ISLE Program

Session I: 2004 Activities

- Get Session I Schedule

Session I is devoted to the Sinhala language class, and the Material Culture class. The "Northern Tour," a highlight of the ISLE experience, is part of the Material Culture class, an introduction to the classical period of Sri Lankan history and archaeology. The students attended a number of on-site lectures at historic sites in the northern part of the country.

"The tour made Sri Lankan history tangible; it was great to see the interaction of modern pilgrims ... with ancient holy sites."
-- Grinnell Student

Sinhala classes started immediately, and continued nonstop throughout the program. Students began an intensive nine-day course the day after they arrived in Sri Lanka, leading up to the Northern Tour. A language instructor accompanied them to continue working on their skills, and classes resumed when they returned to Kandy. As a result, students were using Sinhala as they learned it.

In mid-August, the ISLE students embarked on the eight-day Northern Tour, as part of their Material Culture studies, visiting the sacred cities of Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, and Polonnaruwa. The group traveled with Professor Sudharshan Seneviratne and his assistant Sisira. Prior to departure, lectures helped prepare students for what they saw at various sites, and students who had prepared by reading the pre-program materials and arming themselves with some basic historical and political knowledge of Sri Lanka gained the most from these lectures. Professor Seneviratne's last lecture ended with a slide show of the sites to be visited, accompanied by some tour tips to assist students in absorbing the vast amounts of information they would be taking in.

On-site lecture

Students attending an on-site lecture in the Material Culture class.

In Anuradhapura, the students went to Professor Seneviratne's site, the Jetavana monastic complex. The complex is located in the center of the ancient city, and was planned and built in the third century CE.

Jetavana stupa

ISLE group at Jetavana stupa. Prof. Seneviratne is far left, and Director Shampa Biswas is next to him.

Professor Seneviratne and his crew have been excavating and restoring the magnificent structure of the Jetavana stupa (a stupa is a mound containing the relics of the Buddha or his disciples). This is but one site of many where Professor Seneviratne used his narrative to bring together the disparate disciplines of history, anthropology, politics, religion, sociology and even environmental studies, to build a chronological account of Sri Lankan history.

Pidurangla Rock

At Pidurangala Rock.

The students also visited Sigiriya, a fifth century CE palace on the top of a huge granite rock. Another rigorous climb took the group to the top of Pidurangala rock (adjacent to Sigiriya rock).

Session I ended with students celebrating the last day of Perahara at Lanka Tilaka, the Saturday before classes were to begin. (Get more information on Perahara.) Students loved it! This year's Kandy event occurred before the students arrived, so they attended the festival in nearby Lanka Tilaka.

Perahara Elephants

A Perahara celebration parade.