Meeting Ananga, the God of Love at the Telwatte Temple

There are about three stories jostling in my mind, each one wanting to be the first on the blog for 2015. Not quite good to have my own thoughts hustling to win like the politicians. Cut to the chase, the decision is to leave the sadness of 2014 behind, embrace the new and do a happy post. Post tsunami 10th anniversary almsgiving, I went wandering with my new love, my Nikon camera. First stop was to meet Ananga, a.k.a. Kamadeva, son of Vishnu and Laxmi . His wife is Rati but he lives alone at this abode — the Purana Totagama Raja Maha Viharaya in Telwatte, Hikkaduwa.. He and Rati were favourites of my father and a number of other writers. Ananga is the god of sexual love, like Eros of the Greeks and Cupid of the Romans.

Statue of Anangaya at Purana Thotagama Temple, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

Statue of Anangaya at Purana Thotagama Temple, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not sure, what he is doing or supposed to be doing standing larger than life size at the entrance to the shrine room of the temple but there he is, holding a sugar cane bow in his left hand and a sheaf of arrows in the right.

While our giant neighbhour, India, widely worshipped Ananga there are not many references to for the prevalence of this cult in Sri Lanka. In fact, as far as I know this is the only statue of Ananga in Lanka. He has a variety of names .  e,g. Kandapa, Naranga, Malkehella, Madana, Malsara, Makaradvaja and Kama.

Buddha Statue inner shrine, Purana Thotagama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 27 Dec. 2014. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

Buddha Statue inner shrine room or Viharage, Purana Thotagama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 27 Dec. 2014. Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

In the inner shrine room, facing the huge reclining Buddha, is another giant standing statue, of God Vishnu, father of Ananga.  There is not enough room for me to back up to take the photo, but I do manage to capture some of the majestic stance of God Vishnu.

Statue of God Vishnu at Purana Thotagama Temple, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014 . Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

Statue of God Vishnu at  Thotagama Raja Maha Viharaya Temple, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014 . Photo copyright Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vishnu is also known as Narayana, and  Upulvan (blue lotus colour), is represented as a black or deep blue man — sometimes with four arms,  club in one, a shell in another, a discuss in the third, and a lotus in the fourth. His vehicle is the bird Garuda. He is the guardian God of Buddhism.

To the left of the Ananga statue is another colossal statue of God Natha (Avalokiteshwara), surrounded by murals. Two guardian lions stand on either side of the God.

Statue of God Natha at Purana Thotagama Temple, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Photo Copyright Chulie de Silva

The statue of God Natha ) at Thotagama Temple, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Photo Copyright Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aryapala in his  Book on Society in Medieval Ceylon, quotes Senarath Paranavitane ad states that there was an inscription containing invocations to Tara and Avalokiteshvara, affording evidence that Mahayana Gods and goddesses were objects of popular worship.

The Guard (Doratupalaya) to the right of the God Natha, with the guardian lion. Purana Totagama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Copyright Chulie de Silva

The Guard (Doratupalaya) to the right of the God Natha, with the guardian lion.  Totagama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Copyright Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manjusri dates the Telwatte Purana Viharaya as 1799. The inscription n the doorway dates this “Aluth Viharage” pintings and sculpture to 1805, but despite this Senake Bandaranayake says these are much more likely to be of mid-century vintage.

Inscription above the door to the shrine room. Purana Totgama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Copyright Chulie de Silva

Inscription above the door to the shrine room. Purana Totgama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. 26 Dec. 2014. Copyright Chulie de Silva

Many who visit the temple have little idea of the historical value of the statues or the frescoes, let alone the names of the gods in the statues. For them its a temple in the village that they come to worship.

An elderly woman worships at the Purana Totgama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. Copyright Chulie de Silva

An elderly woman worships at the Purana Totgama Raja Maha Viharaya, Telwatte, Hikkaduwa. Copyright Chulie de Silva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This lady had no answers for her grandson when he asked for the names of the Gods. It is difficult to account for the presence of Ananga in the temple says Ariyapala adding that “It may have been a warning to the lay-devotees against indulgence in sexual pleasures.” Whatever the reason for building the statue, its a part of our heritage that will be lost as there is no visible plans to save them. Learning to accept impermanence and decay is an essential requirement of Buddhism. Maybe we have lessons to learn.

Frescoes on the wall to the left side of the Ananga statue. Purana Totgama Raja Maha Viharaya; 26 Dec. 2015. Copyright Chulie de Silva

Frescoes on the wall to the left side of the Ananga statue. Purana Totgama Raja Maha Viharaya; 26 Dec. 2015. Copyright Chulie de Silva

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Colours of Nepal

The sights, the sounds, the smells, the laughter all came tumbling out when I re-discovered  the photos I took in Nepal in 2005.

