Vesak…the festival of devotion to commemorate the Birth, Enlightenment and Passing Away of Lord Buddha is also a festival of light as thousands of Vesak decorations in the form of pandals, kudus and lamps shine forth. As Sri Lankans make preparations to illuminate their homes and neighbourhoods as an offering to Lord Buddha this Vesak, the traditional mati pahana comes to the fore.
The photographs captured here show how this humble object takes shape in the hands of a group of local craftsmen and women in Ranala who work with patience and dedication, fashioning the clay placed on the sakaporuwa (wheel) into a mati pahana, within seconds.
These skilled craftsmen and women say they can make 1500- 2000 lamps a day, thanks to the modern, electrically operated potters’wheel as opposed to the traditional manually operated machine. Once the lamps are made, they are kept out in the sun to dry and harden before they are put in the poranuwa.
Vesak is boom time for the craftsmen in areas like Ranala and Minuwangoda who cater to the demand from all parts of the country.
The lamps are made throughout the year, but the potters work overtime ahead of the Vesak season to build up stocks. 50,000 lamps were sent to Anuradhapura recently for the forthcoming celebrations and they are busy making more to meet the demand from other parts of the country. This time, demand has increased with more people going on pilgrimages as the war has ended, they say, but the incessant heavy rains could dampen sales, they fear.