This is a part of a series of articles written by Smriti Daniel for Quo Vadis on Sri Lanka. Happy reading!
In Sri Lanka, you will see colours as if for the first time. The ocean is a pure aquamarine embroidered in white foam; the shades of green in the tropical foliage range from near black to a tender, almost neon translucence; the word for king coconut – thambili – is also the word for orange. (When you see a bunch of these outside a shop, take it from me, you should stop for a drink.)
The first time I arrived in Sri Lanka it was during the month of Vesak, when Theravada Buddhists commemorate the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha. I remember the wave of wet heat washing over me as I stepped out of the airport. On the drive into the city, the roads were bordered by long lines of Vesak lanterns, each constructed of thin paper cut into patterns and made luminescent by a single candle anchored at its heart. Long, winding lines of people queued up at one dansal after the other, where food and drink were handed out for free.
Sri Lanka’s location has always been an enviable one. A vital port of trade, it has seen explorers, immigrants, missionaries, traders and invaders from across the globe alight on its shores. Ceylon was claimed by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British in that order, and you will find traces of them linger. Dating back to the 16th century, historians consider Galle Fort one of the best examples of a fortified city built by Europeans in this part of the world, displaying as it does a fine blend of European architectural styles and South Asian traditions. It is one of eight UNESCO World Heritage sites on the island. In bustling Colombo, a surge in development is seeing some of the city’s oldest and most beautiful buildings restored, particularly in Pettah, one of the oldest and busiest parts of the town.
–Smriti Daniel is a Colombo-based journalist and senior feature writer at The Sunday Times in Sri Lanka.
All picture credits to KOEGL