The young and the not so young,  seated in the sun. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The young and the not so young, seated in the sun. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

This was my first visit to the country of birth of Lord Buddha. Though I didn’t get to Lumbini, I kept thinking this is the country, this is the earth that he walked on. Not having traveled much in the subcontinent, everything was spectacular.  I had only a hand me down camera but it was great fun trying to capture the mood of what I saw.

The evening shadows were getting longer when we got to the  Buddhist Newars temple of Swayambhunath, with the giant eyes painted on the Stupa. It is  one of the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites.

Swayambhunath Temple with the eyes painted on the stupa.  5 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Swayambhunath Temple with the eyes painted on the stupa. 5 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Children at a Nepal Temple. 5 March 2005.Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Children at the Swayambhunath Temple complex. 5 March 2005.Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Multi-coloured flags fluttered, white robed holy men walked the streets. ... Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Multi-coloured flags fluttered, white robed holy men walked the streets. … Photograph©Chulie de Silva

It was street life at its most interesting.

A snooze to recharge the batteries using solar power. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

A snooze to recharge the batteries using solar power. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

 Bead necklace Seller. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Bead necklace maker and vendor sits in front of a beautifully carved door. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Bhaktapur, the ancient Newar city — a World Heritage site seemed frozen in time. On that bright sunny morning everyone was out basking in the sun. There was a  labyrinth of narrow alleys linking houses, courtyards where it was common to see groups of people giving each other oil massages, pounding rice in open courtyards, or just sitting there in the sun.

The labyrinth of interconnected passgages in Bhaktapur. 6 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The labyrinth of interconnected passgages in Bhaktapur. 6 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Morning chat in the sun. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Morning chat in the sun.
Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Some were busy at work but this was a slow period for tourism due to various factors.

The potter at work. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The potter at work. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The natural kiln. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The natural kiln. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Batsala Temple is a stone temple dedicated to Batsala Devi and  has many intricate carvings.  It is most famous for its bronze bell, known to local residents as “the bell-of barking dogs,” so called as when it is rung, dogs in the vicinity begin barking and howling. The colossal bell was hung by King Ranjit Malla in 1737 A.D. and was used to sound the daily curfew. It is nowadays rung every morning when goddess Taleju is worshiped.

Stone Temple of Batsala. Bhaktapur, Nepal. 6 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Stone Temple of Batsala. Bhaktapur, Nepal. 6 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Bhaktapur Durbar Square is an impressive  conglomeration of pagoda and and is one of the most interesting architectural showpieces of the valley highlighting the grandeur of the ancient arts of Nepal.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

he grandeur of the ancient Nepalese art. Bhaktapur, Nepal. 6 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The grandeur of the ancient Nepalese art. Bhaktapur, Nepal. 6 March 2005. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

And the Pièce de résistance of the visit — the unforgettable flight over the majestic Himalayan mountains.

The majestic Himalayan mountains . Photograph©Chulie de Silva

The legendary Himalayan mountains . Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Acknowledgement: Thanks for this visit to Nepal go to my former manager Dale Lautenbach and Country Director Peter Harrold, who thought a short spell of work at the Nepal World Bank office would be a welcome change for me after the traumatic tsunami of 2004. In Nepal these visits would not have been possible without the support of Rajib Upadhya, Sunita Gurung and Reena Shrestha of the World Bank in Nepal and Jim Rosenberg of World Bank DC.

Ritigala, where Gods are smiling

The excited voice on the phone said “Chulie I am in Sri Lanka, are you here?” Sadly I wasn’t – I was stuck in a hospital in Dhaka with pneumonia. The caller was Nirvair Singh Rai, a young Indian friend I met while working at Drik. Today, we caught up on GChat.  “I am in love with your homeland, and the people. Everything about it! and Ritigala always calls me back.” He pays tribute to Ritigala in his blog and says:

Life is but another threshold for a monk, waiting to be crossed over. Photo©Nirvair Singh Rai

Life is but another threshold for a monk, waiting to be crossed over. Photo©Nirvair Singh Rai

Deep within the heart of Sri Lanka, a monk treads softly on a path that has been walked on since as long ago as 1st Century BCE. Monarchs, kings and rulers have come and gone, but this humble monastery situated in Ritigala, the highest peak in northern Sri Lanka, still stands in all its austerity and simplicity.”

“The monastery does not feature any of the traditional symbols of Buddhist temples, it does not have bodhi trees or stupas. All it has to offer is the honesty of its scarlet robed monks, and the kindness of their hands—some, as weathered and wrinkled as the terrain itself, and some, as young and as unlined as green saplings.”

