Three Months In Sri Lanka – Week 8


It is hot and humid in Colombo but frangipani is in bloom. The crabs I got from the fabulous wholesale market yesterday was cooked for Sunday lunch and the red mullet will be baked for supper. Earlier in the week I attended an almsgiving and a street art festival and went to my first ever wine tasting in Sri Lanka at a cricket club founded in 1896.

Let me tell you about the first two.

…And Monks Came To Lunch…

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There were seven of them in shiny yellow robes. The senior monk led the way. The five younger monks had close cropped black hair, expressionless faces and restless eyes. The seventh, little more than a child, had difficulty keeping his robes  on.

They came from the village temple to Nimal’s neat white-washed house in posh cars. Nimal and Tanya have been in the house for one year and instead of the usual boozy legs up to mark the occasion, decided on a traditional Buddhist almsgiving.

Nimal walked ahead of the monks with the sacred relic casket from the temple, representing Buddha, on his head,  covered with an embroidered cloth and shaded with a parasol. The monks walked in single file barefooted and with their heads bent, between the two rows of chairs covered with white cloth and through the white gazebo, in to the house. As tradition demands, Nimal’s son washed their feet and another youngster patted them dry.

The monks sat in low chairs against a wall and Nimal’s family and friends, dressed in white, sat cross-legged on the bare floor. The Buddhist Five Precepts or Pancha Sila representing the basis of Buddhist morality were administered by the chief monk and everybody repeated after him with hands clasped together in the gesture of veneration.

“I will not take life

I will not take what is not given

I will not distort facts

I will refrain from misuse of the senses

I will refrain from self-intoxication through alcohol or drugs”

Many present,  except local politicians, would not have a problem with that. 

The monks were served soup, boiled rice and vegetable curries and sweets and fruit. At the end of the meal, the senior monk was offered Ata Pirikara, a parcel containing the eight monastic requisites: a begging bowel, three robes, belt, razor, water strainer and stitching needle.  A monk thanked Nimal & Tanya for the offerings and asked everybody to grab a share of the merits gained for their future good and to transmit them to dead relatives.

Then they were gone. I hoped the Ata Pirikara will be used by the monks and not recycled endlessly through the nearest shop. I am not sure how much merit I gained but the vegetarian lunch was excellent.

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Kala Pola

The annual street art festival or Kala Pola is an eagerly awaited event in Colombo. It is an opportunity for little known artists to exhibit their work and hopefully, sell a few. Here are some images from this years event.

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My previous visit to the Kala Pola in 2011 is documented in the post “Street Art & Biriyani

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Next Tuesday, Sri Lanka will celebrate independence from Britain in 1948 and I will have dinner with a formidable chef who also happens to be my sister. I will spend a few days at a charming riverside retreat on the south coast.

See you next week!

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