Sharing the Delights of Eid
As Muslims conclude their Ramazan Fast, Sri Lankans yearn for the flavourful desserts that tingle the palate. ‘Pernal Palaharam’, the festive sweets of Eid al-Fitr are many. These festive sweets reflect the brilliance of cultural convergence and cross-cultural interaction. The sweet delicacies of Eid reflect the strong influences of Arab and Indian gourmets, the use of spices tinged with delightful sweetness. Embraced centuries ago, these festive sweets are now part of tradition. From the many varieties of delicacies that adorn the festival table, raising button cookies, pirni and sillara/palahaaram are some of the all time favourites in Sri Lanka. The sweets are prepared during the festival period in every household with ease. The Eid cookies or raisin button cookies more commonly called gnanakatha by Sri Lankan Muslims and Malays. However, the version prepared for Eid is quite different to the bigger and harder cookie covered in sugar and sold in wayside shops. The saturated butter makes the best melt-in-the-mouth cookies, small flat round sweets made of wheat flour, ghee and icing sugar. Sillara or as the Malay’s call it palahaaram, is commonly called seeni murukku. It is a type of rusk, although palahaaram is softer given that the dough has egg and butter. The rolled out soft dough is cut into shapes of diamonds, twisted knots or circles, deep fried and soaked in sugar syrup. When dry the little fresh crispy nibbles glisten with the sugar coating. An ideal bite a
The Minneriya National Park has at its heart the ancient Minneriya reservoir, built by King Mahasen. As the dry season begins to wither the green land of the rustic North Central province, and suck dry the waters in the area, the elephants have no option but to follow their scent looking for sweet grass and water. The Minneriya reservoir never dries, so it becomes the centre of herds literally nosing their way through. The herds converge and their ‘gathering’ can grow up to 300 elephants. The Gathering has the allure of being the biggest annual grouping of elephants in Asia. The drought months of late June to September propel it. If you wish to experience the complete splendour of the giants living out their life in the open, be ready before dusk. Late afternoon is when the peace-loving, gentle animals prefer to have this social evening or garden party. In their hundreds, the elephants are happy to squelch in the precious pocket of lush sweet grass and muddy water. Their hides will be bathed in the golden dusk light and, possibly, their glow of happiness, at this massive herd rendezvous. They bathe, mate, eat and socialise. You will have a good number of animated action to witness on the same plane. Look out for the adorable tiny ones that run like nobody’s business, but approach with care because the jealous mothers, aunts and uncles are quite protective. The Gathering in Minneriya is truly a rare and must-see spectacle! The Gathering is best witnessed at dusk in the mon
Vibrant and exotic Batik
Batik or in its apt literal meaning, ‘writing in wax’ is an ancient art form inherent to Sri Lanka as well as many other Asian countries. Going back in time, one would discover pulsating colour splattered material dancing in beautiful traditional designs stitched into the conventional attire for both men and women.
Delicacies flavoured with Tea
Today, tea’ is not content to sit in a charming fuming porcelain pot. It has waltzed into the world of gourmet food. The world’s cuisine has opened up to the endless possibilities of cooking with tea. The prospect of Camellia sinensis as a flavour enhancer is obvious enough due to its complex characters. Your confectionery, sweets and biscuits, can be invigorated with fresh tea as tea may infuse a zesty edge to an array of cakes, cheesecakes, muffins and even soft buns. Chocolates too can be positively inspired with a filling of syrup or a ganache made of a reduction of tea. Scintillating jars of tea based jam could bring light and joy to the breakfast table. Imagine infusing tea into pure alcohol? Tea leaves left after being brewed can be dried in an oven, mixed to a vat of spirit such as vodka, and then left to ferment for around a month. This concentrate, when filtered and frozen, can even complement a dinner with its own unique tangs. The seven main regional Ceylon Teas, each with a strength and taste inhaled from the very character of the area, must be carefully paired with different types of dishes. Low grown teas from Sabaragamuwa and Ruhuna are robust, strong and malty, thus they should be used for marinades and rich sauces for dishes made up of meat, poultry and red fish like tuna. With fish like seer or mullet, the texture is lighter and the white meat very soft, so the sauces and marinades should be of delicate teas such as Nuwara Eliya or Dimbulla varieties. M
Surf's up, so surf up on Eastwards
Arugambay, the east’s spirited heartbeat South of the province, it is indeed, every surfer’s paradise. With waves that tease the pros to ones that cradle the beginners, there are many surfing points including Arugambay (Main and Baby point), and Whisky Point, Pottuvil, Peanut Farm, Lighthouse Point, Okanda Point and Secret Point. Experience the simple life here, with wholesome food and the homey hospitality in cosy cafes and restaurants. At night the beach vibe is electrifying with parties and street food flavours that tantalise the taste buds. Explore the wild at the Lahugala National Park where even as you are on the main road, you can spot elephants. Wrapped in the epic of Princess Viharamahadevi, Pottuvil has many religious and historical sites; this includes the Magul Maha Viharaya and Muhudu Maha Viharaya and also other religious sites such as the Neelagiri stupa, the Okanda Temple and the Sangamankandi Jungle-Ganesh kovil. In Pottuvil, the days start early and the nights are long... Trincomalee, the cultural soul of the East It is home to the Island’s most beautiful beach Nilaveli with its sapphire waters and silver sands. Bask in the privacy of the scenic Marble beach with crystal clear waters or enjoy the shore of Uppuveli. The waters are ideal for diving and scuba diving, be mesmerised by the colourful world under the sea. Witness the magnificence of blue whales, sperm whales and dolphins in these deep blue Eastern waters. The waters off Pigeon Island a
Major festivals in Sri Lanka
Feast of St Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade
June 3 – 13Devotees from across the country, Catholics as well as those from other faith, attend the annual feast of St Anthony’s Shrine or the Kochchikade Church. Festivities commence with the flag hoisting ceremony on June 3, 2017. Thereafter, novenas and special prayers will be held until the vespers service on June 12. On June 13, the feast day, mass is held every hour from 4am to 7am. The main services will be held at 8am (Tamil), 10am (Sinhala) noon (English). The procession of the statue of Saint Anthony will be at 5.30pm while the final blessing takes place at night.
