24 July 2020

Lookout points can reveal and deceive

‘Belumgala’ is Sinhala word that refers to rock from which a vast area can be seen. Typically it is a high point if not the highest in the area, making for a 360 degree view. A lookout point, essentially, and typically used as part of a security apparatus.  

There are many places in the country that has the name. This article is inspired by the one in the Kudumbigala Monastic Complex. We don’t know when that particular rock was named ‘Belumgala,’ or why. Perhaps it had some military significance at one time, more recently when the LTTE roamed the jungles and maybe long years ago as well. Maybe it’s simply the amazing view that inspired someone to call it ‘Belumgala’ and maybe no one found a reason to change the name. Maybe it was always ‘Belumgala’ even when the complex was residence to some 12,000 arhats as the stone inscriptions claim.

Kudumbigala lies 11 miles from Paanama and 17 from the now deserted Kumana Village. It is said to have been developed as a monastic complex in 246BC, during the reign of King Devanampiyatissa and that the ‘Giant Warrior’ Nandimitra who served King Dutugemunu had made improvements subsequesntly

Right now, there’s no LTTE. There are a dozen or so aaranyavaasi bikkhus who occupy some of the kuti, natural caves or spaces carved out of principal rock. There are ruins of an ancient dagoba atop Belumgala, but the key feature is the view.

And what a view!

If one had doubts over the claim etched on stone, the dozens of considerably sized and uniquely shaped rocks visible from the top of Belumgala would lay them to rest. There could be literally tens of thousands of caves. There’s jungle all around and beyond the trees on the East and South there’s the sea. It must all look magical at dawn and serene at night, especially when the moon is out.

You can sit or stand. You can walk around. You can gaze and gaze for hours and hours. There’s one thing however that few would ‘see.’  Tharindu Amunugama, my erstwhile travel companion saw.  

‘You realize how tiny you are,’ he articulated softly a thought that had also crossed my mind. High places are made for highs. You feel ‘on top of the world.’ It’s exhilarating. At the same time, having been acquainted with the size and shape of the island and its dimensions in relation to the rest of the world, the tininess and insignificance of self can whisper (if we are listening) the virtues of humility.

Tharindu would later comment on this photograph posted on Facebook, ‘මගේ කුඩා බව පසක් කර ගතිමි (‘mage kudaa bava pasak kara gathimi’ or ‘I realized how small I was’).’ I am not sure if he drew this from Amaradeva’s song ‘ඇසේ මතුවන (‘Aese Mathuvana’ or ‘that which from the eye surfaces’) but the lyrics certainly are apt.  

ඉහල නිල්වන් අහස ‍විනිවිද
නැගෙන ඔබගේ යෝධ බුදු බණ
මගේ නෙත සිත මෝහනය කර
මගේ කුදුබ‍ව පසක් කර ඇත

[‘Ihala nilvan ahasa vinivida / negena obage yodha budu bana / mage netha sitha mohanaya kara / mage kudubava pasak kara atha’ or ‘The enormity of thy doctrine pierces the blue skies above, mesmerizes my eyes and mind and thereby has revealed to me how tiny I am’].

From a lookout point we gaze outwards usually into the faraway horizons. We breathe in the fragrances made of different ages, beliefs, histories and peoples. The breezes carry textures of such things as well. They tell us stories. They give us signs. They urge reconfiguration too. And in that elemental symphony we discover simple truths that are, in a way, as profound as the vast spaces that cry out for attention and in doing so could impose blindness on viewer.

Tharindu and I saw and we made notes which we shared.  

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']   
Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten 
 Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing
Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ already a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Angeles
A dusk song for Rasika Jayakody
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?
Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer