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Siromi Samarasinghe
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Architectural Wonders of a bygone era - Mihintale, Sri Lanka

Mihintale is a range of hills about 1014 feet above sea level, located near the ancient capital city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka and known to be the place where Buddhism originated in the country, many centuries ago.

It is believed that in the 3rd Century BC., the Buddhist monk Arahat Mahinda, arrived in Sri Lanka from India to introduce Buddhism, and met King Devanampiyatissa, the ruler of Sri Lanka, at Mihintale. It is therefore a sacred place of veneration for Buddhists in Sri Lanka

The Sinhalese architecture, sculpture and paintings were greatly influenced by the arrival of Arahat Mahinda and his delegation. Before that Mihintale was a habitation site of stone age prehistoric man which later became the Royal pleasure garden of King Devanampiyatissa.

The area is surrounded by numerous rock boulders and rock caves. According to the Chronicles, 68 natural caves are scattered in the jungle. Many stupas and monasteries were constructed of which some have now been excavated and restored.

The architectural feats of Mihintale which are still visible in the scattered ruins of monasteries, relic chambers, water distribution systems and many sculptures which have stood the test of time take us back to a glorious past where meditating monks lived in the tranquil surroundings away from the city of Anuradhapura.

Places of interest in Mihintale which I visited include an ancient stupa Kantaka Chaitya, a monastery known as Kaludiya Pokuna or "Black water pond" (Kalu = black, diya = water, pokuna = pond) an ancient hospital, a refectory containing a massive Rice Boat and a cave by the name of Rajagiri Lena (Raja = King, Giri = Rock, Lena = cave) where kings are said to have meditated.

The sense of tranquility and peace I experienced around this serene setting of a bygone civilization is difficult to put in to words. However, with these photos I have tried to share my fascinating journey to the glorious past of Sri Lanka.

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Mother's Love 

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Jigsaw Puzzle Pictures.

These are no ordinary pictures. Each one is a completed Jigsaw puzzle. Not an easy task. It’s the work of Mrs. Nanda Wijesekera, a remarkable lady in her late eighties!

Recently Nanda held an exhibition of her work for the third time. I was amazed at her dedication and determination in spite of her failing sight in one eye.

"Jigsaw puzzles have fascinated people for centuries. How these tiny pieces fit together to form a wonderfully intricate mosaic picture intrigues and engages us".

Read more here.....

6 Photos - View album

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Hues of Bougainvillea
Every morning these beauties greet me when I walk down our road! 

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Floods in Sri Lanka - my small contribution to the displaced people of my country

Last Sunday night (15th), the sound of the rain woke me  around 3.30 a.m. The heavy down pour never stopped until the next day. The water reached my front door step, threatening to flow in. The garden had more than six inches of water while the road outside was like a river. The next day the water receded.

There are many who were less fortunate than me.

The adverse weather affecting Sri Lanka has resulted in landslides and floods in many parts of the country.   The death toll has increased to 71, whole villages have been wiped out due to landslides, many persons have been buried alive.

Though rescue operations are in progress the weather conditions are hindering the process. More than 375,000 people have been affected, many of them having to leave their homes and belongings .

The displaced persons are housed  in relief camps - located in schools and temples. In response to the request for donations, people are bringing in food, bottled water, clothes, linen, toiletries and many more items to the collection centers, to be distributed to the displaced persons.

This is my small contribution by way of soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, disinfectant and food. 

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A visit to some archaeological sites in the Ratnapura District, Sri Lanka.

The Batathota Cave also known as ‘Diva Guhawa’ (Day light Cave”) is a historical cave located in Kuruvita , Ratnapura in the Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka.

An interesting feature of this rock cave is the continuous dripping of water from the roof. The sun’s rays fall into the cave from sunrise to sunset; hence the name “Diva  Guhawa” . (Diva =Day, Guhawa = Cave). The growth of ferns from the moist surface of the roof inside the cave is a beautiful and unusual sight.

Originally, a strenuous climb through the rocky mountain would have been the way to reach the cave,  but now stone steps have been built making it easier for pilgrims to ascend to the temple in the cave. However, this construction does not blend well with the natural scenic beauty of the surroundings.

According to Buddhist literature, Lord Buddha has rested in a cave known as Diva Guhawa, with 500 disciples on his return from the holy mountain known as Adam’s Peak (Samanala kanda, Sri Pada) where he is said to have placed his foot print. The identity of Batathota cave as Diva Guhawa  was established by a highly respected Buddhist scholar monk in 1995. Until then the cave had been hidden in the thick jungle in the Batathota rocky mountain range.

Much earlier, a temple had been built in the cave by King Nissankamalla (1178-1207) who had accidentally discovered the cave on his way to Adam’s Peak on a religious expedition. It can be seen that the statues and paintings have been renovated and retouched many times over the years.

