Tour package: Trail of Ramayana in Srilanka

17 January 2008

Lanka unveils ‘Trail of Ramayana’ tour package

New Delhi (PTI): With an eye on its “primary source market”, Sri Lanka Tourism has identified some 50 sites associated with Hindu epic Ramayana to lure more pilgrim travellers from India to the island nation.

‘Following the Trail of Ramayana’ is based on research findings that link the sites to Lord Ram, wife Sita and demon king Ravana, SLT director-general S Kalaiselvam told reporters while unveiling the ambitious thematic programme here on Thursday.

“Currently we are taking steps to develop and restore all 50 sites to facilitate foreign and local visitors the opportunity to witness and experience the sacredness of these sites,” he said.

The tour package of areas “steeped in Ramayana history” comes on the heels of the Buddhist circuit of Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Rajgir, Varanasi and Lumbini aimed at attracting pilgrim tourists to India.

The programme includes names of places like Seethaeliya, Ram Bodha, Ussangoda and Roomassala and special temples in areas where Ravana is believed to have held Sita captive.

Kalaiselvam said the “Ramayana epic is a very special feature in the bond that we have with India and we are trying to offer opportunity to our friends here to visit Sri Lanka to explore, absorb and enjoy the various places of significance as present in the epic”.

He, however, parried a question on Ram Setu controversy and said “this is a question of faith. Local people believe it and there are many who would like to visit the sites related to the Ramayana in Lanka. We are trying to facilitate it”.

Lanka banks on Ramayana to woo tourists
18 Jan 2008, 0150 hrs ISTclip_image001,clip_image002Ashish Sinhaclip_image001[1],clip_image002[1]TNN

NEW DELHI: Politicians may spar in India over whether Ram Setu was more than a figment of Valmiki’s imagination but for neighbouring Sri Lanka, the Ramayana legends are an article of faith.
Sri Lanka Tourism has identified five “airports” where Ravana parked his fleet of pushpak vimanas, the mythological aircraft he used to abduct Sita when she was in vanvasa on mainland India. The ruler of ancient Lanka — a brilliant Brahmin and devout Shiva disciple — didn’t only excel in charting an air route, as he was a pioneer in “underground transport” as well.
No doubt then that remains of intricate tunnel networks, leading to palaces and battlefields, that Ravana spread across the island, are also to be seen.
These and nearly 50 more sites, related to the “Ramayana trail”, have been showcased by Sri Lanka tourism in its new deal to promote “spiritual tourism”, an experiment aimed specifically at Indian visitors, who, at 100,000, already constitute 20% of the country’s annual tourist inflow.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority director-general S Kalaiselvam told TOI that these sites are not imaginary and have existed since times immemorial.
“We are simply putting all details together. People in villages have always revered these sites, which form a part of the folklore. A five-day tour would be enough to make a tourist realise what we’re talking about,” he said before launching the package with cricketers Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva.
So much so, that the board appointed a research team to trace the “trail” before formally making the findings public. Ashok Kainth, the main researcher who began work four years ago, said 59 spots had been located which relate to various stages of the Ramayana period.
“Among them are Ravana’s palaces and dairy farm, besides several later-period temples devoted to Sita,” Kainth said. The trail even encases a pond which is believed to have come into existence through Sita’s tears. “Evidence suggests that even during worst droughts, this pond never dried up,” the researcher said.
The various spots are spread across the island, beginning from its northern tip at Nagadeepa, believed to be Hanuman’s entry point to Lanka. The southern tip, Donara, is the place where Ram began his first attack on Ravana. The main battleground, identified as Yudagannawa, is a wildlife sanctuary now but, Kalaiselvam said, no vegetation “strangely” grows in the area except grass.
Mythology suggests that Ram, a Kshatriya, performed penance after killing Ravana, a Brahmin. The tourism board has identified the exact spot as Chilaw and Muneswaram where Ram carried out pujas to cleanse him of the sin. “Sri Lanka Tourism believes that Ramayana has brought together Sri Lanka and India through the exploration of its great story backdrop, which is Ayodhya and Lankapura (Sri Lanka). We are also undertaking restoration and maintenance of these sites,” Kalaiselvam said.
Asked about cooperation with Indian government, he said there was a general MoU over tourism. “We have entered into an arrangement with Andhra Pradesh Tourism specifically over the trail,” Kalaiselvam added.

Sri Lankan Cricket Icons Sell Ramayana Trail In India

Thursday 17th of January 2008

Cricket icons Arjuna Ranatunga and Aravinda de Silva are currently in India to sell the ‘Ramayana trail’ in the hope that thousands of Hindus will flock to Sri Lanka to see places associated with the epic.
‘Apart from Arjuna and Aravinda, two Hindu leaders from Sri Lanka will participate in the campaign to familiarise Indians with places in the island associated with the Ramayana,’ S. Kalaiselvan, director general Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), told IANS over phone from New Delhi Thursday.
The head of the Ramakrishna Mutt in Colombo and the high priest of the Hanuman temple in Dehiwela are currently in New Delhi along with the cricket stars. They would be meeting the media and prominent personalities to elicit support for the path-breaking tourism project, Kalaiselvan said.
‘Sri Lankan folklore and religious scholars have identified more than 30 places on the island which are associated with the Ramayana. And interestingly enough, people in these places have a strong sense of history and lore, and a strong sense of possession. They are proud of their association with the Hindu epic,’ Kalaiselvan said.
This is so even though 90 percent of the people in the Ramayana-related areas are Sinhalese Buddhists.
According to the Ramayana, Ravana brought Sita to Sri Lanka by a vehicle called ‘Pushpaka Vimanam’ by the Hindus and ‘Dandu Monara Yanthraya’ by the Sinhalese Buddhists. According to mythology, this vehicle landed at Werangatota, about 10 km from Mahiyangana, east of the hill station of Nuwara Eliya, in central Sri Lanka.
Sita was then taken to Goorulupota, now known as Sitakotuwa, where Ravana’s wife, Mandodari, lived. Seetakotuwa is about 10 km from Mahiyangana on the road to Kandy.
Sita was housed in a cave at Sita Eliya, on the Colombo-Nuwara Eliya road. There is a temple for her there. She is believed to have bathed in the mountain stream flowing beside the temple.
North of Nuwara Eliya, in Matale district, is Yudhaganapitiya, where the Rama-Ravana battle took place. According to a Sinhalese legend, Dunuwila is the place from where Rama shot the ‘Bramshira’ arrow that killed Ravana. The Sri Lankan king was chalking out his battle plans in a place called Lakgala when the killer arrow struck him.
Lakgala is a rock from the top of which Ravana could see north Sri Lanka clearly. It served as a watchtower following the expectation that Rama would invade the island to rescue his consort.
Ravana’s body was placed on the rock at Yahangala for his subjects to pay their last respects.
Since Ravana was a Brahmin, it was considered a sin to kill him, even in battle. To wash off the sin, Rama performed puja at the Munneswaram temple in Chilaw, 80 km north of Colombo. At Manaweri, north of Chilaw, there is a temple gifted by Rama.
According to another legend from the southern part of Sri Lanka, Sita was actually detained in the mountainous forest area of Rumassala near Galle. When she fell ill, Hanuman wanted to bring some medicinal plants from the Dronagiri mountain in the Himalayan chain to cure her. Since he could not find the plants, he brought the whole mountain and dropped it at Unawatuna, which is near the present Galle harbour. Unawatuna means ‘here it fell’. Indeed, the area is known for its medicinal plants.
At Ramboda, in the central highlands, known for its massive waterfalls, a temple for Hanuman has now sprung up as the belief is that he had visited Sita who was incarcerated there.
Legend has it that the Koneswaram temple, in the eastern district of Trincomalee, was gifted by Lord Shiva to Ravana, as he was an ardent devotee.
In the famous Buddha Vihara at Kelani, near Colombo, there is a representation of Rama handing over captured Sri Lanka to Ravana’s brother, Vibheeshana, who sided with him in his conflict with Ravana.


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