Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Architecture and Artisans of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan architecture has a lot to do with Budda.  Because of this overwhelming element in their culture, the Sri Lankan people pay tribute to Budda in all aspects of their lives.  I even saw our Christian tour guide bow with pressed palms to the Budda statue at the Temple of the Tooth.  Just like the Christian's practices include Buddism practices, the structures also seem to be a cross between Indian and Asian architecture. 

A water temple for water offerings to Budda

Exterior of the Temple of the Tooth

Interiors of the Temple of the Tooth

Here is the well guarded vault that supposedly contains a tooth that was found in the ashes after Budda's cremation.  They open the vault only at night on the hour.  We could stand in this area to take pictures during the three minutes they opened the door.  We had to snap the pictures and then get in line to file past the door.  The golden casket contains the tooth.  Every five years the casket is opened for public viewing and millions of people line up to catch a glimpse of their hero's dental remains.

Because of the 2004 tsunami, the southwestern coastline is still trying to rebuild and recover.  The office buildings and even the houses that are being built now often have an open style first floor and then regular upper storeys.  I wish I had taken a photo so you could see what I am talking about, but the new structures are designed with possible future tsunamis in mind.  It almost looks like the buildings are built on stilts.  This would allow flood waters and tidal waves to exit through the other side instead of pulling the whole structure down.  Architects are pretty cool!

The monument to the Tsunami victims

A Catholic church in the Galle area

A beautiful lighthouse in Galle

This is a Dutch Fort in Galle.  Can you see that I am almost melted into a puddle?  The heat and humidity rivaled Doha's. We welcomed the rains we got, but the brutal humidity was my only complaint.

There are many craftsmen in Sri Lanka and their work is intricate and remarkable.  We visited a mask shop and a wood carving shop where one of the craftsmen showed us the natural processes they use to make the paint and how they change the color of the paint.  We toured a sapphire shop where they cut and polish the stones, and create beautiful jewelry with their locally mined gems.  They even had a display showing how they still mine the stones with almost primitive methods and little environmental impact. 

Brett wanted to buy this front elephant on the left but the $4000 price was a deal breaker.

The sapphire mines are purposely archaic so that the workers will retain their jobs and so the effect on the environment is at a minimum.

The Batik factory was fascinating.  I knew very little about Batik work before this trip, but I am so glad we went to see the skills of these women.  Three small women sat in a stiflingly hot room creating intricate designs with wax application and a dying process.  There was no air conditioning in the room because it would dry out the wax too quickly.  The women looked worn and hot, but smiled at our interest in their work.  I wish we could have bought some of the most exquisite work, but we settled for a wall hanging.  A person must tour a Batik factory in order to appreciate the artistic skills on the cloth.

This is a typical craftsman we saw by the side of the road.  He is making two by fours for building homes.  Who needs a saw mill?!

The beautiful hotels of Sri Lanka are remarkable but not indicative of most of the country's architecture.  The photos are too striking not to share them so they will be my last shots for this post.  Sri Lanka is a country that uses every inch of the coconut tree, even the husk.  They seem to know the meaning of environmentalism and it is a good thing, because it is definitely an environment that should be preserved.

The Heritance in Ahungalla

Interiors of a hotel in Galle - decorated in the turn of the century Dutch/ British flair

Amaya Hills Hotel in Kandy


Amy said...

Oh, this is just breathtaking! The cloth those women made look like they stitched it. I can't believe it's all painted in wax! I was about to ask what the weather was like and then I saw you with the umbrella. Ugh. The buildings and views are spectacular, though.

terahreu said...

Did you hear that the tooth was extra large to be a human tooth? They actually think it might be a crocodile tooth. Why do we love to worship human remains so much?

I saw your batik at your home. Beautiful! I love batik work. It really is gorgeous!

Did Brett make you write that architect comment? :)

Finally, I am still wounded that we didn't do the Heritance hotel on the coast. The Taj didn't compare. Those pictures were killing me!

Oh, and I am jealous of your mask!