|An Odyssey of
Odissi is the traditional dance style of the
religious and artistic state of Orissa of north-east
India. Tradition has it that Odissi is a style of
temple dancing. It was originally performed by the
temple dancers as a ritualistic dance in many kinds
of temples. Since medieval times, Orissa has been
rich in culture, architecture and traditions.
Therefore, the dance performances aligned with the
temple culture gradually evolved in Orissa. The
marvellous and classical temple complexes in
present-day Orissa are a unique example of this
concept. Visitors to Orissa will certainly find the
true sense of this concept- when they come across
the architectural styles and the dancing pavilions
reserved for temple dancers in these complexes.
From its small but rich beginnings as a style of
temple dancing- Odissi has come a long way and
strengthened its position as a powerful, sensuous
and graceful dance form in India. The present Odissi
dance integrates many art forms ranging from temple
dance, folk dance, marital art, sculptures and palm
leaf paintings to ancient texts.
To mark India’s 63rd anniversary of Independence,
a renowned Odissi danseuse Sharmila Biswas, and her
ensemble from Orissa, presented a brilliant show of
Odissi in front of an appreciative audience at the
Ananda College hall on August 15. This dance
performance is a combination of story-telling and
dancing in lyrical movements. The dancers presented
beautiful and dazzling poses similar to that of the
sculptured figures in the temples of Orissa. The
rhythms, vivid expressions and lyrical movements of
the dancers perfectly blended with the composition
of music of Vina, flute, drum (Mridanga) and symbol.
Odissi consists of two broad divisions; Nritta-
which is pure dance without symbolism or story-
usually performed to music without words, and the
second division is called Nritya. This is the
expressional dance in which the dancer, through
symbolic gestures, poses and facial expressions,
interprets the poem sung. Odissi is characterised by
the ‘Triple Bend’ pose called ‘Tribhangi’, requiring
three bends at the neck, waist and the knee. This
reflects the exquisite charm and grace of the
dancer. Prior to the main performance, the media got
the opportunity to watch some of these techniques
demonstrated by the dancers themselves, when they
were introduced to the media by Counsellor- Press,
Information & Culture, Indian High Commission,
Birender S. Yadav.
Speaking to the media, Ms. Biswas said, “Odissi
is performed as a solo item as well as a group
dance, and both men and women can take part in the
Although Odissi is not a popular dance style in Sri
Lanka yet, unlike other Indian dance styles such as
Bharata Natyam and Kathak, Yadav said they are now
exploring the possibility of introducing Odissi in
Sri Lanka in the future. The visit of the troupe was
organised under the Programme of Cultural
Cooperation (PCC) for 2010-2013, signed between the
two countries during the June 2010 visit of Sri
Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The shared cultural and civilisational heritage of
India and Sri Lanka, and extensive people-to-people
interaction, provides the foundation to build a
vibrant and multifaceted partnership. PCC 2010-2013
seeks to enhance the level of cooperation between
the peoples of the two countries in a wide variety
Silk route and ancient China
R. Jinith de Silva
We all know that the East and West of Asia were
divided by mountain ranges and rivers.
In addition to that, travelling was much difficult
and risky due to deserts such as Gobi and Taklimakan.
Even with such hardships, trade prevailed between
these two parts of Asia even before second century
B.C, with the assistance of nomads. Chinese silk
reached West Asia via this ‘silk route’.
King Wudi of the Han dynasty (206–BC220 AD) was
the first to initiate a programme to broaden this
This king sent his emissary Zhang Qian in 139 BC to
countries in west Asia to clear the obstacles to
this trade route, so he could expand trade
activities between these two parts of Asia.
His efforts were successful and horses were
introduced, so the trade activities could be
expedited and the volume of trade also could be
As a result, products such as silk, Chinaware,
lacker, tea, arrived in West Asian countries and
products of Persia, India, Arabia and far away
places such as Greece, Rome, Africa started arriving
at Chinese markets.
Among this merchandise, silk was the most sought
Romans were very fond of Chinese silk and it is said
that even Julius Ceasar too loved the said
At one stage, the Roman rulers had banned the
importation Chinese silks as it drained the
But the Nobles of Rome had mounted pressure on
rulers to lift the ban and to send emissaries to
Chinese court and arrange direct trade without
buying from third parties.
Traders found that sending goods through ships was
much profitable and fast.
With the passing of time, the sea route also came to
be known as the silk route.
They found that they could send their merchandise to
far away places in East Africa and to Red Sea ports
through the sea route.
As Chinese silk and porcelain became more
accessible to European markets, the demand for the
said goods increased and China had to create more
factories that manufacture the said items.
They manufactured goods to satisfy the specific
tastes of these customers such as porcelain with
golden coloured rings for European markets and with
Buddhist emblems to Buddhist countries.
In addition to this, Chinese main four inventions
such as paper, printing machine and gun powder were
exported to West through this sea route. Sea
travelling was made easy with the magnetic compass
which was another Chinese invention.
