ISLE Program

Spring 2009 Session I Activities

After settling in at their homestays and getting to know ISLE faculty and staff, as well as the ISLE Center, the University of Peradeniya and the historic city of Kandy, the ISLE students began Session I of the program in earnest, embarking on a tour of Sri Lanka's most famous cultural and historic sites. (For more of the students' first few days in Sri Lanka, including the family and university social teas, please see the "Getting There" section of the ISLE Spring 2009 web pages.)

Below you will find information and scenic photographs from Session I and the Northern Tour of the Spring 2009 ISLE Program. For even more photos from the program, please also see our "Photo Gallery" page.

The students take two courses during Session I: Sinhala Language and Sri Lankan Mosaic. As part of the Sri Lankan Mosaic course, the students participate in the the much-anticipated Northern Tour. This is one of the highlights of the ISLE Program, on which the students visit some of Sri Lanka's most famous and historically important cultural sites.

On Sunday, February 8th, the ISLE group began their week-long tour of Sri Lanka's "Cultural Triangle" by heading north to Anuradhapura – the site of the island's first ancient capital. Archaeologists Daya Sisira and Aruna Rajapaksa, joined the students for the tour and presented many interesting lectures and provided insightful answers to the various cultural and historical questions that frequently arose.  Program Director Professor Larry Lutchmansingh supplemented the site visits by offering lectures before dinner each night. One of the students' Sinhala instructors, Lokeshwari Sandamali Karunarathna (Miss Sandamali), who also joined the group for the Northern Tour, provided daily Sinhala lessons. Mr. Sisira, Mr. Rajapaksa, Professor Lutchmansingh and Miss Sandamali all contributed greatly to the success of the Northern tour, but drivers Mr. Sumanasena and Mr. Gunawardena should also be mentioned, as they were essential to the smooth facilitation of the week's many activities.

The following photographs provide a glimpse into the vast amount of historical, cultural, archaeological, and anthropological material addressed on Northern Tour. Hopefully, the pictures also help to convey the students' thorough enjoyment of the tour.  
The tour's itinerary attempted to provide chronological continuity to daily site visits, and the pictures are similarly presented, so as to reflect the daily activities of the trip. 

Group at 6th Century Burial Site 

The first stop on the tour was the Early Iron Age site of Ibbankatuwa, located just outside of present-day Dambulla. The students gather for a discussion of the 6th century B.C. cist burial site.

Sinhala class on tour 

After arriving in Anuradhapura and settling in at the rest house, Miss Sandamali conducts the first Sinhala class of Northern tour.
The afternoon consisted of two site visits. First, Vessagiri – the ancient cave abode of 3rd century B.C. forest-dwelling Buddhist monks. And second, Isurumuniya – the site of a 3rd century B.C. rock temple and adjoining Royal Pleasure Garden. 
Sisira lectures 

Here, Mr. Sisira describes the drip-ledge feature that was carved into the caves thousands of years ago.

Aruna lectures

Mr. Rajapaksa pauses to answer questions at Vessagiri.

Aruna at Anaradhapura

Mr. Rajapaksa explains the excavations at the Anuradhapura citadel.

Group at Twin Ponds

The group visits a museum at the Abhayagiri Monastic Complex.  Afterwards, they explore the Abhayagiri's vast grounds which include a great brick stupa, the Twin Ponds, the Samadhi Buddha, the moonstone and guardstone, and the Elephant Pond.

Andrew K.
Andrew Kishman (dubbed "Podi"/younger Andrew to differentiate him from "Loku"/older Andrew – Andrew Sudano), sits beside one of the pools at Twin Ponds.

Carrie and Sandamali

Carrie and Sandamali examine the symmetry and symbolism of the well-preserved moonstone at Abhayagiri. 

The second day of the tour fell on a full moon day or Poya Day, which Buddhists throughout the country observe by going to temple and attending pujas (religious ceremonies).  Many devotees come to Anuradhapura to worship at the ancient sites of Sri Maha Bodhi and Ruwanveli Seya, or the Western Monasteries.  The students donned their all-white temple-going clothing for their afternoon visit to the Western Monasteries.

Group at Western Monasteries

The group poses for a snapshot at the Western Monasteries. (front row: Joe, Emily, Program Assistant Katie Hyman, Podi Andrew, Becky, Loku Andrew, Carrie, back row: Damian).

Emily and Carrie at Monastery
Emily and Carrie explore the ancient ruins of the monastic site.

Larry at Western Monastery

Program Director, Professor Larry Lutchmansingh, takes in the evening light while  regarding the site of the monks' living quarters.

Sri Maha Bodhi

Later that evening, the students visited Sri Maha Bodhi.  Sri Maha Bodhi, a sapling of the original Bo Tree under which the Buddha sat when he attained enlightenment, was brought to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century B.C. by Sangamitta, daughter of the Indian Emperor Asoka. It is said to be the oldest living tree in the world that has a recorded history of the date on which it was planted. 

