Sri Lanka Tourism has identified five “airports” where Ravana parked his fleet of pushpak vimanas, the mythological aircraft he used to abduct Sita when she was in vanvasa on mainland India. The ruler of ancient Lanka – a brilliant Brahmin and devout Shiva disciple – didn’t only excel in charting an air route, as he was a pioneer in “underground transport” as well.
Remains of intricate tunnel networks, leading to palaces and battlefields that Ravana spread across the island, are also to be seen.
These and nearly 50 more sites, related to the “Ramayana trail”, have been showcased by Sri Lanka tourism in its new deal to promote “spiritual tourism”, an experiment aimed specifically at Indian visitors, who, at 100,000, already constitute 20% of the country’s annual tourist inflow.
According to Director General, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, these sites are not imaginary and have existed since times immemorial. “We are simply putting all details together. People in villages have always revered these sites, which form a part of the folklore.”
So much so, that the board appointed a research team to trace the “trail” before formally making the findings public. Ashok Kainth, the main researcher who began work four years ago, said 59 spots had been located which relate to various stages of the Ramayana period. One of them are Ravana’s palaces and dairy farm, besides several later-period temples devoted to Sita,” The trail even encases a pond which is believed to have come into existence through Sita’s tears. “Evidence suggests that even during worst droughts, this pond never dried up,” the researcher said.
The various spots are spread across the island, beginning from its northern tip at Nagadeepa, believed to be Hanuman’s entry point to Lanka. The southern tip, Donara, is the place where Ram began his first attack on Ravana. The main battleground, identified as Yudagannawa, is a wildlife sanctuary now. Interestingly, no vegetation “strangely” grows in the area except grass.
Mythology suggests that Ram, a Kshatriya, performed penance after killing Ravana, a Brahmin. The tourism board has identified the exact spot as Chilaw and Muneswaram where Ram carried out pujas to cleanse him of the sin. “Sri Lanka Tourism believes that Ramayana has brought together Sri Lanka and India through the exploration of its great story backdrop, which is Ayodhya and Lankapura (Sri Lanka).
Naturally the news report above made me ask some questions? Why is India so much afraid of investing in developing the spiritual and religious tourism with huge potential for employment? Does Sri Lanka Tourism provide some lessons for Karunanidhi and his gang? Is Sri Lanka less secular?
I wish India could shake off the mindset to do everything with vote bank as main consideration.