Category Archives: Sri Lanka

Criminalizing Buddhist Body Art: Sri Lanka to Deport British Tourist over Buddha Tattoo

Indian Express
22nd April 2014

A 35-year-old British woman faces deportation for sporting a Buddha tattoo in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, where disrespect of the religion by foreigners is frowned upon.

The woman tourist, who has been detained, had arrived at the Colombo international airport from Mumbai yesterday morning.

“She was produced before the magistrate at Negombo who ordered her to be detained at the immigration detention centre before deportation,” a police statement said.

The tourist had an image of the Buddha seated on a lotus flower tattooed on her right arm, it said.

It was not immediately clear where the woman, who was not identified, would be deported to.

Sri Lanka is a Buddhist-majority island and the authorities remain sensitive to any disrespect of the religion by foreigners.

Last year, another British tourist was deported for a similar incident.

In 2012, at least three French tourists were handed suspended jail sentences for “inappropriate” behaviour in front of a Buddha statue.


A Local Wonder in Sri Lanka: Mawela Cave Temple

Buddhistdoor International
Sean Mós

Entrance to the temple. By Sean Mós.

A short fifteen minute walk reveals the entrance to the ancient cave temple of Malwela in a shoe shaped mountain known locally as the Bible Rock. Mawela Cave Temple has a long history. King Walagamba ruled the kingdom of Anuradhapura once in 103 BCE and again for 12 years between 89 BCE – 77 BCE. According to archaeological studies, the temple dates back to 103 BCE when King Walagamba took refuge to remain hidden from the Indian invaders who occupied his kingdom four months after his accession.
It is assumed that Mawela Temple and its adjoining caves were meant to house the meditating monks. However, H.C. P. Bell (1851 – 1937), a British civil servant and a commissioner in the Ceylon Civil Service concluded in a 1904 report that this cave temple was built by King Parakramabahu VI during 1400s. Unfortunately his studies remain inconclusive.
For more photos, follow the link at the end of the article.  

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‘Invoking The Goddess’ Exhibit Celebrates Pattini-Kannaki, Sri Lanka’s Shared Hindu-Buddhist Deity

The Huffington Post
Antonia Blumberg

Chief Priest incarnated by Goddess Pattini, Western Province.

Chief Priest incarnated by Goddess Pattini, Western Province.

Hindus and Buddhists in Sri Lanka may have been divided through political strife over the years, but they have one important thing in common. Her name is Pattini to Sinhala Buddhists and Kannaki to Tamil Hindus, but she is one and the same goddess shared in religious practices by the two faiths.

For more photos, follow the [link].

Photo essay: Buddhist Hell, Sri Lanka
27 Feb 2014

Buddhist Hell - Dikwella Temple, Sri Lanka

Like me, you may have assumed Buddhism was such a happy religion. Until I discovered Buddhist Hell, deep in the South of Sri Lanka, I figured that Buddhist temples were full of kind, enlightened, robe-wearing folks, living out their days in this world performing good deeds, and getting a stack of good karma to boot. From a Western perspective, brand-Buddhism is pacifism, tranquility, and paying a hundred bucks to see the Shaolin Monks world tour, and being ripped off by Buddhist monks selling plastic beads. But wait, there’s more.

Unfortunately, visiting Sri Lanka, one of the most stunning island nations on the entire planet, has taught me everything I never wanted to know about Buddhism. Like all religions, Buddhism has a special dark place where people just don’t want to end up in this life, or any other. Buddhists refer to it as “Naraka” or “Niraya”. You may know it as “hell”. One artists vision of this tormented and gruesome place is on display inside the Buddhist temple named Wewurukannala Viharain the town named Dikwella. And the Buddhist version of hell, makes your version of hell seem like not such a terrible place.

For more photos, follow the [link].

New Sri Lanka Film: ‘Siri Daladagamanaya’

Daily News
Ruwini Jayawardana
03 March 2014

Sriyantha Mendis in a scene from the film

Sanath Abeysekara turned a new page in the local cinema scene with his much talked about ‘Mahindagamanaya’ which brought the tale of how Buddhism came to Sri Lanka to light. He explored similar avenues with his second cinematic venture ‘Siri Daladagamanaya’.

The movie is set for release at Liberty cinema and Savoy 2 cinema on March 6. Produced by EAP Head Soma Edirisinghe the movie sheds light on how the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha came to Sri Lanka. Bringing the sacred tooth relic to the isle was not walk in the park. Many stories of how barriers fell across Princess Hemamala and Prince Dantha’s path have been recorded in history. Director Abeysekera has analyzed these facts and have separated truth from false before penning his script. Continue reading

Sri Lanka cinema: Surveillance and survival

In a long article on post-war Sinhala cinema, film-maker Sivamohan Sumathy reviews the role of historical religious dramas, such as 2012′s Sri Siddhartha Gautama.  