Kindness lies in the gentleness of hands, and wisdom, in the quietness of a gaze. Photo©Nirvair Singh Rai

Kindness lies in the gentleness of hands, and wisdom, in the quietness of a gaze. Photo©Nirvair Singh Rai

  “Somewhere  along the way, we have forgotten how to navigate the ardous terrain of life. But in this hidden land, the map to the pathways of the heart and the mind, as well as the nimble grace needed to walk them, still lives on. This series is my attempt to share some of Ritigala’s purity and wisdom. It is merely my effort to make you feel what I felt—bliss…”

 Read and see more on his post: The Gods are Smiling

Nirvair copy

Nirvair hails from Bathinda, Punjab, India and is currently studying photography at Pathshala, the South Asian Media Institute, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Ritigala the ancient Buddhist monastery and mountain in Sri Lanka is located 43 km away from the UNESCO World Heritage city of Anuradhapura.

Note: All story text of “Gods are Smiling” and photographs copyright Nirvair Singh Rai. For publication of full story with high res images please contact: nirvairrai@gmail.com

Hikkaduwa memoirs through American eyes

Last night, well past 1 am, while my Nugegoda neighbourhood slept and pole cats frolicked on my rooftop, I sat listening to a lesser known Dvorak piece:  “Zypressen for String Quartet”.  The sender Dale Hammond had said “…helps me to feel words and to see and feel characters in a story…almost like with the music I can reach out and touch them.  So, I searched around a bit and came up with a lesser known Dvorak piece. Click on the time line just before 2:00 minutes.  That helped me to sense and feel the people in the following “Letter to Aruni,” which I love. I begin to see the expression in their faces, the movement of their hands, light and shadow, a breeze thru a cotton shirt or sari.  I got the strongest image at 2:59, but that theme only runs for about: 17 before I lose the image. However, another way I can see is by starting the Dvorak at 00:00, move thru the intro and then begin to read at :13 or :14.”

Sunset through the cinnamon stick fence at Siriniwasa, Hikkaduwa. Circa 2002.

Sunset through the cinnamon stick fence at Siriniwasa, Hikkaduwa. Circa 2002.

“Overall, the sections of the Dvorak above  approximates what I often get in your writing…optimism, youth, light–gentle–sinuous–smooth–curving movement, shyness, necessary and very appropriate formality , sweetness, caring, memory, humor that is always kind….”

What was this letter to Aruni, and who was Dale Hammond? First The letter –purportedly written by my mother Manel in her teens to an agony columnist of the Sunday Observer.

Dear Aruni

I am the eldest daughter in our family, unblemished as the lotus flower I was named after and was brought up by my maternal grandmother in a Walauwa in Panadura. While on a pilgrimage to the shrine in the jungle, we stopped at a house of a relative of mine in Hikkaduwa. There I met this handsome young man at the doorway to his house and he served us tea. He reappeared as we finished bathing in the river before going to the shrine, and he made us marmite soup with just a touch of lime. On the way back he sat with my brother Sepal in our bus. Now he visits our school on the pretext of visiting his aunt who is the Principal of the school. The problem is that my friends call him “Redda” for wearing national dress and I hear his mother will veto a proposal. What should I do?

Aruni’s reply: “Get him to wear western dress and hope his mother will die soon, you are sure to be a winner.”

The letter and the reply both were humorous concoctions of my father Bennie Kirtisinghe and was embedded in a blog post “Flower of Love: Bennie Meets Manel” by  Bala Malli . 

Wedding day 8 June 1944 portrait of my parents Bennie & Manel Kirtisinghe. Photographer unknown. Waluwwa, Nalluruwa, Panadura, Sri Lanka. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Wedding day 8 June 1944 portrait of my parents Bennie & Manel Kirtisinghe. Photographer unknown. Waluwwa, Nalluruwa, Panadura, Sri Lanka. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

 Manel, my Amma, did turn out to be the predicted winner but couldn’t get Thatha to wear western dress on the wedding day.  The wedding took place in the ample and beautiful gardens of the Dissanayake Waluwa in Pandura on June 8th 1944.  Amma was 21 going on 22 and Thatha was 25 at the time of marriage – I guess my grandma didn’t veto the proposal in the end. …

So how did this listening to music and reading blogs come about and who was Dale Hammond?

On 11 May, 2013, I received this comment on my blog Hikkaduwa Chronicles, on the post Return to Hikkaduwa 7 years after tsunami” and said:

“Was listening to Prokofiev, Opus 31 as I read your “Letters from my father Bennie & Bala Malli.”  It all comes back….It all comes back…  I trust your mother, you, all of yours are well.”
Dale H.

Yes, it all came back for me too. Dale H. was Dale Hammond who first got in touch with me in 2010 to say:

Ms Desilva,

My name is Dale Hammond and I live with my wife Anna in Santa Barbara County, California. I am assuming you are Chulanganie, daugther of Bennie and Manel Kirtisinghe of Hikkaduwa.