Poson Full Moon Poya Day
June 8The day marks the introduction of Buddhism to the Island by Arahant Mahinda in the third century BC. It is believed the Great Arahant preached the Dhamma to King Devanampiyatissa, the then ruler of the country, in Mihintale. The Thero had been sent by the Indian Emperor Ashoka, who is credited for spreading Buddhism to nine countries. Sri Lankans celebrate this day with great religious fervour. Sil is observed during the day, while Aloka Pooja are held at night. Many make the pilgrimage to Mihintale, the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, where they worship the place in which the Dhamma was first preached in the Island.
Nagapooshani Amman Kovil Kodiyetram
June 25 – JulyLocated in the islet of Nagadeepa or Nainativu off the Jaffna Peninsula is the ancient Nagapooshani Amman Kovil dedicated to goddess Parvati and her consort Lord Shiva. The Kodiyetram or flag hoisting in June marks the beginning of the annual kovil festival, which will be held in July.
June 25 – 26Upon seeing the half-moon, the leaders of the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama declare the end of the fasting and beginning of Eid. Although scheduled for June 25, 2017, the date may change depending on the sighting of the moon. The day after the sighting, Muslims pray before breakfast, while in Colombo they congregate at the Galle Face Green. Later, meals are shared with family, neighbours and friends, while relatives are visited.
What to do in Sri Lanka
More things to do...
Spot Whales along the Southern Coast
Imagine a meeting with a whale, preferably a Blue Whale: cleaving the vast blue ocean spreading till the distant horizon, the biggest mammal on earth turns a lazy somersault; likely to be the most impressive sight anywhere in the world, the one thing you’ll never forget and recall in dreams. To witness this is possible only a short drive (and then a short cruise) from Colombo. While the Eastern coast season for whale watching has petered out by now, you can still meet them in the south. Sri Lanka is fortunate to be a destination for watching whales all year round. The best Southern destinations are Mirissa and Dondra, while Aluthgama, Ambalangoda and Hikkaduwa are catching up fast. Out of the 80 species of whales known, 26 have been recorded up to date in and around the seas of Sri Lanka. These include the Blue Whale, Humpback Whale, Fin Whale, Killer Whale, Minke Whale, Sperm Whale, Pygmy Sperm Whale, Dwarf Sperm Whale and Bryde’s Whale. Some of these giants are occasional visitors while some are permanent residents around Sri Lankan waters. Most of them are glimpsed on their way from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. Your best chance would be the coast of Dondra from December to April, when there is a high concentration of Blue Whales and Sperm Whales. An average trip with a boat or tour operator would take up to 4 hours, but they would be made of precious moments you’ll cherish forever: moments of solidarity with these intriguing, intelligent, and highly prepossess
Kitesurfing in Kalpitiya
The beaches of Kalpitiya have been luring kite surfers from all corners of the world, its beautiful, rolling sandy stretches adding character to the excellent winds year-round. There are surfing spots tailor-made for anyone and everyone: flat water lagoons for beginners, wave riding spots in the Indian Ocean for the serious kiter, and fun kite surfing excursions to the more- than-a–dozen sandbanks and exciting little islands that sprinkle these lovely blue waters. The scintillating summer season is the best, and opens a window for enthusiasts from May to October. Strong South-West winds buffet the sea daily, with an average of 20-25 knots, reaching a peak of 30. The winter season is from December to mid- March when the North-West monsoon provide about 15 to 20 knots, about 4 to 6 days a week. The kitesurfing spots in Kalpitiya can cater to beginners as well as to advanced kiters. There are two main surfing sites suitable for those who want flat water, freestyle, freeride and need instruction: the Kalpitiya lagoon and the Kappaladi lagoon. The lagoons are shallow, and will be perfect for your introduction to the sport, as well as for freestyle sessions with its ultra flat water even with strong winds. On the other side of the Kalpitiya peninsula is the Indian Ocean which offers an exhilarating 500m long wave that unrolls during the South West monsoon period, perfect for unforgettable wave riding sessions. Available on this site are a large number of internatio
The amazing rhythms of our culture
