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Sunday, 16 August 2009

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Bellanwila Perahera:

A display of glamour and sanctity



Bellanwila Raja Maha Vihara

Bellanwila Temple among others stands out for its exceptional miraculous powers drawing enormous crowds daily for their salvation. One cannot imagine where the countless number of devotees come from, whether from the neighbouring areas or from the entire island. However, the record crowds streaming into the sacred premises is a fact-not to doubt. Conveniently located on the Dehiwela-Maharagama road about two kilometers from the Colombo-Galle highway in a scenic location this enchanting temple is among the oldest dating back to the Anuradhapura period.


Bellanwila Perahera is one of the most glamorous cultural events.

The earliest available documentary source for the history of the temple, Bodhivansa speaks of 40 places where the Bo saplings from the original tree at Bodh Gaya were planted and Bellanwila is clearly stated in the list leading to a definite conclusion that it is as sacred as the one where the Buddha attained Buddhahood. When examining the history of the temple the modern era begins with the re-discovery of the temple by the Ven. Thengodagedara Thera after the dark ages subsequent to the Portuguese conquest.

The traditional perahera

The temple festivals at Kataragama, Devinuwara, Bellanwila and Kandy (being the most spectacular pageant) are almost contemporary and they are looked upon and performed with deep veneration. These processions in general date back to the time of ancient royalty who took upon themselves the unique task of perfect performance with overwhelming piety. History reveals that these were performed annually as the most joyous sacred event for the royalty as well as the people. The perahera at Bellanwila is one of the most sought after cultural pageants in this part of Colombo .

Exquisite preparations

Over the years it has added to its glamour and sanctity. The annual festival dates back to the era of Ven. Somaratana Thera 59 years ago. Each year an improvement is noticed . This year with the dawn of peace, harmony and tranquillity in the island under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa who declared the Bellanwila punyabhoomy as a world heritage site perahera is going to be more glamorous than even before and larger crowds are expected to witness it.

The colourful festival is celebrated on a very grand scale exhibiting very well the religious significance of the sacred event. The entire temple premises is beautifully decorated with Buddhist flags and illuminations. There are over million (if one is to count) multi coloured mini bulbs encircling the Bodhiya, temple buildings and the compound. It is a wonderful job well done by the Dayaka organisers. The Pirith Mandapaya was constructed according to tradition, giving prominence to conventional, religious and traditional custom.

In the specially constructed Mandapaya, pirith was chanted by the Bhikkus to invoke blessings on the country and humanity giving a very good message to the Buddhist world.

A week long Parithrana Desana came to a close with the Dorakada - Asna - an interesting sacred religious feature to listen and watch. The 16-day annual religious festival started on August 2nd, will terminate on the 16th with the almsgiving to the deities followed by the annual Mal perahera.

Among the other events the most admirable is the new look given to the premises in preparation for the grand event. Beautiful eye-catching lampposts erected under architectural advice, with greenery and illuminations are a novel feature to mark the occasion. When walking through the main gate the solidly constructed lampposts spread to the top where you find the statue of Ven. Bellanwila Somaratana Thera who bravely championed the historic revival of the temple.

The well laid out garden with tiles up to the entrance on both sides with green foliage in between adding beauty to the sacred grounds is remarkable. The guiding star to achieve the aims and targets of the Punyabhoomi is Ven. Professor Bellanwila Wimalaratana Thera the intellectual genius dominated by his total commitment to improve the sacred site, with the other resident Bhikkus and the Dayaka Sabha.

The colourful pageant

Elephant tuskers too play a major role in this eventful religious performance. They are well fed and well cared for in the premises behind the Chaitya long before the event. It is really amazing to see the tusker in the worshipping pose walking into the premises while enjoying fruits.

Their deep faith is something to be appreciated. The most colourful cultural pageant comprising of drummers, dancers and trumpeteers parades the streets of the neighbourhood.

Devotees clad in white walk carrying flags, lotuses, lanterns with coys of serene Sadhu Sadhu as they go along. The other paraphernalia of the procession include decorated items specially prepared for the occasion.

It goes through the streets in the vicinity of the temple believe to bless the entire area as if the Buddha the great master is bestowing loving kindness to humanity. It is truly an unforgettable experience for pious pilgrims who gather in thousands in the temple as well as the wayside.

 

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