Sri Lankans celebrate, showcase Buddhism’s values and heritageView(s):
By Senuka Jayakody
Sri Lankans poured out in their thousands to places worship, bearing symbolic offerings to pay homage to the Buddha’s universal message of wisdom, compassion and humility, and participated in religious activities that honour the triple gem: the Buddha, dharma (teachings), and sangha disciples) on Vesak Day this week, when Buddhism’s cultural heritage was also showcased.
Devotees and even foreign visitors congregated at Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweli Seya, Gal Viharaya, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and temples in villages from dawn. Many renewed pledges to observe the five precepts pañcasīla, (five rules of morality), and the ‘Eight Precepts’. They listened to talks by monks and offered alms.
Vesak was commemorated in a bigger scale in Colombo and the provinces after about three years, having been disrupted by the coronavirus epidemic and social and political events.
Downpours exceeding 70mm an hour and thunderstorms hindered outdoor activities, but people came out to experience the lights, lanterns, colourful displays of ‘pandals’ and to enjoy free meals at temporary stalls, or ‘dansal’ providing food and beverages.
In Colombo, at the ‘Buddha Rashmi National Vesak Zone’ at Gangaramaya, the Presidential Secretariat and Prime Minister’s Office from May 5 to May 7, friendly nations participated by hosting activities and exhibitions.
There were manifestations of public diplomacy at Vesak in Sri Lanka.
Neighbour India marked its close links with Sri Lanka through an exhibit of digital recreations of the fresco paintings from the Ajanta caves, a UNESCO heritage site, showing select events of Lord Buddha’s life and the Jataka tales. Gopal Baglay, India’s high commissioner in Sri Lanka was on hand at the Seemamalakaya to open the exhibit.
India also made possible a display of relics of Arahants Sariputta and Maha Mogallana at Aggrasarawaka Maha Viharaya in Colombo. On the premises of Dalada Maligawa, India hosted a food dansal.
Pakistan displayed its Buddhist heritage in a pavilion where statues such as that of the fasting Buddha and replicas of artefacts from the Gandhara Civilisation went on display.
The Embassy of Thailand in Sri Lanka hosted photo exhibits and held a quiz in English on Sri Lanka-Thailand Buddhist diplomacy.
A group of Vietnamese Buddhist students in Sri Lanka erected a stall at Gangaramaya, to allow people to carry out the “watering the Buddha” ritual as done in Vietnam. One student, Ven Lien Vien told the Sunday Times: “We want to show Vietnamese Buddhism to Sri Lankans.’’
The National Vesak Festival was held at the Kebellawa Rathnasiri Piriven Viharasthanaya at Madampe in Chilaw. Religious rituals continued despite heavy rains.
Messages marking Vesak were issued by Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Thero, the chief prelate of the Asgiriya Chapter, Chief Prelate of the Malwatte Chapter, Most Venerable Thibbotuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thero, President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Opposition Leader, Sajith Premadasa. The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and Audrey Azoulay, director general of UNESCO also issued Vesak messages.
The Pettah United Bodhiraja Association hosted a ‘dansal’ after three years in the Pettah Sri Bodhiraja temple from 11:30am to sunset on Vesak and the following day.
“The ‘dansal’ is held using material aid from the Sinhala and Tamil businessmen of the 5th cross street with the commitment and effort of members of the association,’’ the treasurer W. G. Wimalaratne said.
At some stalls, donors gave away vegetables.
In Pilimathalawa, Kandy, vegetables worth more than Rs. 1 million, were handed out. In Thalakiriyagama, Galewela, 12,500 kg of pumpkin was distributed.
Pandals in and around Colombo such as in Dematagoda, Thotalanga, Maharagama, Kottawa were lighted up despite the heavy rain.
Police spokesman Nihal Thalduwa said officers want to ensure a peaceful Vesak as usual. The police also undertook some public service work, including at orphanages and elderly care homes.
The secretary of the Public Health Inspectors Union of Sri Lanka, S. I. Bopitiyage, told the Sunday Times, that about 7,160 ‘dansal’ had been organised. “The number has increased because people are more keen to commit to such activities compared with last year.’’
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