Ravan ki Lanka; A brief look at Sri Lanka

How many Ramayanas? Three hundred?Three thousand? At the end of some Ramayanas, a question is sometimes asked. How many Ramayanas have there been? And there are stories that answer the question. Here is one.

Three Hundred Ramayanas from the Collected Essays of A.K. Ramanujan

Sri Lanka has always been one of my dream destinations to go to. Maybe because right from school all the way till graduation school, I myself have heard various versions of what this island ruled by the mighty king Ravana is like. As Indians we are conditioned to believe that Ravana was the enemy, we have festivals dedicated to the triumphant victory of Rama over Ravana. I however, have a very different perspective on the same. It’s very close to the quote above. Do read the complete essay for more on that.

Back in school I had a very close friend from Sri Lanka. Visiting her house in Gurgaon, did raise the bar really high in my head. Right from the Sri Lankan flag outside her house door, to the furniture pieces, even the cutlery her mother would use to serve food was enough for my imagination. She would describe her house back home, tell me about where her parents picked what artifact up from that made up their world in India. Do you remember the India v/s Sri Lanka cricket world cup? Yeah we watched that together.

Architecture school too introduced me to my favourite architect in the world, the great Geoffrey bawa. I hope I can one day possess the capability that this man had. What a designer! Reading about his works pushed me to visit Sri Lanka even more. The way this man uses the natural setting to create a human habitat is just magical. I can go and on about how experimental & inspirational his work is, but there is enough mainstream documentation out there to do that for you.

I did finally get the opportunity to visit this land of wonder in the final year of my architecture school. The photographer in me could not stop. I think I used my camera’s capabilities to the fullest. Sri Lanka brought out the best in me. The designer, dreamer, architect, photographer & philosopher were all unleashed together like a rainbow. A series on my selected works shall follow.

A visit to the Cinnamon Island
How the Kandalama hotel sit in site
A staircase inside Kandalama
The constant wind at the top of the Sigiriya Lion Rock
A beach on the west coast
An ecosystem in the middle of The Bentota Beach Resort
Organically stuck on a wall inside Lunugange
A view at the top of the hill at Lunuganga
A pit-stop inside the Lunuganga estate
The reflecting pond at Lunuganga
A picture perfect organic tree
A window view
A perfectly lonely lilly, in the many lilly ponds around the country
Inside Jetwing light house. He just let the rocks at site be where they belonged.
A breakfast spot inside Jetwing Light house.
An evening view next to the rocky sea.
This particular lamp spoke to me. I’ve documented many such lamps in my brief visit.
A peak into the staircase leading to the terrace inside Bawa’s House No. 11
A courtyard inside Bawa’s House No. 11

Honestly these pictures are just 1% of what I ended up documenting in my brief visit. I did end up meeting my friend from school. We spoke for hours, about what life was like and how stupid we were back then to completely cut-off any contact with each other. I highly recommend everyone to visit Ravan ki Lanka or Sri Lanka once in their life. Especially as Indians, to reflect back on our mythological teachings. Do we really need that festival anymore? Isn’t it us just celebrating destroying this beautiful island. The constant battle between good and evil; or being good or not trying to do evil, is something we all as human beings struggle with.

My obsession with Sri Lanka and Mr. Bawa recently lead me to a very interesting conversation with another long lost local friend. She approached me via social media, another sri-lankan friend, I wasn’t really that close to, but she happened to shared a mutual admiration for Mr. Bawa. She told me stories about how she and her dad were obsessed with him too. The highlight of that conversation for me was her mentioning Geoffrey Bawa’s lesser known brother, landscape architect, Bevis Bawa. I did do some quick research on him, since I myself aspire to become a landscape architect one day. I still have a lot I’d like to personally explore in this magical island.

Someday, one day, sooner than I hope.

A quick social media search did give me an idea about what his works were like. But Sri Lanka holds a very special place in my heart and I’d like to take my time before I share any quick opinions about the other Bawa. I’m more thrilled that I have a reason to go back to this island, with the hope of documenting someone else’s work too.

Architect or not, Sri Lanka is one of those places that I can re-visit till kingdom come.

A quick look at his already documented works by other shall follow.

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