Category Archives: Sri Lanka

President unveils archeologically restored historic Abayagiriya Stupa Featured

President Maithripala Sirisena unveiled the archeologically restored historic Abayagiriya Chaithya (Stupa) for the public on Friday (31), the Esala Poya Day.

President Maithripala Sirisena unveiled the archeologically restored historic Abayagiriya Chaithya (Stupa) for the public on Friday (31), the Esala Poya Day.

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President Sirisena offered the first pooja for the renovated Abhayagiriya Stupa and declared open the stupa for devotees.

Located at the northern inner city of the Anuradhapura ancient town, the Abayagiriya Stupa, which is 345 feet in height and 1,355 feet around was being renovated for the last 18 years by the Central Cultural Fund.

The restoration work, initiated as a UNESCO project in 1997 had cost Rs. 519.5 million. The funds for the project were gathered from the earning of the Central Cultural Fund (CCF) and from the donations of both local and international devotees as well as international organizations.

Addressing the gathering the President said Buddhist philosophy is accepted not only by the Buddhists but also by all righteous people throughout the world due to the uniqueness and supremacy of this philosophy. Buddhist philosophy is the only way to create honest people and a spiritual society, he said.

“While the developed countries speak about their scientific and technological developments, we have a proud heritage going back to centuries. Based on this heritage we should build the sound future for our future generation” the President said.

The President remembered all the forefathers including King Walagamba who built the world renowned Stupa. Continue reading

Book Review: Illuminating the Life of the Buddha: An Illustrated Chanting Book from Eighteenth-century Siam (2013)

Review by Jeffrey Martin

illumbuddhaAppleton, Naomi, Sarah Shaw, and Toshiya Unebe. Illuminating the Life of the Buddha: An Illustrated Chanting Book from Eighteenth-century Siam. Oxford, England: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 2013. Print. 142 pp.

This brief book describes and illustrates (in 86 photographs) an 18-century samut khoi, an illuminated Thai manuscript now in the collection of the Bodleian Library, Oxford University.

The manuscript’s format is traditional to Buddhist texts in many countries: a stack of long sheets of paper bound between planks of leather, wood, lacquer, or other hard material as covers.  This particular manuscript was made of several sheets of paper joined into one long piece, folded fan-like, into a stack 660mm long by 95mm wide. Each fold in the fan contains two flanking illustrations, with text in the center, but the content of the paintings and the text are only loosely related.   The text is an assortment of canonical material, from Vinaya to Abhidhamma to Qualities of the Buddha.  The illustrations depict the last 10 Jātaka stories, the early life of the Bodhisatta, and the Life of the Buddha.  It is possible this text was created in Thailand specifically for Sri Lankan monks and thus contains what were considered essential texts to help restore what was then a lapsed monastic tradition.

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A visual map of the manuscript

A textual map of the manuscript

A textual map of the manuscript

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Cultural Artifacts Bear the Brunt in the Island of Treasure Hunters

The reclining Buddha at Danagirigala which lost an eye and suffered other damage in 2005/photographs by Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka / dpa

The reclining Buddha at Danagirigala which lost an eye and suffered other damage in 2005/photographs by Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka / dpa

New Indian Express
By Doreen Fiedler
Published: 15th March 2015

The reclining Buddha statue in Danagirigala, Sri Lanka, now only has one eye. Treasure hunters pulled out the other one. The stone pillow that the Buddha rests his golden, curly-haired head on even has a hole in it.

“The perpetrators were hoping to find gold, silver, precious stones or ivory,” says Senarath Dissanayake, director general of Sri Lanka’s Department of Archaeology. Destructive treasure-hunting is a major problem

in the island country off the tip of India.

“Treasure hunting is based only on folklore about great riches. It has no scientific basis,” Dissanayake says.

The culprits in Danagirigala went home empty-handed, as did the ones who damaged a stupa (Buddhist burial mound) in Danowita or in Nurwarakanda where treasure-hunters drilled into the chest, belly button and pedestal of a seated Buddha statue.

Over the past two decades, police have come across more than 4,000 cases of such vandalism. The situation was particularly bad in 2012 and 2013 with the floors of caves dug up, the houses of former chieftains torn down and monks’ dwellings destroyed.

On average there was more than one such act every day. “The trend is a consequence of the fact that people no longer have morals and ethics,” Dissanayake says. Continue reading

An island’s damaged heritage

The reclining Buddha at Danagirigala, Sri Lanka which lost an eye and suffered other damage in 2005. Photo courtesy of Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka/DPA

The reclining Buddha at Danagirigala, Sri Lanka which lost an eye and suffered other damage in 2005. Photo courtesy of Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka/DPA

The Nation
Doreen Fiedler
Deutsche PresseAgentur
Colombo, Sri Lanka March 9, 2015 1:00 am

The reclining Buddha statue in Danagirigala, Sri Lanka now only has one eye. Treasure hunters pulled out the other one. The stone pillow on which the Buddha rests his golden, curly-haired head has a hole in it.

“The perpetrators were hoping to find gold, silver, precious stones or ivory,” says Senarath Dissanayake, director general of Sri Lanka’s Department of Archaeology. Destructive treasure hunting is a major problem in the island country off the tip of India.

“Treasure hunting is based only on folklore about great riches. It has no scientific basis,” Dissanayake says.

