Today the accommodation is a bit more upmarket and so as I write this post the girls are outside in the pool and the TV is on in the background showing the first Sri Lanka v Australia test at Kandy.
Therefore Jaffna and the north already seems a world away. Jaffna and the peninsular is beautiful. We visited so many beautiful beaches that were just crying out for development. Even so soon after the war has ended 60% of Sri Lanka’s income is through the service industry – and that mostly tourism. However, the north sees very little of that. Tamils are very hardworking and have been entrepreneurs across the globe but here, at home as it were, they have little chance to prosper. The delicious kottu roti Suresh treated us to at Mullataivu was served at a restaurant run by the army. We could see two new hotels there but it is hard to see how Tamils would either get permission or be willing to invest in hotels there.
One highlight was the trip to the island of Nainativu, near the top of Sri Lanka (and only about 25 miles from India.) We found a stunning beach with no one on it until a lone fisherman arrived for a bit. The island boasts important temples – one Buddhist and one Hindu. The Nagadeepa Purana Viharaya temple marks the footprints of the Buddha’s second visit to Sri Lanka. Where as, just a few hundred yards away, is the Nagapooshani Amman Hindu temple. A Hindu philosopher included it in the 9th century as one of the 64 Shakti Peethams and therefore Hindus come here from all over the world. The current temple was rebuilt after it was destroyed by the Dutch in the 17th century.
In many ways this gives a snap shot of Sri Lanka – the south is strongly Buddhist. Sinhala nationalism equates race with religion and Buddhist monks have large political influence. In the north Hinduism is often the public expression of the Tamils. This is particularly interesting because the links between the two religions are complex. Many Hindus regard Buddhism as a sect of Hinduism, since Gautama Buddha studied as a hindu himself in early life. However, Hinduism as the concept of a coherent world religion is largely a recent invention in reaction to Islam and colonialism. Therefore it is hard to say to what degree either religion has impacted the other.
One thing we have noticed is that Hinduism seems to be more a religion that is practiced by all people. I’m sure this is a gross generalisation but many Buddhist temples are found in caves or on the top of hills – as if the aim is withdrawal from every day life. Whereas Hindu temples are usually found in the middle of town. Hindu temples provide food for any who want it 7 days a week!