Finest hours of May
Low country dancers
Vesak which signifies the birth, enlightenment and Parinibbana
(death) of the Buddha is celebrated all over the world. A festive
atmosphere and vibrancy prevail during Vesak where lanterns and giant
pandals with sparkling lights decorate major towns in the country.
The month of May sees the biggest Buddhist celebrations. This time
however the focus fell on Bentota-Beruwela area where the Tourist
Hotel’s Association of Sri Lanka along with Bentota Beruwela Hoteliers
Association in association with the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, organised
Vesak celebrations for the first time on a grandiose scale at the UDA
ground at Moragalle Beruwela.
Although it was a customary practice for inhabitants of Beruwela to
celebrate Poson every year, Vesak was celebrated this year with the
participation of serval local organisations.
Many religious events were organised to mark the occasion. A
meditation session at the Island temple Beruwela, Sermons on Buddhism
delivered in English, a Bakthi Gee competition on an illuminated barge
afloat the Bentota river, a Lantern competition, Vesak card making
competition, and a mini Perahera were some of the highlights.
As pre arranged we visited the meditation centre at Aluthgama. We
took a boat ride in the sea to reach the hillock temple.
After getting off from the boat we had to scale several steps to
reach the jungle Aarannya surrounded by shrub and Venerable Dr. Talawe
Sangharatha Thera was already seated there when we arrived. He was about
to begin his discourse on meditation. He was surrounded by several
foreign European tourists and by foreign and local journalists.
Bhakthi Gee competition
The elderly couple, from Bristol United Kingdom sat next to me. I
noticed Mr. Jones struggling to sit on the mat with his legs crossed.
There were few European women tourists as well eagerly waiting for the
meditation session to begin. All of us sat on mats laid on the ground.
The Thera began by explaining some of the basic tenets of Buddhism.
He said every thing was subject to change according to Buddhist
teaching. He then went to explain cause and effect and said many people
led stressful lives today due to many factors which they were ignorant
As a result many suffered from mental illnesses and other ailments.
People could not sleep and lay awake the whole night. They went to work
on the following day thoroughly exhausted and could not concentrate on
Taming the mind through meditation
The Thera stressed the importance of meditation and said it was the
only answer to tame the mind. When evening fell there was a colourful
mini Perahera with several low country dancers clad in colourful
costumes dancing along the main road to the rhythm of the drums. When
night fell what captured our eyes were the serene women Bakthi Gee
singers clad in spotless sarees on a barge floating down the Bentota
Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, Renton de Alwis said when
Sri Lanka celebrated the Buddha Jayanthi 52 years ago, a huge
celebration was held in Sri Lanka to commemorate the occasion. He said
tourists these days want to experiment and experience something unique
when they visit other countries.
Vesak was one such cultural festival where tourists could take back
unique and happy memories with them.
“We decided to host the event at Beruwela to showcase Beruwela not
only as a destination for sea and the sun alone. Despite Beruwela being
a predominantly muslim town, all communities had joined hands to
organise the event, he said. He said organising events of this nature in
many parts of the country adds a different dimension to the marketing
strategy of tourism.
President of the Bentota Beruwela Hoteliers Association Chang said
when they were entrusted with the task of organising Vesak at Beruwela
they sought assistance from the local community including the Pradeshiya
Sabbawa, the Divisional Secretariat, the Kande Viharaya and all the
Buddhist temples in Bentota-Beruwela areas and from the Lions Club to
make it a success.