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Vesak Pandal inauguration bridges Indo Srilanka cultural ties

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 19, May 2017, 19:14 pm IST | UPDATED: 20, May 2017, 8:13 am IST

Vesak Pandal inauguration bridges Indo Srilanka cultural ties New Delhi: The Sri Lanka High Commission made arrangements to display a Vesak Pandol as it is known in Sinhala language, 'Thorana' in the city from 15th – 21st May 2017.  

'Vesak' full-moon day has been recognized by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 54/115 of 1999 as an international day of observance. 

'Vesak celebrations would further augment the historic Indo – Sri Lanka socio-cultural linkages and the time tested goodwill between the two peoples as amply manifested during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Sri Lanka for the UN Vesak Celebrations last week,' the Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam stated, while the Indian Minister of State Kiren Rijiju welcomed a significant leap in New Delhi’s cultural calendar symbolizing one of India’s greatest gifts to the mankind – Buddhism.

These observations were made at the inauguration ceremony of the first ever Vesak Pandal in New Delhi yesterday, as the final phase of the celebrations organized to mark the Vesak 2017 by the High Commission of Sri Lanka.

‘Vesak’ is the holy tri-festival that symbolizes the Birth (of Siddhartha Gautama in Lumbini, Nepal), the Enlightenment (in Bodhgaya, in India)and the Passing Away (in Kusinara, in India) of the Buddha, one of the most venerated philosophers in the world, celebrated by the Buddhists the world over with great reverence. It is known 'Vesakha' or 'Buddha Purnima' in India.

The Vesak is celebrated on the day of full-moon in the month of May commemorating these three holy events that took place 2561 years ago. This year, the 'Vesak' full moon day fell on the 10th of May.  

The ceremony was attended by the clergy, political dignitaries, city officials, diplomats, members of the academia and a cross section of the general public, to mark the inauguration of the glittering artwork of the 40 feet high Pandal erected overlooking a park along the Shanti Path which is also known as the Ceremonial Route in the diplomatic enclave in New Delhi.

The Pandal attracted the local crowds in numbers soon after its 15, 000 multi-coloured bulbs illuminated the night skies. Although the “Buddha Purnima” is a government holiday and is celebrated by the Buddhists in India, 'Vesak Pandals' are not a widely known cultural feature.  
 
The ceremony commenced with the invoking of the blessings by the Maha Sangha led by the Chief Incumbent of the Varanasi Centre of the Mahabodhi Society of India Ven K. Medhankara Thero and the Chief Incumbent of the New Delhi Centre of the Mahabodhi Society of India Ven R. Sumiththananda Thero. The traditional oil lamp was lit by the Minister of Education of Sri Lanka Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in India Chitranganee Wagiswara, Minister of State for Home Affairs of India Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment of India Rajesh Athawale, New Delhi Municipal Council Chairman Naresh Kumar and the Joint Secretary of the Indian Ocean Region Division of the Ministry of External Affairs of India Sanjay Panda.

High Commissioner Chitranganee Wagiswara welcomed the gathering and outlined the importance of the Vesak day and the extensive arrangements made by the High Commission in collaboration with the City authorities to celebrate Vesak in New Delhi.  She spoke of Buddha’s universal message of peace which is internationally recognized by the United Nations following the initiative taken by the former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. She also referred to the Prime Minister Modi’s remarks in Sri Lanka on “limitless possibilities of our shared future” and our 'friendship that lives in the hearts of our people and is the fabric of our societies.'

The Staff of the High Commission, and their family members joined by a group of Sri Lankan expatriates sang Bhakti Geet. As the lights were switched on by the Ministers and the High Commissioner and Colonel Kumara, the leader of the Sri Lanka Army Engineering Corps team which erected the Pandal, the Hindi translation of the story of the Pandal – Angulimala - was played in the background.

A special 16 member team from the Engineering Services Corps of the Sri Lanka Army erected the Pandal and the main structure which was brought from Sri Lanka while the necessary facilities and assistance was secured in India.   

The High Commission of Sri Lanka had been facilitated to carry out this task by a group of Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lankan Airlines, ICT Maurya Group in India, RITES Ltd in India, Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) and the Indian Oil Company (IOC).

The Pandal would be on display for a week, taking the centre stage in an area that had been lit up since the Vesak day, with hundreds of lanterns and buckets making it a Vesak Kalapaya or a Vesak Compound in New Delhi.

What is Vesak Pandol   

The “Vesak” season begins on the full-moon day of May with brightly lit Pandols, called 'thorana', erected mainly in the cities and scattered in the public places island-wide Sri Lanka. Usually each Pandol carries a Jataka story of the Buddha’s 550 previous births or any important event/s in the life of the Buddha. They were colourfully illustrated and illuminated with thousands of electric bulbs. The 'thorana' in New Delhi depicts the story of 'Angulimala'. The message given by this story to humanity is that ‘Any untamable could be tamed by compassion’.

This is a 40 feet high artwork lit up with 15,000 bulbs, considered the first ever 'thorana' (Pandol) erected in New Delhi, India. The story of Angulimala will be played in hindi language for the public to understand the story. Arrangements are also underway to have a Bakthi Geet Session (Buddhist religious songs) sung by the members of the Sri Lanka High Commission staff and their family members, Sri Lankan Students and Sri Lankans living in New Delhi deriving the true spirit of the qualities and life of Buddha which will add colour to this auspicious event. As it is done in Sri Lanka, the Shanthipath area was lit up with 200 white colour lanterns and buckets making the area a Vesak Kalapaya or the Vesak Compound that celebrates Buddha Purnima.    

This will be the first time in India a Pandol will be displayed and will be a historic event. It coincided with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Sri Lanka as the Chief Guest at the United Nations Vesak Day Celebrations in Colombo from 11-12 May 2017. The significance of this event lay in its unique nature and the historic relevance that it entails which marks as an important milestone for India Sri Lanka bilateral relations based on Buddhism. It further rejuvenated the legacy of spiritual connectivity that has existed between Sri Lanka and India over many millennia.
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