ISLE Program

Fall 2008 Session I Activities

The fall 2008 ISLE semester is now well underway. The students have been busy studying Sinhala and archaeology, as well as visiting some of Sri Lanka's most famous archaeological sites on the much-anticipated Northern Tour. Below are photos and explanations of some of the highlights from Session I and the Northern Tour.

Nancy in Church

Several days into Session One, Professor Wilkie brought the students to the open air church at Trinity College in Kandy. Here she explains the architecture of the church as well as the history of Catholicism in Sri Lanka to the students.

The students begin using their Sinhala language skills as soon as they arrive in Sri Lanka, and they have daily opportunities to practice these skills with their host families and on field trips. Soon after arriving, the students went on several field trips, including a visit to the Singithi Sevena Orphanage in Kandy. There, they spent an afternoon visiting and playing with the children at the orphanage. The visit gave the students a chance to practice their Sinhala while meeting the orphans. Giving their time to children at orphanages in Kandy is one of several volunteer opportunities available to the students throughout the ISLE semester.

Chris at the orphanageChris flees the children in a game of tag at the Singithi Sevena Orphanage.

Jared and Sarah at the orphanageJared poses with one of the boys from the orphanage, while Sarah chats with one of the girls.

Kristin at the orphanageKrisitin plays with one of the kids from the orphanage.

University of Peradeniya Arts Faculty

The Arts Faculty at the University of Peradeniya, where the students attend the majority of their classes.

Tea BreakSarah, Maria, Krisitin and Michelle (left to right) enjoy a chat and a tea break during a Material Culture class.

Sandimali teachingSarah and Sheila practice Sinhala with Professor Meddegama's assistant, Sandimali. In addition to regular Sinhala language classes, students each have several additional hours of practice each week in smaller groups of two or three.

Before departing for the Northern Tour, Sinhala instructor Professor Meddagama brought the students to the nearby town of Kurunagala. In addition to taking in the beautiful view overlooking the town and the surrounding countryside from the famous Elephant Rock, the students had the chance to try out their Sinhala on vendors and street merchants in the town.

Students at Elephant RockStudents at Elephant Rock- Professor Meddegama brought the students to the top of Elephant Rock in Kurunegala for the pre-Northern Tour Sinhala field trip.

Nancy and KrisitinProfessor Nancy Wilkie sits and talks with student Kristin Henning in preparation for her presentation on Guard Stones and Moonstones during the Northern Tour.

On the Northern Tour, the students saw the sights of Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle with the best guide they could ask for, Professor Sudharshan Seneviratne. In addition to being a professor of archeology, Professor Seneviratne is the Director General of Sri Lanka's Central Cultural Fund. Between him, Program Director Prof. Nancy Wilkie (also an archeology professor), Prof. Meddagama, and Mr. Sisira, the students saw the ancient cities of Sri Lanka with the benefit of what amounted to a walking encyclopedia. The first day of the tour ended with several hours spent at two of Sri Lanka's most sacred religious monuments, the Sri Maha Bodhi and the Ruwanveli seya in Anuradhapura.  All were moved by a procession of pilgrims performing the evening puja at the Bodhi Tree and were awestruck by the Great Stupa. Everyone was awed by the breathtaking views from atop Pidurangala and Sigiriya, as well as by the sheer scale of the ruins of the palaces, monasteries and monuments in each of the places the group visited. The tour concluded with the students quietly taking in the beauty of the Buddha statues at the Gal Vihara in Polonnaruwa.

Following are pictures from the Northern Tour:

 Sudharshan lectures at VessigiriMaterial Culture professor and Director General of Sri Lanka's Central Cultural Fund, Sudharshan Seneviratne, lectures at Vessagiri, an ancient dwelling for Buddhist and Jain monks in Anuradhapura.

Michelle and Maria under drip ledgeMichelle and Maria exlpore the drip-ledge caves at Vessagiri, where monks once sheltered during the rainy season.

Chris atop rock at VessigiriChris explores the granite rock outcroppings at Vessagiri.

Students watch puja at Bodhi TreeThe students and Professor Seneviratne look on as pilgrims perform evening puja at the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura, the oldest historical tree in the world.

Maria places a flowerMaria places a flower before a Buddha statue at the Sri Maha Bodhi in Anuradhapura.

Great Stupa at Night After the visit to the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree, the students walked to the nearby Ruwanveli seya (also known as the Great Stupa), constructed around 100 BCE.

Michelle and Sarah chat with SisiraSarah and Michelle walk and talk with Professor Seneviratne's assistant, Mr. Sisira, at the Abhayagiri Monastery.


Group photo at Elephant PondThe students pose for a group photo in front of Elephant Pond at the Abhayagiri Monastery.

In front of JetavanaProfessor Seneviratne lectures in front of the Jetavana stupa in Anuradhapura, the largest brick monument in the world.

Climbing MihintaleMichelle, Sarah, Kristin, and Chris climb atop the rock at Mihintale, the location where tradition says Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka in the 3rd Century BCE.

Mihintale- almost there! Maria, Jared, Sheila, and Chris take the final steps to the rock at Mihintale.

Students atop MihintaleMaria, Michelle, Jared, Kristin, Sarah, Sheila and Chris (left to right) atop rock at Mihintale.

Pre-Sigiriya discussion The students gathered with Professors Seneviratne, Wilkie and Meddegama for a discussion before departing Anuradhapura for Sigiriya.

Atop Pirurangala Rock The group poses for a photo atop Pidurangala rock with a skyward view of the famous Sigiriya rock in the background.

Discussion with Sissira The students have a discussion with Mr. Sissira atop Pidurangala rock.

Maria, Sheila and Michelle atop Pirurangala Maria, Sheila and Michelle (from left to right) enjoy the view from Pidurangala.


Atop SigiriyaChris, Maria, and Sarah sit and take in the ruins of the ancient palace atop Sigiriya.

Jared atop Sigiriya Jared takes in the breathtaking view from the palatial ruins atop Sigiriya.

Students descending Sigiriya Students take the first steps down from atop Sigiriya.

Through the archway at Sigiriya Sinhala professor Meddegama leads the students through Students a granite archway as they emerge into the water gardens at Sigiriya.

At Sigiri Water Garden Professor Seneviratne explains the layout of the surrounding Water Gardens.  The famous Sigiriya rock stands tall in the background.

Nancy and Sudharshan chat Professors Wilkie and Seneviratne chat in about the architecture of Sigiriya.

 Jared DrawingJared sketches the Buddha at Avukana in his notebook.

Students chat with Sudharsham After Sigiriya, the students left for the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Here, the students joke at the Alahana Parivena.

Sudharsan, Sarah and Michelle Professor Seneviratne answers Michelle and Sarah's questions at the Sacred Quandrangle in Polonnaruwa.

Students in front of Gal Vihara Students sit and contemplate before the Gal Vihara in Polonnaruwa, the final stop on the Northern Tour.

After returning from the Northern Tour, all the students attended an English Language version of Singhabahu, a classic of Sri Lankan dramatic theater. The play adapts the mythic story of the origin of the Sinhala race from the Mahavamsa, one of the texts the students read for their pre-program reading.

The session I is soon coming to an end as students take their Sinhala exam and submit their essays for Material Culture course.