religion

Adam's peak / Sri Pada

at the bottom

The view of Adam’s peak from the nearest town, Dalhousie. 

Adam’s Peak, also known as Sri Pada, is a 2,243m-high mountain and a holy site for Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Most pilgrims climb the 5000-plus steps in the month of April, when the weather is at its best. It’s far from an easy ascent, especially as most climb in the dark in order to see the sun rise and catch a glimpse of the mountain’s surprisingly triangular shadow cast on the surrounding hills. 

Despite the 1:30am alarm and the 5000 steps that followed (as well as having no religious motivation what-so-ever), I enjoyed the experience. The numerous shelters on the way selling tea and providing shelter from the cold winds - it was genuinely cold at times - were a blessing, and seeing old women and men, some weak, some overweight, tackle the steps, meant giving up was just not an option.  

At the top, it was busy, too busy for my liking. And this was on a week-day. Climbing on a full-moon / Poya day must be a nightmare and take for ever. I wasn’t up for fighting for a clear shot of yet another sunrise so I wandered round, taking in what I could.

waiting

It’s busy at the top and everyone wants a prime spot to get a clear view of the sunrise. 

Waiting for the sunrise at the top of Adam's Peak / Sri Pada

A young boy yawns, waiting for the sun to rise. 

shoot the sunrise

May it with their cheap smart phones or their expensive DSLRs, many visitors can’t resist to record the sunrise. 

Sun's up - Sri Pada

A pilgrim takes in the view of the sun rising over the Sri Lankan hill country.

messy view

The rooftop of the basic, overnight shelter for pilgrims. 

view

Very early views over a large water tank and the rolling hills. 

Adam Peak's shadow

The staggeringly-triangular shadow of Adam’s Peak is cast over the hills for a brief 30mins or so. 

at the top

Most people head down before 8am in order to avoid the heat. 

Thai Pongal celebrations in Jaffna

One of the most important festivals for Tamil-Hindus, Thai Pongal, takes place every year on 14 January. Apart from being celebrated in Tamil Nadu, it is also celebrated by Tamil-Sri Lankans all over the country.

Thai Pongal is part of a 4-day harvest festival celebrated to thank the Sun God for its contribution to a successful harvest. In Tamil, ‘Pongal’ means 'overflowing’, as in an abundance of something. Thai Pongal is followed by Maatu Pongal, a day when the cows are in turn celebrated for their contribution to the working of the land. 

On the morning of Thai Pongal, families traditionally prepare a Pongal dish (rice, milk and spices) in the morning which they then share with relatives and neighbours. Most families will then visit a Kovil to attend a Puja and make offerings.

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Nallur Kandaswamy temple is Jaffna’s most famous. It was impossible to get shots of the Puja here as photography inside is unfortunately strictly prohibited.

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One of the first devotees to visit Nallur temple in the early morning on Thai Pongal makes a prayer after having smashed a coconut. This ritual is symbolic of course, the coconut representing one’s own ego which should regularly be 'smashed’ to attempt to remain humble.

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Looking into Nallur Kandaswamy kovil.

In order to get some shots of Puja on Thai Pongal, I visited Nallur Sivan Kovil, just across the road. The local, charismatic Swamy was extremely welcoming and with only a small crowd was present, the experience was much more accessible to a non-Hindu foreigner than in the busier Nallur Kandaswamy temple. After the Puja, the Pongal dish was served to all present and musicians played traditional Hindu music on the nadaswaram (long flute) and thavil (percussion), before an Indian violinist visiting from the UK played for a good half-hour.

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Many children helped out with the Puja in Nallur Sivan Kovil.

The Swamy pours water to thank the God of Water for contributing to the harvest. 

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The Swamy lights candles which he holds to the sky, thanking the Sun God for its contribution to the harvest.

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