The story of
and thousands of Vesak lanterns will transform the city this week.
meets some of the people who are still intent on keeping the flame
look forward to Vesak and of course, to the making of lanterns.
My young neighbour has been preparing for this ever since the school
holidays began, figuring out how the lighting was going to work
and all the other little details. What amazed me was how he was
preparing the structure of his lantern
he used straws to make
the frame and pasted the paper on. I am yet to see the final result
but by the looks of it, it promises to be one of the most eye-catching
displays in our neighbourhood.
Vesak, we know,
inspires creativity in the minds of all. We need no further proof
than to see the amazing Vesak lanterns that are on display. Some
are so big and so intricately designed that even the casual passer-by
cannot but stop and look at them in awe.
Hoping to get
some insight into the making of these elaborate 'Vesak kudus', I
went in search
of the people creating these masterpieces.
has one of the most sought after Vesak lanterns in town. Known to
many as "Ratmalane Pahan Kuduwa" this is the work of Mr.
Gunasena Kurukulasuriya with the help of a few of his employees.
The lantern which is about 60 feet tall has over 200 figures, 10,
000 lights and about 180 small Vesak lanterns attached to the main
one. On the main frames there are a few drawings that depict the
story and at the bottom a miniature version of the Kandy Perahera
encircles the main frame, rotating beautifully.
has in the past exhibited his lanterns at different locations. This
is his 34th creation. "I first started it in Ratmalana, but
people wanted me to have it in other places as well," he said,
adding that it also had to be a place convenient for everyone to
view the lantern.
Each year he
strives to make a lantern that is better than the one he created
the previous year. "I also want to give the people a message,"
he says, which is why his lanterns are designed around a particular
Jathaka story each year. It takes him one whole year to get the
stuff ready and to build such a magnificent creation. Looking at
the intricate designs on the lanterns and the special care taken
over every little detail, it is not surprising that it takes so
much time. This year's creation is woven around "Siri Dalada
Watha". Once the basic design is done, three months before
Vesak the items are brought to the location, (in this case Orugodawatte).
Thereafter all the final touches and the lighting are done there.
The total cost
of making this elaborate lantern at times even exceeds Rs 30 lakhs
and at times even after charging the public for viewing this they
can't cover the cost. After Mr. Kurukulasuriya's creation is shown
to the public during the Vesak season, the whole lantern is burned.
They then preach bana and have an alms giving.
making preparations for the next year's lantern I usually go to
Kataragama and distribute some dry rations," says Mr. Kurukulasuriya,
who also makes donations to schools to help them in various ways
such as prize givings, building their school grounds, etc.
At the other
end of town, the "Ratmalane maha Pahan Kuduwa" is being
put together at the Ratmalana railway grounds. For 12 years, Mr.
S. Maithripala Silva has been overseeing the making of this lantern.
The design of this lantern, which changes every year, is innovative
and is done by 17-year-old Dilan Kumara.
This year the
lantern that stands tall is held upright by three elephants. There
are about 160 small lanterns attached to the main one. Under the
structure there is a pond and water cascades down from the small
lanterns creating a very beautiful picture in the mind. It has not
yet been completed, but once it is done it will undoubtedly be a
for the past five months, they exhibit it for about three weeks
following Vesak and about two weeks for Poson. The total cost of
this project is about Rs 12 lakhs and they too issue tickets to
the public to cover the cost. They follow the same procedure once
they have finished exhibiting it.
does spark within people when it is Vesak and sometimes it is the
same instinct you had in you as a child.
as we look around, the lights from a thousand Vesak kudus will brighten
the city and they wouldn't be there but for the painstaking effort
of so many dedicated hands.