Yala BiodiversityNovember 14, 2017
Community of YalaA deep and powerful history creates a mesmerizing atmosphere among the community that inhabit the surrounding areas of Yala, or once known as “Ruhuna”. The sands and soils of these jungles of tropical Sri Lanka hold the story of an ancient Kingdom; a civilization ruled by some of the islands most renowned ancient kings. The tales that have been told through many generations have created a great respect for the area and its inhabitants whom continue, to this day, to worship the Buddha as well as the Hindu Gods, both of which were worshipped by the people of the ancient Kingdom of Ruhunu. How this came to be, takes us back over 2100 years in history, to a story of the Buddhist King, Dutugemunu and how his courage and bravery was gifted to him by certain Hindu Gods, to aid him in his battle against the infamous Indian Conqueror, Elara. The cultural aspects of this region go beyond even this historically highlighted story. Ancient Buddhist monasteries from years before these highlighted events also grab the attention of those who wish to explore. In the ancient town of Katharagama where the famous Katharagama “Dewaliya” was constructed, also holds a national treasure in the form of a large “stupa” known as the “Kiriwehera”. The Kiriwehera stupa is a staggering 95ft in height and was believed to be constructed by the ancient king Mahsen in the 6th century BC! Annually, a challenging pilgrimage known traditionally as the “Pade-Yathra” is carried out by the Hindus of Northern Sri Lanka. Thousands of people make their 2 week trek, carrying all of their necessary supplies for the journey, even through the jungles of Yala in order to reach the Katharagama temple in time for the yearly festival. This breathtaking festival is known as the Katharagama “Perahara”; a religious gathering which gained its significance by the history of the area bringing both Hindus and Buddhists together for this culturally prestigious event. The Pade-Yathra pilgrimage starts around the end of July in time for the Katharagama Perahara that takes place in August. Furthermore, another highlight experience is to visit the Sithulpowa temple. This temple, constructed on top of a beautiful mountain by the ancient king of Ruhunu, King Kavantissa, has a breathtaking 360 degree view of the jungles of Yala. Sithulpowa is frequented regularly by members of the community and the Ceylon Wild Safaris team, not only because of its magnificent location and scenery but because of its historical significance. King Kavantissa was the predecessor of the famous, King Dutugemunu whom is the king behind the history of the Katharagama Dewaliya. A visit to this temple accompanied by one of the Ceylon Wild Safaris Guides is not only a memorable one but pleasantly spiritual. Ceylon Wild Safaris has grown to love and respect this history, the grave details of which our Guides not only enjoy sharing around a campfire but find great honor in taking our guests to visit the ancient temples and sites where the sparks of this incredible history began. . One of the most spiritually connecting experiences that we take part in with the community is the “Pooja”; an offering and a blessing that takes place at an auspicious time at Katharagama shrine. Methods of farming, cattle ranging, trading, lessons taught from father to son and mother to daughter are seen in day to day life; a reminder that the culture of this region takes us beyond temples and ancient sites. A spiritually connected life in which the people of this community illustrate a merge between human existence and its surrounding natural environment offers us the opportunity to blend with this magnificent culture. Whilst Ceylon Wild Safaris buys all of its needed produce from this community, we offer our guests the chance to witness this culture first hand by guided walks through the local market and even to the local farmlands. This not only offers an enchanting experience to our guests, but supports the community and shows them our appreciation for the way in which their traditions and culture have been carried down from their ancestry.
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