The view from the cave is breathtaking. On a clear day Adam's Peak can be seen in the distance. It is a pity that the original architecture has been changed by continuous addition of structures, thereby spoiling its natural setting.

Delgamuwa Raja Maha Vihara is an ancient Buddhist temple  in Sri Lanka, situated in the Ratnapura District.

During the last days of the Sinhala rulers there were many who claimed to be the King of Ceylon. It was accepted that ‘he who was in possession of the tooth relic of Lord Buddha was declared the King of the country’. Therefore, to be the legitimate ruler one would have to capture the Tooth Relic.

According to legend, during the Portuguese occupation of Ceylon, the Tooth Relic was kept hidden in this temple, inside a grinding stone.
The Kurakkan (finger millet) grinding stone which protected the tooth relic from the Portuguese for forty three years is displayed in the temple.
15 Photos - View album

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Visit to some religious places and archaeological sites in Sri Lanka

Mahamevnawa Buddhist Monastery is an organization of Buddhist monasteries of Sri Lankan origin established in 1999, to support spiritual development using the teachings of the Gautama Buddha. Its main monastery is in Polgahawela, Sri Lanka. There are many branches of the organisation in Sri Lanka and abroad.

Somawathiya  is located in the Plonnaruwa District in Sri Lanka. According to chronicles the stupa  was built in the 2nd century BC and is said to enshrine the right tooth relic of Lord Buddha.

Seruwavila temple is an ancient Buddhist shrine in the Trincomalee District in Eastern Sri Lanka. It was built during the reign of King Kavantissa (2nd century BC) enshrining relics of Lord Buddha (sacred forehead bone).

Lanka Patuna is located in the Trincomalee District, on the East coast of Sri Lanka, its boundaries being the ocean on the east and the lagoon on the south. It is one of the oldest Buddhist temples and is believed to mark the place where the Indian Prince Dhantha and Princess Hemamala landed in the 4th century, carrying the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha from India. The ruins of the ancient Buddhist temple can be found scattered in a large area and a new dagoba (white structure in the photos) has been constructed.

Thanthirimale temple located in the Anuradhapura District in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka, is said to have been built in the third century B.C. According to chronicles, the Buddhist nun Sangamitta brought the sapling of the sacred Bo tree under which the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment, and while carrying the pot containing the sapling from India to Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka, has stopped  at Thanthirimale for one night. Ruins are scattered around the temple, and include two stone statues of the Buddha and several stone ponds.
Visit to Somawathiya and other archaelogical sites
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Herbal Cancer Cure: Weeding out the Hype

A recent G+ post ( claimed that artemisinin, derived from an ancient Chinese herb Artemisia annua, kills 98% of lung cancer cells in less than 16 hours. What's wrong with this claim?

◈ The comments fell into two categories: some outright disbelief If this is factual, it'd be amazing and More pseudoscience, Geesh! More common were conspiracy theories from the predictable, The W.H.O., F.D.A., C.D.C., etc. Can't patent it, so they can't make money off of it. to the bizarre, Funny thing is that the government gets their money off of cancer so I wonder if they'll make this illegal and claim it's got a side-effect that makes people experience what they would if they used Marijuana. Idk, but the government's gonna F it up somehow. Let's examine the claims and counterclaims. 

98% of cancer cells are killed by a culture dish! It's easy to kill cells in a dish -just ask my students :) These are in vitro findings. How about in vivo? Experiments done in rodents are indeed promising and have been reviewed and reported. Unfortunately, we scientists are excellent mouse doctors, and many drugs that cure cancer in mice under controlled, ideal lab conditions fail in the clinic. Does it work on humans? There are a few case reports of using artemisinin in humans. But, these are anecdotal and of limited use, since the patients were under chemotherapy anyway. What is needed are large scale randomized clinical trials with placebo controls to check if this herb is effective against cancers. Such trials cost a billion dollars and have not yet been done. 

Artemisinin has been safely tested in over 4000 patients...this claim from a doctor in a popular video ( probably refers to a Phase I trial where only safety is monitored. Notice the doctor does not say if the herb was effective against cancer in these 4000 patients. 

The FDA will never approve it....wrong, because it is already an FDA-approved antimalarial drug. In fact, artemisinin in combination with other drugs is the gold standard for treatment of Plasmodium falciparum malaria worldwide. The WHO has negotiated with Novartis and Sanofi-Aventis to obtain the drug at cost, with no profit. 

Bottom line: Both sets of comments are off the mark! The potential of artemisinin as a cancer chemotherapeutic should not be dismissed as pseudoscience until proven otherwise. As for the conspiracy theorists, they're just wrong.

Wiki: #OpenAccess REF: Anticancer Effect of AntiMalarial Artemisinin Compounds. (2015) Das, AK

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