Friday, May 16, 2014

Lights, Lights, Lights!





14th of May is Vesak, full moon Poya day in Sri Lanka. According to Wikipedia, Vesak is ‘sometimes informally called Buddha’s Birthday.’ It is a celebration that includes lighted lanterns made of all sizes, from hanging small ones, to giant standing lanterns, most handmade. It is a very big deal here in Sri Lanka.

One Vesak, Lipton's brother-in-law, made the largest Vesak lantern in his village. He won first prize for his weeks of work!

There was a small rain as I struck out with my tuk tuk driver to see the lights yesterday. We began at 4:30PM, which was way too early, so I wandered around the Gangarama Temple area and took photos in the evening light, waiting for the man-made lights to come on. Most displays of the Vesak lanterns are covered in plastic to that the public can’t see them until the auspicious time. I heard that the time was 6:30PM and then that was amended to 7PM. Lots of wandering.

Finally at 6:15PM on the dot, a parade began with drummers and dancers and people carrying gifts for the Buddha. I was in the street taking photos, while the crowd was held back by the multitude of police. I’m not sure why they let me get such a close view of the parade, but it goes to show the politeness of the Sri Lankan people. Perhaps it was because of my big camera that made me look somehow important. There were other photographers there also, but they were from the Navy. So, I got a crowd-free view! No complaints!

My tuk tuk was parked in a great spot, right by Beriya Lake, just across the street and down the road from Gangarama Temple. Except it was right under a loud speaker and the sound of the monk giving his message to the people went right through our ears like a screaming F16! So I kept wandering and waiting. The message seemed to go on forever and not understanding what the monk was saying, I had no clue as to when he was going to finish. So, I suggested we leave. I’d had enough of waiting.

As soon as we were in traffic, 5 minutes away, the booming of fireworks went off! And all the lights went on as well. I had missed it with my impatience. But I was happy enough with the photos that I got and besides, it was dark and I had a 50mm lens that captures low-light photos, but I wasn't sure it would capture ones in complete darkness.

So, we made our way back to Mount Lavinia and caught lights along the way. I told Ranga, my tuk tuk driver, that I really wanted to see a Torana, a super large lighted story of Buddha’s life. We stopped at two Toranas, but the lights weren’t on yet. Ranga said there was one on the main road to my house, and sure enough the lights were on and the crowd was small. Again I got a crowd-free shot! I was happy!

Beriya Lake, before the lights came on.

The small temple near Gangarama Temple in Beriya Lake.

Lotus flowers, unlit, but bright and beautiful.

These Buddha statues surround the small temple on Beryiya Lake.

Lots of security present.

The Vesak lanterns on display, are shrouded with
plastic until the auspicious time to show them. Then
the crowds come to see the lanterns lit up and many
of them are moving ones.

The Navy holding the flags, and ready for the parade.

Sri Lankan drummers and dancers also in the parade.



Gangarama Temple.

Road on which the Gangarama Temple is located. Lots
of lights and flags.

Vesak lanterns hung from the trees.

A dancer and drummers of the parade.

The beginning of the parade.

A giant Vesak lantern that moves.

This Devil (on the right) denied the monkeys from
drinking water at the lake, so the clever monkey
(on the right) got a long tube-shaped reed and drank
the water through it, fooling the Devil!

Dancers in the parade doing acrobatics.

Drummer doing flips!

People of the Chinese Embassy taking gifts to the Buddha.



Lighted tree outside a shop.

I think this was at a bank.

A Torana in the background, unlit.

The Torana near my house.

The lighted story of Buddha's life.

Ranga's tuk tuk! My ride for the night!

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