Discussing the Stupa

Professor Lutchmansingh, Podi Andrew, Miss Sandamali, Carrie, Mr. Rajapaksa, and Mr. Sisira gather at the base of the Ruwanweliseya stupa for a discussion of its construction, preservation, and symbolic import. 

Mr. Sisira at the Stupa

Mr. Sisira recounts the legend of King Dutugemunu's construction of the Great Stupa. 

Carrie, Becky and Emily at Stupa

After the discussion, the students circumambulate the massive stupa and take in its beauty as the full moon reflects off of its white exterior. Carrie, Emily, and Becky behold the grandeur of Ruwanweliseya.

Larry lectures on the Sanchi Stupa

Program Director Larry Lutchmansingh gives a lecture on the Sanchi Stupa.  A replica of the Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh, India, the Sri Lankan Sanchi Stupa was commissioned by President Ranasinghe Premadasa in the '80s. 

The Group circumambulates the Stupa

The group circumambulates the Stupa.

Becky at Mahintale

Next, the group visited Mihintale, where the Arahat Mahinda (son of Asoka and brother of Sangamitta) is said to have imparted Buddhism to King Tissa. Here, Becky smiles for a snapshot.

Group descending Stupa at Mahintale

The group descends from a brick stupa at Mihintale

Becky, Emily, Katie and Sandimali at Mahintale

Becky, Emily, Katie, and Miss Sandamali (foreground). Great Stupa (background)

Carrie descends Mahintale stairs

After taking in the panoramic views, Carrie carefully descends from the rock outcropping.

 Damian at Jetawana stupa

Damian poses in front of the massive Jetawana Stupa. The historic preservation of the giant brick stupa (the largest stupa in Anuradhapura) was recently completed and will be officially opened later this spring by the president.

Aukana Buddha

En route to Sigiriya, the ISLE students stop to see the Aukana Buddha.  The giant statue dwarfs Podi Andrew, Damian, Becky, Emily, and Carrie. 

Andrew S. at Aukuna Buddha

After viewing the standing Buddha up close, Loku Andrew appraises the statue from afar.

Group at Pidurangala

The students collect for a group picture atop Pidurangala.  (Front row: Mr. Sisira, Loku Andrew, Carrie, and Emily. Back row: Sigiriya Rock, Damian, Miss Sandamali, Mr. Rajapaksa, Podi Andrew, Joe, and Becky)

Becky atop Pidurangala

Becky takes in the incredible vista from her perch atop Pidurangala. 

Emily descends stairs at Sigiriya

Emily descends from a staircase that was built into the boulders at the base of Sigiriya.

Damian, Carrie and Emily atop Sigiriya

Damian, Carrie, and Emily take a breather after reaching the fortress on top of Sigiriya.


Damian at Sigiriya

Damian glances over his shoulder for another glimpse at the phenomenal view.

Sinhala class at the reservoir

Miss Sandamali conducts another scenic Sinhala class, this time in Polonnaruwa with a giant tank (reservoir) as a backdrop. 

Sisira, Larry and Sumanasena at moonstone

Mr. Sisira, Professor Lutchmansingh, and Mr. Sumanasena gather to discuss a moonstone at Polonnaruwa's sacred quadrangle. 

Joe at sacred quadrangle

Joe stands at the doorway of the Hatadage ruin in Polonnaruwa. 


Group at Lotus Pond

The group sits along the petal tiers of the empty Lotus Pond. 

After returning from the Northern Tour, the students settled back into life in Kandy.

Joe, Emily & Carrie at Kandy Lake

Here, Joe, Carrie, and Emily pose for a picture after strolling around Kandy Lake. 

Damian's lunch 

Damian takes a seat under a large tree on campus where the students often eat their lunch packets. 

Andrew K's lunch 

Podi Andrew takes a big bite of rice and curry.
Professor Ashley Halpe and his wife Bridget Halpe had the students over to their house during Session I for an interesting discussion about art and identity. The students enjoyed looking at the Halpe's incredible collection of paintings and sculpture. 

Group visits Professor Halpe's House

The group visits the Halpe house.

Professor and Mrs. Halpe

Professor Ashley Halpe and his wife Bridget show the students some of their artistic treasures.

During Session I, the students also visited two different Kandy orphanages.  The following photos were taken on their first visit to the Singithi Sevena Orphanage in Arupola

Andrew K at orphanage

Two of the children cuddle up next to Podi Andrew for the raucous game of "duck, duck, goose."

Andrew S playing

Later in the game, Loku Andrew springs into action to chase a child around the ring of "ducks." Seated are (left to right) Damian, Emily, Andrew K. Carrie and children.

children on slide

The children play on a slide as ISLE students chat with them in a mixture of English and Sinhala. 

a game of Red Rover

Joe and Emily lead the kids in a game of "Red Rover."

As a part of their first session Sinhala course, the students attended a theater production at the University of Peradeniya's Sarachchandra Open Air Theater

a night at the theater

Loku Andrew, Becky, and Joe look on as the drama unfolds. 

the thief and the queen

Two actors perform the roles of "thief" and "queen." 

Curtain Call

The actors take a curtain call.