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Vesak celebrations in New Delhi 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, Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam stated, while the Indian Minister of State Kiren Rijiju welcomed a significant leap in New Delhi’s cultural calendar symbolising 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 recently, as the final phase of the celebrations organised to mark the Vesak 2017 by the High Commission of Sri Lanka.
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 recognised by the United Nations following the initiative taken by the former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. She also referred to 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 Gee. 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 has been facilitated to carry out this task by a group of well wishers and sponsors both from Sri Lanka and India. They include 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.
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