Namel and Malini Weeramuni broke new ground when they whipped up a delightful and unique theatre that would become an oasis of arts in the commercial hub of Borella. 15 years later they have sprung another fresh surprise. This time they present a very rich slice of our culture on stage. It is a cross section of the most unique, exotic components of Sri Lankan folk culture – compressed into a one-hour show. It was initially Malini’s idea to organise a cultural show that would feature the best of our traditional arts. Coordinating with Professor Ariyarathna Kaluarachchi, Vice Chancellor of the University of Visual and Performing Arts, and Senior Lecturer Mahinda Wimalasiri, Namel and Malini have curated a collection of beautiful jewels. The Weeramunis were propelled in this direction by the vacuum left by the absence of a proper show of this kind. Since Namel was keen to retain as much authenticity as possible, turning to the University of Visual and Performing Arts was natural. The students there are the inheritors of a tradition that strives to live on. Altogether 30 undergraduates and lecturers come together to resuscitate our heritage arts. The cultural show, comprising ten performances of dance and music, starts with a solemn ‘pooja’ dance to evoke the blessings of the Triple Gem and local deities. It is a mix of many dance forms; upcountry, lowcountry and Sabaragamuwa as well as Indian dance. Then there is the ‘Ves’ Dance, an elaborate magical ritual, a pa
Colombo's Coffee: Pick up your brew
Within the hustle and bustle of Sri Lanka’s buzzing Capital, are some spots for anyone looking for a quiet place to unwind. Colombo offers a diverse choice of Cafés to visit, whether you are looking to retreat into a corner and finish your favourite book, or to catch up with your friends over cappuccinos or simply to get your daily hose of caffeine. Here, we give you a list of places to go grab that hot cup of coffee or tea and relax after a long day in Colombo.
Places to visit in the east
This dusty road is verged by wild and rural landscape. In the scrubland all around you will be found herds of water buffalo, and there are many chances of glimpsing elephants, shadow like amidst trees before they turn heel and disappear at your approach. The Kanchikudichchiaru tank will be the end of your long journey – and it is a very satisfying destination. Tanks in general are great places to just watch and feel happiness ripple within you. Kanchikudichchiaru is set away from the world. The topaz blue expanse of waters with the jungle in the far fringes is mesmerizing, especially at dusk or dawn. Silhouettes of distant mountains loomed in blue and green. Bleached white tree trunks in the middle of the tank stand holding up their hands to the sky. The tank is a favourite local fishing ground, writhing with silver shoals. You would see an occasional villager cast his net wide and draw forth a thick harvest. But these men have to be always wary of the crocodiles who bask in the sun, deceptive with their dozing appearance as they are really keeping a roguish, live interest on the surroundings, ever ready to snatch and snap. If you lay anchor here and laze around, you will ‘experience’ the tank which changes as the day, the sky and the light change slowly. From dawn to dusk it takes many moods: the milky morning, hot golden noon and restful, peaceful, mellow dusk. The big bonus would be the elephants that are often expected to stop by for a drink, several times a day.
With its string of hotels and guest houses, the Kuchchaveli Beach is a well sought out spot if you're looking for a beautiful beach to have a relaxing time. As you walk along the serene strip of soft golden sand, you will see sun loungers and umbrellas dotting the landscape with visitors relaxing under the bright sun while others explore their adventurous side with beach activities and water sports. Here at Kuchchaveli Beach, you will find a warm and peaceful environment that is definitely worth a visit.
An ancient temple sacred to Buddhists, the Seruwila Temple stands one with the nature. The still standing monuments were built during the reign of King Kavantissa during the 2nd century BC and to this day, does not cease to amaze onlookers. Neglected and left for the wilderness after the Tamil invasions, it was rediscovered in the 1900s and recognised as a site to be protected and conserved.
Passekudah Bay and Kalkudah Beach
Located in the East Coast of Sri Lanka, a visit to the shores of Passekudah is an experience in itself. Passekudah Bay is to the north of Batticaloa nestled on one side of Kalkudah beach. A perfect spot for sea-bathing, Passekudah Bay’s flat bed is a great opportunity to take advantage of a good and safe wade or swim to as far as 200 metres from the shoreline. The shared shores of Passekudah and Kalkudah are reef secured and thus the ocean waves are a lot calmer in this part of the Eastern Coast. Around dawn, and if you’re lucky enough to be up that early, sights of deep sea fisherman bringing back the previous night’s catch on to the beach can be seen, where many vendors from the island over await their best buys. The Kalkudah beach is ideal for surfing and wind surfing during the month of September, which is also considered the best month to visit the East Coast.
One of South Asia’s populous towns The bazaar strip along the road, in one of South Asia’s most densely populated townships, Kattankudy in Baticalao is a bright hive of activity at night. Showing Arabic influence, mosques, town structures and date palms are attractions to marvel during a leisurely stroll. Friendly townsfolk are ever ready to point you in the right direction.