Several new cities sprung up in China as a result of
the silk route.
Cities such as Xian, Loyang and Urumqi and ports
like Canton became important trade centres of China
along the silk route.
Products of the Western and Southern Asian
countries and African countries became very popular
People started using spices to make their food
Sesame that was introduced from South Africa was
also a popular commodity in China.
Gold, silver, gems and ivory were some of the
precious material that China received from Asian and
They have even brought animals such as horses,
ostriches and peacocks to be sold in China.
China employed much bigger ships at later stages
along the silk route. This increased the volume of
There was a marked increase in the navel activities
during the reign of Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
navigator Admiral Zheng.
He had travelled seven times along the silk
route, in the 15th century. with a fleet of 200
ships for trade activities.
He had visited Sri Lanka six times during these
Trade activities helped China to forge alliances
with many countries which led to social and cultural
Many Chinese went and settled down in these
countries. China towns are found in many South Asian
A substantial number of Chinese are found even today
in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and
Chinese food items such as noodles are a delicacy
among most Asian countries.
Many varieties of vegetables were introduced to
China through the silk route. Vegetables such as
snake gourd were introduced from India.
Grapes grown in the Mediterranean countries and
wine arrived in China through the silk route.
Wine became somewhat a popular drink during the Tang
dynasty (618-907 AD) and pretty waitresses had
served wine at night clubs in Xian.
Flat bread, introduced from the Arab world, also
became a popular food among the Chinese, especially
It was through the silk route that world came to
know about the hospitality of the Chinese,
especially of the kings of Tang Dynasty (618-907)
and Song Dynasty (960-1279).
They have invited academics, writers and poets from
other countries to China to enrich their literature.
About 5,000 such foreign academics, poets and
writers have lived in Xian at times. Even foreign
students have studied as residential students at the
Guozijian imperial college in Xian.
The most precious and important gift that China
received through the Silk route was Buddhism.
Among those who helped to introduce and propagate
Buddhism to China through this route were emperor
Mingdi of the eastern Han dynasty (AD25-220)
Buddhist monks such as Kasyapa Matanga and Gobharana
in A D -64 , monk Faxian of the eastern Jin dynasty
(A D 317- 420) and monk Xuan Zang of the Tang
dynasty (A D 618 -907)
Along with Buddhism, religious sculpture and
painting too arrived in China.
This is confirmed by the statues and paintings found
in the grottoes, situated along the silk route.
Most important of these are Dunhuang’s Mogao
grottoes in Gansu province, Longmen grottoes at
Luoyang city in Henan province and Yungang grottoes
at Datong city in Shanxi province.
It is reported in Chinese sources that sculptors
from Sri Lanka had taken part in the construction of
It is believed that rich merchants contributed to
build these Buddhist shrines along the silk route.
Trading by silk route along, land routes was a very
The real heroes of the silk route were the pioneers
who ventured to cross the deserts, rivers,
mountains, mostly on foot and animal backs
transporting their merchandise from East to West and
vice versa before sea routes were found.
But the most famous of them was Admiral Chang He who
crisscrossed the South Asian Seas in a fortilla of
over 200 ships.
He was not only a navigator but also an ambassador
at large representing the interests of the emperor
of the Ming Dynasty.
In one of his visits to Sri Lanka, he had made an
offering to Sri Pada and erected a trilingual
inscription at Galle harbour. (Chinese, Tamil and
The Silk Route in fact not only contributed to trade
links among the nations of the region but also
facilitated friendly relations and religious and
(The writer is the former Secretary of the Sri Lanka
|Impressions of Down Under
M. S. Abeysinghe
When the Qantas flight from Singapore to Sydney
touched the Sydney airport little did I realise that
I am visiting a well-organised country – Australia,
a continent in the Southern Hemisphere.
In a nutshell, Australia is a land of trees,
flowers, beaches, parks, nature reserves and
Australia’s discovery and explanation is like a
romantic epic. In ancient times the geographers
invented a very big Southern continent. Marco Polo
visiting from China in 1292 AD via Malaysia and
Sumatra described that there is a great and rich
country plenty of gold and small white sea shells
probably the pearls. He based his story from
Portuguese and Spanish navigators discovered
Australia-Dutch mapped Western and Northern
coastline in the 17th century. But none of them
decided to colonise such desolate looking land.
French and British interests flickered at the same
period but British took decisive moves. The British
Admiralty sent James Cook to explore this Continent.
Cook’s discovery of Australia’s eastern coastline
gave a complete picture of the true shape of the
continent. His reports paved the way for British
The present status of Australia is as follows.
There are nationals from almost all countries of the
world now living in Australia. They all contribute
to the development of the country in various ways.
This is a country devoid of internal wars. It is a
land of forests and bushes. About 30,000 different
plant species and about 90% of them are found
nowhere else on earth. Majority of the trees are gum
trees and eucalyptus trees. It is observed that
trees are cut down and used as electrical posts
instead of concrete posts.
