that they may have engaged in agriculture and kept domestic dogs for driving game

Sri Lanka has more than 2,550 years of continuous written history by means of the Mahawansha and was also mentioned in several ancient Indian texts. One of the most famous is the Ramayana, in which the island, which was referred to as Lanka, was the island fortress of the king Ravana.

Partially occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century and by the Dutch in the 17th century, the coastal parts island was ceded to the British in 1796 and became a British colony in 1802. The entire island was ceded to the British in 1815. As Ceylon, it became independent in 1948; the name was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972.

Since Sri Lanka is a tropical country, you can expect the rain any time of the year in different parts of the country. However, the two major rainy seasons are South-West monsoon (May to July) which predominantly affects the west & south coast of Sri Lanka and North-East monsoon (October to January) predominantly affecting the east coast.

The climate of Sri Lanka changes dramatically from central highlands to the coastal belt. For example, at Nuwara Eliya, in the hills of Central Sri Lanka, has a temperature around 5-20°C throughout the year, whereas Hambanthota, located in the dry zone, has a temperature consistently around 30-34°C.

The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city, Colombo.

Colombo, which emerged as the main urban center during British rule, remains the executive and judicial capital of Sri Lanka; Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte, a Colombo suburb, is the legislative capital. For administrative purposes, the country has been divided into nine provinces and subdivided into 25 districts.

The majority of its people are poor, live in rural areas, and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. A physical environment of wide-ranging diversity makes Sri Lanka one of the world’s most scenic countries. As the home of several ethnic groups, each with its own cultural heritage, Sri Lanka also has a highly varied cultural landscape.