TikaWeeks #28/2018: Sri Lanka update

Posted by John on 15th July 2018

Tikalanka - Independent tailor-made holidays to Sri Lanka and Maldives
Tikalanka celebrates 14 years of holidays to Sri Lanka and Maldives

Tikalanka launched on 15 July 2004 so today is our 14th birthday – hip hip hooray! Our current status as the holiday specialist to Sri Lanka and Maldives has been earned through passion and dedication, particularly following the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004 and through Sri Lanka’s disastrous civil war, which thankfully ended in May 2009. Throughout the ‘difficult’ years both our offices in the UK and Sri Lanka worked hard to promote the island positively and honestly without either exposing our customers to unnecessary risks or forgetting that the country was suffering from devastating catastrophes and incredible hardship.

Now in much happier times, Tikalanka is reaping the rewards of staying true to the company ethos of promoting responsible and sustainable holidays to Sri Lanka and Maldives. The last two years have been our best so far and we are looking forward to even better times ahead. We are now offering holidays to all regions of Sri Lanka, including the north and east, ethical and sustainable travel through our fair trade holidays, visiting more of the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, and promoting mostly smaller, locally-run guesthouses and hotels with something special to offer.

All of this would never have happened if Pathi and I had not met by chance over Millennium New Year… but we did! Serendipity, indeed, which is another name for Sri Lanka aptly enough. So on our 14th birthday I wish to thank all involved with Tikalanka’s success and raise a glass or two to the future – cheers!

Peoples of Sri Lanka – #3 Tamils

Jaffna Tamils

Sri Lankan Tamils, also known as Eelam Tamils, have a long history in Sri Lanka and have lived on the island since at least the 2nd century BC. Most modern Sri Lankan Tamils claim descent from residents of Jaffnapatam, an ancient kingdom in the north of the island. They constitute a majority in the Northern Province, live in significant numbers in the Eastern Province, and are in the minority throughout the rest of the country.

Although Sri Lankan Tamils are culturally and linguistically distinct, genetic studies indicate that they are closely related to the Sinhalese ethnic group on the island. Sri Lankan Tamils are mostly Hindus with a significant Christian population. Sri Lankan Tamil literature on topics including religion and the sciences flourished during the medieval period in the court of the Jaffna Kingdom. Sri Lankan Tamil dialects are noted for their archaism and retention of words no longer in everyday use in Tamil Nadu in India.

Since Sri Lanka gained independence from Britain in 1948, relations between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil communities have been strained. Rising ethnic and political tensions, along with riots, led to the formation and strengthening of militant groups advocating independence for Tamils. The ensuing civil war resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 people and the forced disappearance of thousands of others. The civil war ended in May 2009.

One-third of Sri Lankan Tamils now live outside Sri Lanka. While there was significant migration during the British colonial period, the civil war led to more than 800,000 Tamils leaving Sri Lanka, and many have left the country for destinations such as Canada, UK and other Europe countries, India, and Australia as refugees.

Up-country Tamils

About a third of the Tamils are, or have come from, a labour force once conscripted mostly for the tea estates and rubber plantations directly from south India. Some families can trace their ancestry back nearly 200 years. Today most of the previously indentured Tamils work on the tea estates of the Hill Country.

In the Hill Country, the home of the Sri Lankan tea industry, Tamil women tea-pickers, dressed in their colourful saris and a combination of earrings, nose-rings, bracelets, necklaces, anklets and toe-rings - always gold and often studded with precious gems - scatter the hillsides in all weathers. They collect the tea leaves in wicker baskets (or, more recently, polythene sacks), which are carried on their backs strapped to their foreheads. The tea-pickers always carry a cane stick, not as support but as a method of measuring the height of the tea bush, which helps them select the tea plants ready for picking. The average daily wage of a tea-picker is Rs150, and she normally picks in excess of 25kg of tea leaf buds - only the top 2 or 3 newly produced leaves of each tea bush - in a day.

Hinduism in Sri Lanka

Some Tamils credit their work ethic to the fact that south India and the Jaffna Peninsula are riverless areas of drought, which required creativity and persistence to tame. Most also give credit to their Hinduism which emphasises order (the caste system), disciplined behaviour (instilled in childhood), correct behaviour (good karma) and respect for all life (vegetarianism).

Hinduism, which is practised by 15% of the population, is behind the Tamils tradition of quickly creating a community wherever they find themselves, for the castes ensure each person knows his role in that community. A child may not go to school without breakfast and a visit to the prayer-room. They may not enter the prayer-room without bathing and putting on freshly laundered clothes. They must eat with their right hand and wash with their left. Prayer, cleanliness and routine become second nature. Hindus have no required rites (as in the Catholic religion), but individual households always develop their own, as do the temples.

God is personified with infinite variety, or nearly. There are said to be about 33 million gods in the Hindu pantheon, including 1008 names for Shiva, 1000 for Vishnu, and Kali is one of many mother images. Hindus accept Jesus and the Buddha as avatars (gods in human form), with Jesus depicted sitting on a fish.

Unlike strict Muslims, Hindus do not ostracise those who convert to other religions. When Catholic missionaries preached equality in God's eyes, many of the lower castes took up the Christian faith. The missionaries benefited from these hard-working devotees who did not consider any job too menial, were eager for education and were used to elaborate religious festivals. Over the years, around 20% of Tamil Hindus have been converted to Christianity.

Where to stay near… Adam’s Peak

Ceylon Tea Trails is the world’s first tea bungalow resort, which incorporates five luxuriously upgraded, colonial era tea planter residencies around Castlereagh Reservoir in the Bogawantalawa valley in the southwestern Hill Country, and offers one of the most decadent and extraordinary experiences on the island.

Camellia Hills is a five-bedroom boutique hotel also overlooking Castlereagh Reservoir on a mountainside amidst emerald tea bushes and pine forests. A contemporary interpretation of a tea planter’s bungalow, the bedrooms, inside and outside living spaces, and infinity pool boast stunning hill country views.

Mandira Strathdon Bungalow is a refurbished original tea planter’s bungalow built in the early 1900s and situated at over 1350 metres above sea level near Hatton in the southwestern Hill Country with panoramic views of the surrounding tea estates.

Categories: Accommodation, Culture, News, Sri Lanka

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