|Sri Lanka’s celebration of God|
|Thursday, 14 August 2008|
The Travel Junkie by Julia Dimon
Scenes from the Kataragama Festival, a two week-long event in Sri Lanka that sees a huge influx of some 100,000 pilgrims.
The air smells of kerosene and jasmine flower. Young men crack whips as thick as cobras, while others skillfully twirl fire, leaving circular trails of light. There is rhythmic drumming and tribal dancing. It’s what I imagine Burning Man Festival to be, except drugs and drinking are replaced by devotion to deities.
Past the checkpoints, people have gathered, eagerly watching the procession of elephants down a path illuminated by beads of light. Dressed in a red rhinestone cloak, one elephant looks like a Mexican luchador wrestler.
This holy shrine and popular pilgrim centre is humanity at its finest. On the fringes of the main action, I see the bodies of passed out pilgrims strewn all over the ground. Some are cooking their dinner by small smouldering fire (a scene that’s becoming increasingly more common with the rise in gas prices) while others are gently rocking their babies to sleep.
Trying to find a spot to watch the parade, I make my way through the maze. Every step is carefully calculated and I’m wary of stepping on little hands and feet. Though many have been waiting for hours for their spots, all are welcoming as I cozy my way up to the front.
Seated on the sandy floor, a woman offers me a piece of her tarp to sit on. Here, people are very generous to foreigners. I’m offered oranges, water and lots of smiles.
I can feel all eyes on me. Here, I’m partly a movie star and partly a sideshow freak. Mothers holding infants point at me, raising their voices and eyebrows as if to say, “Look at that. Isn’t that girl amusing?”
While some might feel self-conscious, I sort of like being “the other.” I get off on being the outsider. In a crowd of thousands, I feel strangely satisfied that there are only a handful of foreigners.
This is how a travel writer knows she’s in the right spot — when the tourists are gone, there are no fanny-pack wearers from Florida and not a McDonald’s in sight.
– Julia Dimon is co-host of Word Travels, airing on OLN, and editor of www.thetraveljunkie.ca. (Courtesy : Metro News )
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 14 August 2008 )|
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