safari in sri lanka

abby and i went to the south of sri lanka for the diwali weekend. the highlight for us was a safari at yala national park, which is known for its leopards and elephants, among other animals. we spent the day in the bush, braving morning sun and afternoon rains, and saw lots of animals, including water buffalo; spotted deer; eagles, storks and other birds; grey langur monkeys; elephants; and even a rarely-seen sloth bear.

we didn’t see any leopards – the closest we got to seeing one was these pawprints – but it wasn’t for lack of trying. our driver was amazing, able to both keep his eyes on the road and simultaneously spot a rabbit in the brush 40 yards away, and at one point we went barreling through deeply rutted roads for 40 minutes to chase down a rumor of a big cat sighting across the park, but it was to no avail. still, the game we did see was pretty spectacular, especially when the elephant momma-and-baby pair walked right past our truck.

the next morning we drove out to do some sight-seeing beyond the nature park, and the first thing our driver chirped to us was “did you go on safari? i went this morning and saw three leopards!” how wonderful, i thought. still, i was grateful for all the things we did see, which i present below.

next: more leopard photos.

the upcoming kali puja

two versions of kali – one by raja ravi varma and a more totemic local one.

we were in kolkata this past week, just after durga puja, the holiday for the goddess durga, and two weeks before kali puja, the holiday for the goddess kali. kali is the goddess of time and change, and is pretty badass. when the goddess durga is unable to kill the demon raktabija and his minions – duplicate raktabijas that spring up whenever the demon’s blood hits the ground – she calls upon (or transforms into) kali:

out of the surface of her (durga’s) forehead, fierce with frown, issued suddenly kali of terrible countenance, armed with a sword and noose. bearing the strange khatvanga (skull-topped staff), decorated with a garland of skulls, clad in a tiger’s skin, very appalling owing to her emaciated flesh, with gaping mouth, fearful with her tongue lolling out, having deep reddish eyes, filling the regions of the sky with her roars, falling upon impetuously and slaughtering the great asuras in that army, she devoured those hordes of the foes of the devas.

kali destroys raktabija by sucking the blood from his body and putting the many raktabija duplicates in her gaping mouth. pleased with her victory, kali then dances on the field of battle, stepping on the corpses of the slain. … (source: wikipedia)

in the kumartuli neighborhood, shop after shop of craftsmen are busy creating statues of kali to put around the city at various celebrations. they come in various styles, but they are fairly benign in appearance, which is surprising, considering kali’s fierce reputation.

deeper in the neighborhood, however, the craftsmen get a little more creative. photographing these was like eating potato chips …

sadly, i can’t get back to kolkata in time for the holiday, but now i have a reason to come back to india after 2013.