From the 25th to the 29th of January, we participated in the annual Week Without Walls school trip. Along with other students in the tenth and eleventh grade, I went to four towns in central Sri Lanka to gain an understanding of the local art, culture and history in these places between 1 B.C. to 1 A.D.
The four towns we went to include Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Ritigala and Polonnaruwa. We had to create documentaries on the sites in each town and answer specific questions about the relationships between art, culture, history and geography through these videos. The videos could be a maximum of 5 minutes long, which made it challenging to fit all of our content into a short time frame.
Making Travelogues on Each Location
All the images in this post were taken by me, and the information I have gathered was given to us personally by our guide. I made a 4 and a half minute documentary on the caves in Dambulla and it is attached here:
I was the narrator on the first day, and it was my job to explain the locations we were in in the video made on the day and provide extra information about the sites that could not directly be seen in the video. This proved to be a challenge as the some places were very windy and my voice wasn’t picked up on a camera at all, and we didn’t have a lot of prior knowledge about some of the places we went to.
Being the videographer was easily the best part of the creative process, as I had the freedom to take videos and photographs of anything I found interesting. I enjoyed taking videos of different places and capturing the entire monastery of Ritigala in film, and made sure that all the footage I took was of good quality. It was also more interesting to film the different terrains, resting points and ruins in Ritigala as they were all constructed similarly but nature and time had made each place look slightly different. The trees had grown into the ruins in some places, and the route to get to the ruins changed every five minutes or so (as can be seen in the images below).
The most interesting locations we visited
Anuradhapura was a famous location during the time period of 1 B.C. to 1 A.D., as hundreds of Buddhist monks lived in around temples, numerous Buddha statues and towering stupas around the city. It was an area of teaching in which young children would begin their studies to become monks, and people still live there today. A site that is regularly visited by tourists and Buddhists alike is the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya, which was a part of the original Bodhi tree in India under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment. A section of that tree was replanted in Anuradhapura, and is still growing today.
Ritigala was the most action-oriented site out of all the places we went to. It was also the location I appreciated the most, as we had to walk to the ruins of a monastery using the same pathways that the monks would have used in the first century B.C.. The pathway included huge rocks that we had to climb across, dozens of stairs, and winding lanes, and it really showed us how connected the monks would have been to the nature around them. We could hear dozens of birds chirping in the trees, rivers and waterfalls that followed the route we took and other animals. Trees were the only things in sight for miles around Ritigala; something that the monks who were trying to attain Nirvana would have wanted.
It is also amazing to go around Sri Lanka just to explore the wildlife and animals in the area. In just the four days, I saw water monitor lizards, star turtles, parrots, dozens of monkeys and other creatures that were allowed to live without disturbances in their natural habitats.
I thought that this Week Without Walls trip was a great success as I visited new places, acquired more knowledge about Sri Lankan culture and art, and made my first documentary. I learned a lot and enjoyed myself during the trip, and would love to take place in such an event again in the future!