Recently I was remembering your parents and came upon your Hikkaduwa Chronicles. I noticed the last comment on the link below was from 2008, so I wanted to make sure you are aware of the comment I left at the bottom of the link. That is why I am writing.
http://chuls.wordpress.com/2008/06/30/the-flower-of-love-bennie-meets-manel/#comment-101
Best Regards,
Dale Hammond
Lompoc, California

His comment coming out of the blue was:

The verandah at the back of Siriniwas, facing the sea. Circa 1970's. Photographer unknown. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The verandah at the back of Siriniwas, facing the sea. Circa 1970’s. Photographer unknown. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Chulie,
I stayed with the very kind and gentle Bennie and Manel 42 years ago. A few days ago I wrote the following to my wife Anna, who is touring round-the-world….

One night while you were in Singapore I began to dream of my own trip thru that part of the world 42 years ago. Somehow, my mind got to what was then Ceylon and a little west coastal town there named Hikkadua [sic Hikkaduwa]. I had it so good there…so much so that its memory has receded into my mind to a special place that today makes me wonder if I was ever there at all. For a couple of dollars a day I stayed with a very kind man and his wife: a house they called “Siri Niwasa”, a wonderful room that looked on a garden, a short path to the sea with a magical coral reef, 3 meals a day, and a young man who climbed the trees for young coconuts when I was thirsty in the heat of the day. It was a peaceful town, and the only foreigners I saw during my 2 week stay were a couple of young Germans with a quirky way of looking at life.

My host and hostess were Bennie and Manel. After so many years, a few days ago I found them again….http://chuls.wordpress.com/2008/06/30/the-flower-of-love-bennie-meets-manel/
Love,
Dale

Dale’s message arriving so close to my father’s birthday on 13 May, was as I said to him then a “wonderful posthumous gift”.

I updated him on family news and promised to tell my mother, which I did but I forgot to respond to Dale and tell him that my mother remembered him.

So the 2013, comment came again three years later almost to the day again of my father’s Birthday and yet again a delight.  My mind jumped back to the earlier correspondence I responded immediately, again giving him family news and photos. Dale came back with this:

“….and…thank you for your reply. Yes, it has been awhile. Where we left off, I think,  you were on your way to your Mother to ask if she remembered me. When I heard nothing about her response, I did what I tend to do. That is, I assumed she did not remember me in a good light. When I look back at that period of my life, I think of myself as young, brave, and very foolish, with a less than healthy emphasis on the latter quality. Hence, in my logic, I indicted myself in your mother’s eyes. In truth, I hope it would not be so, or, at the very worst, she does not remember me at all. 

My parents Bennie & Manel Kirtisinghe on the back garden of Siriniwasa, Hikkaduwa circa late 1970's. Photographer unknown from the family albums. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

My parents Bennie & Manel Kirtisinghe on the back garden of Siriniwasa, Hikkaduwa circa late 1970’s. Photographer unknown from the family albums. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

I do remember your mother and father. They were kind and gentle and to me embodied connection and hope, and I know now, for what was then my reality, they were “what the doctor ordered.” They have long been and will always be in my memory.  

I thoroughly enjoy your writing and believe there is much in it to savor. You speak of a time and of a place that few of us could otherwise only imagine. But more, I see in your words a story of people who are real, and special, yet possess qualities to which, I think, many are now and will be drawn. Most of all, at least for me, your words transcend more than just years and memory, but also those human differences in which we so often mire ourselves. All of us are after all, so much alike, and I believe few could not look to Bennie and Manel and recognize the best in themselves. 

On a related note, we live not far from Santa Barbara, CA. That is where I work. Annually, this city plays host to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. It grows every year, although still small by relative standards. Happily so, as I have heard many say it is intimate in a way the Academy Awards, held 90 miles to the South, could never achieve. But, its size does not preclude it being a draw for great films and great actors: Helena Bonham Carter, Daniel Day Lewis, Robert Deniro, Jeff Bridges, Martin Scorsese, Jeffrey Rush are just the beginning of the list, year over year. 

But, beyond the big names and big films, are the lesser known films and actors and actresses that comprise the independents that grace the stage of the Arlington, the Lobero, and the Riviera, along with other venues. To the point, I believe the story of “Siri Niwasa” is more than worthy of standing with any story contained within those many Independents I have seen at the Festival over the years. It’s a great and wonderful story and I pray it will not end.”

The sea behind Siriniwas, Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

The sea behind Siriniwas, Hikkaduwa. Photograph© Chulie de Silva

Please, I pray you stay with this.  Hikka, when I saw it and experienced it, was extraordinary, as is the house, and the characters, and the river, and the people you remember.  It is a story that needs to be told. “How Blue Was my Sea”….”How Blue Was My Sea”….”How Blue Was My Sea”…