The Lotus Flower
According to a 2012 consensus Sri Lanka's population was 20,359,439, giving a population density of 352 people per km/2 (in 2010 the UK had 255 pp km/2, France 114 pp km/2, Australia 3.3 pp km/2, and Macau 18,534 pp km/2). From an ethnic stand point 74.9% are Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils (as opposed to Indian Tamils) make up 11.1% and Moors - descendants of Arab traders who married local people - 9.3%.
From a religious standpoint the country is just over 70% Buddhist (Hindu 12.6%, Muslim 9.7%, Christian 7.6%) and whilst assuring freedom of religion the 1978 Constitution gives 'the foremost place' to Buddhism. As such it will not surprise you to learn that there are Temples in every village, particularly in the more densely Sinhalese areas of the south. Some are run down but some, like this one in a small inland village a few KM from Galle, are well maintained, serene, beautiful and places of tranquil harmony.
At the entrance to this Temple there is a muddy pond, carved out of the rice paddy, filled with lotus flowers in different stages of bloom. The Lotus Flower represents one symbol of good fortune in Buddhism and as it grows from the muddy waters its first, and most literal meaning is revealed: "rising and blooming above the murkiness to achieve enlightenment".
There are other meanings: 'Purification' - it resembles the purifying of the soul as it emerges from the mud. 'Faithfulness' - to rise above the mud will require a faithful follower.
The mud from which the lotus grows is important. Buddhists believe all humans are born into a world of suffering and only when we banish evil thoughts from our mind can we rise above the muddy waters and become one with the Buddha. The 'mud' shows us who we are and teaches us to take the right path over the easy one.
The stages of the lotus's growth and colour also carry significance. A closed lotus is the time before a follower has found the Buddha whereas an open one, in full bloom, represents full enlightenment and self awareness. The white lotus represents purity of mind and spirit and the pink represents the history, and historical legends, of the Buddha.
Finally the lotus flower represents a rebirth. A dawn of time after the follower emerges from the darkness and enjoys a rebirth of beliefs - an acceptance of the Buddha's teachings - and the ability to see past wrongs. A reincarnation when the soul leaves this world in its present form to be reborn in another.
Temples are places of worship and so whilst welcoming everyone to visit and walk around, respect - similar to all such places all over the world - and common sense is expected. They are wonderful places to experience and inhale some of the tranquility and peace.