The land is rich in fruits. Apples, peaches,
nectarine, oranges, plums, apricots, pears, grapes,
raspberry and strawberries etc.
As regards the fauna, there are kangaroos,
wallabies, koalas, ostrich, emu, rabbits, possums,
platypus, alpacas, wombats etc. Some of these are
not found elsewhere in the world.
Birds – most common are penguin, water fowl, geese,
swans, sea gulls, cockatoos, parrots, fishes, scrub
birds, magpies, humming birds, mynahs. There are
about 68 kinds of birds.
Flowers – Aussie land is full of flowers. There are
about 1,713 kinds of wild flowers. Hence, bees honey
is available in plenty.
Natural wealth consists of coal mines, steel and
Vegetables – All tropical vegetables grow in the
country. The soil is rich in volcanic ashes and
hence vegetables grow nicely. Mushrooms and
asparagus are the favourites.
The educational system comprises public schools and
private schools. There are universities for
undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Sports are
compulsory for every student. The system is to make
a complete man or woman.
Medical system – There are public and private
hospitals. All citizens enjoy medical benefits.
Senior citizens are well looked after by the State.
Some live independently and enjoy Superannuation
benefits. Travelling is made easy by charging
nominal fees in trains. Concessionary fares are
levied for viewing places of interests like zoos and
Children over 16 years of age are considered as
teenagers and are allowed to drive and drink beer.
Children of single parents are looked after by the
state. Their mothers receive financial support from
Road system is well-organised with traffic lights,
speed cameras, freeways and highways for vehicles,
lanes for cyclists, walkways for pedestrians, road
crossings for pedestrians and with aerial
surveillance on highways.
Generally, all citizens obey the law. Privacy of
life is maintained.
The beaches are well-maintained with rock pools,
changing rooms and car parks. In certain beaches
naked bathing is also allowed.
There are rest rooms for males, females, parents
The residents are friendly with salutations like
“Good Day”, “How are you, mate?” etc.
The rocks are dark rocks of volcanic origin called
basalt or bluestone.
Drivers of vehicles are categorised into three
kinds; with L boards, P boards and ordinary.
The weather forecasts are very accurate and
predictions are made throughout the day and night on
TV weather channel is giving day and night
temperature of the cities, the rain, storms, winds,
sunshine, dam capacity and pollens.
The cyclists must wear helmets including small
children to prevent head injuries.
Parks for recreation – flower gardens, long terraces
for cycling, playgrounds and barbeque points. The
toilet facilities are also there.
The national parks are mainly forests and with
directions for bush walks.
Garbage bins are found all over and well-maintained.
Garbage is removed by the Councils and as a result
the cities are clean.
UV rays are a problem in the country and all
citizens wear hats or caps when they are outdoor.
Schoolchildren must wear hats instead of caps to
school and back home.
This is a country full of bays, ferries and boats.
The residents enjoy outing in boats on rivers during
weekends and holidays.
Hence, this is a country to be visited and
enjoyed though it has a history of only 200 years.
Some important facts about Australia
The first European sighting of Australia was in
March 1606 by William Jansz, the skipper vessel
Duyfken (Little Dove)
Dutch map-makers named Australia as “Hollandin
Nova” meaning new Holland.
William Dampier was the first Englishman set foot in
Australian soil in 1688.
Captain James Cook landed at botany bay (Sydney) in
1770 and declared he had found “terra australis
incognita” meaning the fabled unknown Southern land
Captain Cook’s reports to the British Admiralty on
the fertility of Australia paved the way for British
colonisation of Australia.
|Couture comes to Colombo
the art of handmade garments, is reserved only for
the most discerning. This world of high fashion will
be opened to Asia when Georges Hobeika introduces
his prestigious couture label to Asia from Colombo
on October 27 during a special charity event. All
proceeds from the event will benefit First Lady
Shiranthi Wickramasinghe Rajapaksa’s cancer charity
Carlron Suwa Sevana.
This exclusive, invitees only Red Carpet event at
the Oak room of the Cinnamon Grand hotel will be
hosted by Dinesh Chandrasena who is in charge of
business development - Asia region for Georges
The fashion show which will be produced by Event
concepts will be presented in two segments : the
first half dedicated to Georges’ favourite pieces
from his past collections, and the second half
showcasing his Fall-Winter 2010/11 MASAI collection,
which was shown at the Louvre Museum in Paris on
July 5th 2010 during couture Fashion Week.
Georges Hobeika has always been an artist, and a
perfectionist, whose inspiration is making a woman
look absolutely spectacular. His harmonious marriage
of fabric, his manipulations of drapes and his
dazzling use of beading and intricate embroidery
make Georges Hobeika one of the most respected and
sought after couture designers in the world. His
celebrity client list includes Hilary Swank, Diane
Kruger, Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez and Rihanna,
to name a few.