ISLE Program

Fall 2012 Session II Activities

Session II marks the beginning of elective courses for students on the ISLE Program. The students choose between the following courses: Buddhism, Modern Sri Lankan Politics, Environmental Studies, and Myth and Ritual. They also continue in Sinhala instruction and listen to guest lectures as part of their independent study seminar. The following photos are designed to give you a sense of what activites the students have been participating in and some more images of spectacular Sri Lanka.

Forest Lecture 

The students in the environmental science class visited upcountry Kandy with Professors Nimal and Savithri. They observed the natural and invasive plant species in the region, witnessed different cultivation techniques, and learned about the abundance of wildlife living in the area. 

Eva tree bridge

As part of the field trip to the Knuckles range, students navigated through some tricky terrain including this bridge (above) between two trees.

Sam in Vines

Above, Sam weaves his way through the vines.

Knuckles View

The students eventually made it to the top of Knuckles and enjoyed this spectacular view (above).

Students pose

Emily, the program assistant, and students, Rachel, Eva, and Sam posed for a photo atop Knuckles.

The students then met with Professor Premasiri at the Getembe Temple for Poya Day, a festival celebrated at every full moon. Professor Premasiri explained the traditions and significance behind everything the students saw in the temple.

Sam lighting incense kovil

Above, Sam lights his incense as an offering to the Getembe temple. The Kovil temple in Matale (right) is one of the tallest Hindu kovils in Sri Lanka. The students visited the Kovil on their journey home from Knuckles. The Kovil boasts intricate sculptures of Hindu gods, goddesses, and sacred figures.

The students also celebrated Maddie's birthday recently and enjoyed cake and refreshments at the ISLE Center.

Maddie cake

Maddie (above) and Sarah's younger "brother" enjoyed the birthday cake at the ISLE Center.

Maddie Party

Above, the group poses for a birthday photo outside the ISLE Center, with the birthday girl front and center.

The students visited Deduru Oya, a massive government-sponsored dam construction project. While there, they had the unique opportunity to meet some of the construction workers, many of whom were former residents of the area before being forced to move to make way for the dam. The government gave them new land and jobs on the construction site as compensation. 


Above, Emma and Sam walk through a construction site at the dam.


Professor Wickramagamage led the trip to Deuru Oya. Here, he points out the land where houses used to stand. The 40-ton dam walls now surround the area.

The students also learned about the art of batik, a form of cloth dying that is unique to South Asia. It is a very meticulous process that demands patience and dedication. Some of the students decided to try their hand at the ancient art form. Below, you can see some of the students making batiks of their own design.

evabatick        alexbatik

Eva's design (left) is based on a fresco in Sigiriya. Alex (right) is working on a very detailed design. After he finishes tracing he will appy wax to the cloth.

maddie batik

Sarah's Perahera elephant design (above) is in the second stage of the process. Her batik has been dyed once and will be dyed several more times before it's finished.

The Myth and Ritual Class took a field trip to the Sri Lankan International Buddhist Academy (SIBA) where they met Venerable Buddha Rahkita.

Buddha Rahkita

Buddha Rahkita (center) shared some of his experiences from his time as a meditation teacher, described his travels throughout Asia and America, and discussed his goal of bringing Buddhism to his home country of Uganda.  

Later in session II, the Environmental Science students visited the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, where the Director General, Mr. Siril Wijesundara, gave them a personal tour. 

doublecoconut herbgarden

Above, Mr. Wijesundra introduces the students to a double coconut tree (left), which bears up to 50 pounds of fruit, and other plants in the garden.

The students then traveled to the tropical southern coast of Sri Lanka, where they visited Kataragama, Kirinda Temple, Unawatuna Beach, and the Galle Fort. 

At Kataragama, an important pilgramage site for Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims, the students participated in the traditional ceremony of breaking flaming coconuts in honor of Lord Kataragama, the god of war.

samcoco sarahcoco

Above, Sam and Sarah take turns breaking their coconuts as Faculty Director, Professor Carbine (right), looks on.

On the second day, the students visited Kirinda Temple:

kirinda angelakirinda rachel kirinda

The Kirinda Temple, built on the site where Queen Viharamadevi landed in a boat after her father sent her to sea as an offering to the gods, offered a compelling combination of physical beauty and Sri Lankan folklore. The temple is celebrated because Queen Viharamadevi's son became one of Sri Lanka's most respected kings. Above, the students walk among the rocks at the Kirinda Temple site.

On the final day of the trip, the students visited Galle, a major trading post during the colonial era. 


Professor Rajeewa Jayasinghe, a Sri Lankan historian, (above) gave his lecture on colonial influences at the Galle Fort.

galle fort beach

The students posed for a photo with Professor Jayasinghe at Galle, then spent the rest of the day enjoying the beautiful beach at Unawatuna.

Later in Session II, the students visited Ayurvedic Hospital, where they learned about traditional medicine practice native to India and widely used in Sri Lanka. 


Above, Professor Abey Ratnayake, a University of Peradeniya lecturer with a research focus in sociology and anthropology, speaks with Angela about Ayurvedic healing techniques.

oilpot storage room

The students had the opportunity to tour the hospital, where they saw a giant oil pot (left) in which natural materials are brewed into medicinal concoctions. The oils will be used to treat everything from arthritis to neurological disorders. Some of the students visited a storage room (right) where the natural materials used to produce the Ayurvedic medicinal treatments are kept.

The students wrapped up their Session II elective courses, which included an opportunity to see dance and drum ritual performances by a troupe from Matale. 

baliritual cobradance

The performaces included both upcountry and low country traditional dances by some of the best dancers and drummers in the region. A Bali ritual dance (left) and a low-country cobra dance (right) were among the performances.

During a stressful week of exams and papers, the students relaxed during their Halloween Party. 

eva costume samcontest

During the party, the students organized a costume contest and were given scores out of 10 by the ISLE staff and faculty. Eva (left) earned third place for her Sigiriya fresco woman costume, while Sam (right) earned first prize for his Jak-Fruit costume.


A few of the female students posed for a photo in their costumes (above). 


The students carved pumpkins to make Sri Lankan Jack-O-Lanterns for the Halloween Party.

group in costumes

The whole group, including Professor Carbine (who dressed as Batman) and Program Assistant, Emily Dunuwila, who went as a butterfly, posed for a photo during the festivities.

As Session II came to a close, the students participated in the annual dance and drum performance. The audience included host families, friends from the university, university professors, and ISLE staff. After seven weeks of dance and drums classes, seven ISLE students performed in the recital.

kalliedance rachelconch

Here, master dance instructor Surasena (left) prepares a student's headpiece for the performance. Rachel (right) uses the conch shell to signal the beginning of the show.

dancecircle dancing

The girls learned four dances over the course of the semester, above, they perform the Hanuman dance in their traditional Kandyan attire.


Eva, Rachel, Emily, and Charlie perform their Kandyan drum routine (above).

After the recital, the group posed for a photo:


Mr. Sirisoma, the drum master (far left) and Mr. Surasena, the dance master (2nd from left), Surasena's pupil (2nd from right) and Surasena's assistant, Miss Inoka (far right) are pictured with the ISLE Students above.