Sri Lanka Day 4: Dewali

Sometimes it can be hard to find beauty in an area that is known for being chaotic. But one step outside the front door and it is all around me. The landscape is the most obvious up here in the hills, but the warmth conveyed by the resident stray mama dog to her babies is almost stronger than the sunset from the rooftop and the simple lotus blossom in the front water feature combined.

Today is a public holiday in Sri Lanka because it is Dewali, the Hindu New Year and Festival of Lights. In light of the holiday, I was not able to start my placement today as is usually the schedule of things. So, I set off with one of my house mates to go see the Big Buddha (Sri Maha Bodhi Maha). From the top of the Buddha, up the hillside from Kandy 850 feet and sitting 88 feet tall, you can see spectacular views of the town, lake and surrounding areas. It is gorgeous. But perhaps the most surreal part of this experience was chatting with one of the nine resident monks and being invited in for a cup of Ceylon tea. And it doesn’t even end there. After enjoying our tea and a local “biscuit” comprised of sesame and sugar, our new friend offered us a blessing bracelet and a prayer. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so welcome in a place of worship. I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but I do try to soak up the beautiful parts of religion, and this experience was exactly that.

After visiting the Big Buddha, we walked down the hill to meet up with our other housemates at the Hindu temple, or kovil, for the Dewali celebrations. I really wanted to immerse myself in the culture / faith like I had earlier, but I still hadn’t come down off my Buddhist “high,” so it was difficult to feel connected to the ceremonies in the kovil. Nevertheless, it was beautiful and I am grateful that I was able to be a witness to their ritual and learn a bit about their faith. I think that, had I had more exposure to the beauties of religion when I was younger, as opposed to the “boredom” of it all, I would have grown to appreciate it and invest in it more. However, I do enjoy my opportunities to do so now, as an adult, as I’m able to understand more about each individual faith and apply the lessons to my own personal belief system.

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