The culprits in Danagirigala went home empty-handed, as did the ones who damaged a stupa (Buddhist burial mound) in Danowita and in Nurwarakanda where treasure-hunters drilled into the chest, belly button and pedestal of a seated Buddha statue.

Over the past two decades, police have come across more than 4,000 cases of such vandalism. The situation was particularly bad in 2012 and 2013 with the floors of caves dug up, the houses of former chieftains torn down and monks’ dwellings destroyed.

On average there was more than one such act every day.

“The trend is a consequence of the fact that people no longer have morals and ethics,” Dissanayake says.

The remains of a brick and plaster Buddha statue at Hebessa that was destroyed by treasure hunters. Photo courtesy of Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka/DPA

The remains of a brick and plaster Buddha statue at Hebessa that was destroyed by treasure hunters. Photo courtesy of Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka/DPA


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Film on greatest religious icon

DSC_0655‘Migettuwatte Gunananda Himi’ is the lyrical title given to the first film ever to be based on the life story of a Buddhist monk of recent times. Director and co-producer Sisil Gunesekera who is best known as a playwright, explained that he chose this particular prelate, the leader of the Buddhist revival of the 19th century, as protagonist for his film because “I feel (this story) will enlighten the present generation.”

He called the Ven. Gunananda “the boldest, the most brilliant and most powerful champion of Sinhala Buddhism.” His intention however, he reiterated, is not to hurt “the sentiments of any religious group.” Indeed Gunesekera, who is now domiciled in Australia, is filling a void with this film not only because the Ven. Gunananda was the hero of the Panadura debate, which sparked interest for Buddhism in the West, and was known for academic brilliance apart from exceptional oratorical skills but also because Buddhist biographical films are such a rarity.

The character of the religious and national icon will be played by Roger Seneviratne. The rest of the cast comprises Suranga Ranawaka, Priyankara Rathnake, Lucky Dias, Wimalindra Kumari, Vasanthi Chathurani and Budhdhadasa Vithanachchi. Kaplia Sugath handles the camera, Upatissa Akurambada the art direction, Harsha Manjula the makeup, Nilatha Sri Pathirana the music, Mahinda Bandara Dissanayake the costumes while sunil Edirisinghe and Uresha Ravihari will be contributing as playback singers.

Suranga Ranawaka is the line producer and Lasanka Madhushan is assistant director. The movie is co-produced by Kamal Karunanayake and Sisil Gunesekera.

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Ancient Buddhist Monastery unearthed in Sri Lanka

The remains of the ancient Buddhist Monastery unearthed at Sithulpawwa [Credit: Daily News]

The remains of the ancient Buddhist Monastery unearthed at Sithulpawwa [Credit: Daily News]

Ruins of a flat building have been discovered at Sri Lanka’s Sithulpawwa archaeological site, Archaeological Director General Senarath Dissanayake said.

The Director General said archaeologists believe that the ruins of the building could be an ancient Buddhist monastery dating back to second or third AD. Gold plated pieces of urns have been found from the Sithulpawwa site for the first time.

This ancient building was situated in the Aimira cave at the Sithulpawwa site. The ruins emerged when a group of workers of the Archaeological Department in the Southern Province were excavating the site under the guidance of the Archaeological Director General recently.

Sithulpawwa site officer-in-charge and archaeology research assistant Buddhi Nanayakkara said that the building could be of multiple stories. The length of the building is 13.5 m while it is 11 m wide. It is believed that the building is the oldest among others buildings at the Sithulpawwa monastery site.

Pieces of gold plated urns, coloured urns, old tiles, old coins and old iron nails were also found beside the building.

Archaeological Department officials have taken steps to conserve the site after excavations.
Source: Daily News [November 04, 2014]

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Cinematic revival of Buddhist revivalist

The Sunday Times

MG_5018‘Anagarika Dharmapala Srimathano’

‘Anagarika Dharmapala Srimathano’, a film based on the life story of Sri Lankan Buddhist revivalist and writer Anagarika Dharmapala is now being screened at MPI circuit cinemas. Produced by Ven. Kirama Wimalajothi Thera and Sunil T. Fernando, the film stars Palitha Silva (playing Anagarika Dharmapala), Sriyantha Mendis, Gayan Wickremathilaka, Hyacinth Wijeratne, Lucky Dias, Sandun Wijesiri, Kamal Deshapriya, G. R. Perera, Austin Samarawickrema, Chris Harris, Madhawa Wijesinghe, Dayasiri Hettiarachchi, Prasad Samarathunga, Ruwangi Ratnayake and Sanjaya Amarasinghe in the stellar cast.

One of the founding contributors of non-violent Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism and Buddhism, the movie showcases how Anagarika Dharmapala pioneered in reviving Buddhism in India after it had been virtually extinct there for several centuries. Depicted as the first Buddhist in modern times to preach the Dharma in three continents: Asia, North America, and Europe, the film shows his crucial role as a major reformer and revivalist of Sri Lanka’s Buddhism and how he carried out the mission of Western transmission of Buddhism together with Henry Steel Olcott and Helena Blavatsky, the creators of the Theosophical Society.

Cinematographed by Sujith Nishantha, art direction by Suneth Nandalal, make up by Sameera Madu Kindelpitiya and Manoj Laksiri, the costume designing handled by Heenatigala Premadasa. Rohana Weerasinghe wrote the musical score, ‘Anagarika Dharmapala’ is directed by Sanath Abeysekara.

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