The Hindu
February 21, 1014

scene from “Ini Avan”

In post-war Sri Lanka, Sinhala cinema is all about triumphal cultural nationalism. What options does a Tamil film-maker have, faced with the twin threats of a surveillance state and a populist mainstream cinema from Tamil Nadu that dominates popular imagination? By SIVAMOHAN SUMATHY

“FOR the motherland” was the final call made to the audience at the close of the film Abaas the young hero—historically, the would-be Pandukabaya—holds high majestically a “sacred” sword standing atop a hill, framed dramatically by towering mountain peaks. The film relates the story of a young prince raised clandestinely by the natives of the north-central hinterland in fear of his jealous and despotic uncles. It draws upon an early instance of Sri Lankan history, a defining moment of the Sinhala identity, genealogically speaking. Pandukabaya occupies an iconic place in the nationalist imaginary, providing authenticity to memories of a glorious past and the story of the consolidation of the power of Sinhala kings.

Aba was released in September 2008, at the height of the final phase of Eelam War IV which came to a bloody and decisive close in May 2009. In September 2008, the war was intense and the war cry was everywhere, even as the death toll among combatants and civilians on both sides was rising in the north. In the rest of the country, bombs, blasts, checkpoints, assassinations and disappearances kept the populace captive to a culture and psychology of fear, suspicion, uncertainty and hopelessness, while the government on one side and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on the other peddled a rhetoric of moral fortitude. Continue reading

Tambiah, Prominent Anthropologist, Remembered as Loving Scholar

Harvard Crimson
Dev A. Patel and Steven R. Watros
January 29, 2014

Stanley J. Tambiah

Anthropology professor emeritus Stanley J. Tambiah, described by colleagues as one of the giants of 20th century anthropology and who was known for his studies of Buddhism and South Asia, passed away on Jan. 19 after a long illness, three days after his 85th birthday.

Called “Tambi” by those who knew him well, Tambiah was a native of Sri Lanka and first joined the Harvard faculty in 1976 after teaching at the University of Chicago and the University of Cambridge. He taught at Harvard for 35 years as one of the first full professors of South Asian descent, according to neurology professor S. Allen Counter, director of The Harvard Foundation.

“He was a great Thai studies and Buddhism expert who was known for meticulously detailed and conceptually rich ethnographic studies of religious rituals and cultural traditions and the way that they came together in on the ground practices,” said Arthur M. Kleinman, an anthropology professor who was both a student and colleague of Tambiah. “What distinguished him was in addition to being a superb field researcher, he was also the author of bold theoretical statements.” Continue reading

Indian Gallery launched at Sri Lanka’s Temple of Tooth in Kandy

Colombo Page
Dec 10, 2013

Dec 09, Colombo:  The Indian Gallery, which was developed by the National Council of Science Museums, Government of India, encapsulates the origins of Buddhism in India and its peaceful spread to other parts of Asia and the world. The Gallery has replicas of the historic monuments of Bodh Gaya, in addition to the Sanchi Stupa, the Ajanta Caves and other marvels of Buddhist art and architecture. The theme of the gallery is grouped in eight major sections:

(1) India – the origin of Buddhism – which includes the primary events in Buddha’s life;

(2) Pilgrimage sites in India which includes the important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India. A separate multimedia kiosk provides detailed information in the form of texts, graphics and videos; Continue reading

[Sri Lanka] Painting at Mitirigala Nissarana Vanaya

Sri Express
Oct 19 2013

Painting at Mitirigala Nissarana Vanaya

Meetirigala Nissarana Vanaya is a monastery in the strict forest tradition in Sri Lanka. It is considered as one of Sri Lanka’s most respected meditation monasteries and was founded in 1968 by Asoka Weeraratna (the founder of the German Dharmaduta Society and the Berlin Buddhist Vihara in Germany). He equipped the monastery with all the facilities conducive to the meditative life, found an accomplished meditation master, Ven. Matara Sri Nanarama Mahathera (author of ‘Seven stages of Purifications’ and ‘Seven Contemplations’, both published by the BPS), to direct the meditation training, and then, his mission accomplished, he himself entered the Buddhist order under the name Meetirigala Dhammanisanthi. Continue reading

Semage’s tradition bound art: Divulapitiya edition

Daily News
Professor Chandima Wijebandara
September 25, 2013

From the day that Buddhism was introduced to Sri Lanka the artists here have devoted all their talents to pictorially communicate the evergreen message of the Buddha to masses. Buddhism provided them with the rich treasury of resources full of beautiful stories, colourful images and aesthetic concepts.

The kings facilitated the artists with material support while the monks provided freedom for imagination. Spurred by such facilitations Sri Lanka artists have created superb images on the shrine room walls and ceilings. Be it a relic chamber of a stupa like Mahiyangana, a cave temple like Karambagala or shrine room like Tivamka Pilimage, wherever we find ancient murals, the paintings depicted Buddhist themes. According to critics like Benjamin Rowland, Vincent Smith, H. C. P. Bell, Raja de Silva and Dharmasena Rassapana, even the frescoes at the royal fortress Sigiriya portray Buddhist cultural themes. Continue reading