This months we presented some insider tips for those interested in ancient or medieval heritage sites to study the classical Sinhalese culture. Not surprisingly, most excavation sites are situated in the Cultural Triangle zone, there are many more of them, but we gave you a list of those six places, that are highly recommendable for holiday-makers, too, for those who look for places worth visiting in a very pleasant setting. This is why we recommended Kaludiya Pokuna at Sigiriya, the distinct Kaludiya Pokuna at Mihintale, Thanthirimale north-west of Anuradhapura, Hatthikuchchi south of Anuradhapura, Medirigiriya north of Polonnaruwa and Yapahuwa near Maho.
Next month we will publish another series of off-the beaten track Buddhist heritage sites, special places of interest rarely visited by bus groups, because most of our customers not only appreciate to see the extraordinary but enjoy such tranquil places most of all. So we will describe 4 more places unknown to normal travellers. All of them are ancient Buddhist temples. Surprisingly, all four are located in the Tamil dominated Eastern Province, three of them not far away from Trincomalee.
Usually first time visitors of Sri Lanka think this way: Sinhalese is Buddhist, Tamil is Hindu, though many Tamils and Sinhalese are actually Christians. Indeed, there is some truth in it: Today there are no Sinhalese Hindus, though many Buddhists pray to Hindu gods, particularly to Vishnu. And Tamils are not Buddhists. But this is not a law of nature. In fact, there have been times in Indian and Sri Lankan history when Buddhism played a significant role among Tamils, particularly among Tamil traders and seafarers. This Golden Age of Tamil Buddhism approximately coincides with the Anuradhapura period and influenced Buddhist Art in Sri Lanka.
Even when the great Hindu dynasties such as Pallavas and Cholas became transregional powers heavily threatening and interferring in Sri Lanka, Buddhism continued to flourish among some merchant castes in Southern India. It’s this period of wars between Hindu powers of southern India and Sri Lanka’s Buddhist elites that saw interesting developments in Sri Lanka’s religious art and architecture.
In the case of Buddhist temples at the East Coast, it’s not entirely clear whether they are Sinhalese or, surprisingly, partly Tamil. More probably, this ethnic divide was not really of any religious significance those days. Though many Buddhist chauvinists - there are some very noisy of them filled with hatred - interpret Buddhist heritage sites in the East of the Island as proves for historical rights to claim Sinhalese Buddhist predominance also in Tamil majority areas today, the history of those eastern temples can, alternatively, teach a completely different lesson: Tamils played also a positive role in the development of Buddhism and contributed to the Sinhalese culture.
For lovers of ancient cultures in general or Buddhist art in particular, we will describe four eastern Sri Lankan heritage sites in January:
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