animals prowl and pilgrims dare not rest
By Frances Bulathsinghala
The pilgrims rest in Lumbini, Nepal, built by the
Sri Lankan government in the mid 1980s lies abandoned and neglected
as confusion surrounds over who is responsible for its upkeep.
gift to the Nepal government by Sri Lanka during the regime of President
J. R. Jayewardena, the pilgrims rest, situated about three kms from
the Lumbini monastic zone has apparently been giving rest only to
birds and other creatures that prowl the area for the past 10 years.
building had cost about 50 million Sri Lankan rupees. When The Sunday
Times contacted the Buddha Sasana Ministry Secretary D. W. Abeywickrema
he admitted that the building had been totally neglected but said
he was not aware as to who was responsible for its present state
was built with the purpose of benefiting Buddhist pilgrims visiting
Lumbini. Under the direction of President Jayewardena, as a goodwill
gesture, it was handed over to the Nepal government. Unfortunately,
few pilgrims benefited from the venture as Nepalese authorities
had charged exorbitant fees from the pilgrims. It was later reportedly
used for nefarious illegal activities," said Captain D. A.
Wickremesinghe, President of the Nepal-Sri Lanka Friendship Association
adding that he had been refused entry into the premises a few years
ago when he had sought accommodation.
is a pathetic state of affairs. It was a memento by Sri Lanka so
that the country would be remembered for its services to Buddhist
pilgrims of all nationalities. But for the past few years the place
had been neglected and Sri Lankan and other Buddhist pilgrims were
forced to sleep on the floor of temples," Captain Wickremesinghe
to him, there had been no supervision by the Sri Lankan government
regarding the maintenance of the pilgrims rest and blamed the two
Sri Lankan representatives appointed to look into its maintenance
for not carrying out their duties.
had been a committee appointed with two representatives from Sri
Lanka and two members of the Lumbini Development Board. They were
supposed to meet once a month. Apparently this did not happen,"
Captain Wickremesinghe said.
former Sri Lankan ambassador to Nepal, Pamela Deen was contacted,
she re-affirmed that the building had been gifted to the Nepalese
government and that therefore its maintenance lay with the Nepalese
government. She also said that she had alerted Nepalese authorities
to the neglected state of the building.
Buddha Sasana secretary Abeywickrema claimed that the Ministry was
looking into renovating the building. He said the ministry had received
complaints from various tour operators that there were no facilities
for pilgrims to lodge in Lumbini.
admit that the building is in a bad shape. We have received many
complaints from tour operators and the Nepal Buddhist Society. We
cannot be held responsible. It should have been attended to by the
previous government," he says.
what the present government would do about the matter, he said a
draft form of an agreement to be formulated with the Lumbini Development
Board in Nepal had been sent to the Attorney General's Department
to Mr. Abeywickrema a Sri Lankan monastery is to be built at a cost
of Rs. 90 million not far from the pilgrims rest and it would be
opened by the end of this year. He said the monastery would also
revive interest in renovating the dilapidated pilgrims rest.
most of the tour operators we contacted, said they were not aware
of any government-run pilgrim’s rest and they always made
their reservations with hotels and guest houses for pilgrims who
travelled through them.
also said they felt the lack of a well maintained guesthouse directly
linked with Sri Lanka where local pilgrims could feel at home. Aitken
Spence Manager of Overseas Tour Operators, Nishantha Senevirathne
also reiterated this point and said that Lumbini would get more
attention from tour operators if there was a well maintained pilgrims
Garbo Travels Director, Savithri Peiris told The Sunday Times that
she had never heard of any pilgrims rest that was affiliated to
the Sri Lankan government. "We have been operating for 13 years
and I had not heard of such a place," Mrs. Peiris said.
on this Captain Wickremesinghe said, it was not surprising that
tour operators were unfamiliar with the pilgrims rest as it had
not been made available to the pilgrims. Meanwhile, Prasanna Jayasuriya,
a member of the Anagarika Dharmapala Trust who had visited the location
recently, described the pilgrims rest as having gone to the wilds.
is a sad state of affairs. The Sri Lankan government should look
into it as the name board of the building carries Sri Lanka on it,"
Mr. Jayasuriya said.