Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 22 July 2012





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Government Gazette

SAARC’s sacred salute to Sri Lanka

“Archaeological studies of religion increasingly recognise religion as an organising principle in social life, rather than as a separate sphere of activity. They include religion as an axis of identity, that structures social life and personal experience”. In the past three years, the SAARC Cultural Centre in Colombo, has continued to be a vigorous new player in culture in the SAARC Region.

The discourse, that has been initiated by the Cultural Centre, has enabled the SAARC masses to come to terms with their own cultural identity and to project their unique way of life to the world outside their region. The on-going cinema events organised by the Cultural Centre, provide a telling impetus, towards the emergence of the collective awareness of the idioms of existence, peculiar to SAARC Lands. This is only one stray strand, in the strong series of moves planned and implemented by the Cultural Centre, on a non-stop basis.

Most of us in Sri Lanka, do not seem to have recognised adequately, that all of us in this country, owe a dept of gratitude to the SAARC Cultural Centre in Colombo. With each event major or minor – in the Cultural Centre Calendar, the image of Sri Lanka receives exequisite enhancement, as the venue of these activities. This is, over and above the enrichment many in Sri Lanka imbibe through their participation in the SAARC Cultural Events.Viewed in this perspective, each event organised by the SAARC Cultural Centre in Colombo, is a warm salutation to Sri Lanka.

But, the major event that will be held in Sri Lanka, in late August this year, will without even the shadow of a doubt, be the greatest tribute the SAARC Cultural Centre has offered to this country, to date. Opting to make Sri Lanka the venue of this conference, is, in effect, SAARC's Sacred Salute to Sri Lanka.Titled the SAARC International Conference on Archaeology of Buddhism, this event is a cluster of inter-related activities.This central International Conference, is a prestigious coloquium, in which scholars will participate to record and assess Buddhist Archaeological progress during the last six decades and thereabouts. Reputed Archaeological experts and Organisations, will converge in Colombo, transforming this SAARC International Conference on the Archaeology of Buddhism, into a global summit on Buddhist Archaeology.

During the past few years, Buddhist studies and surveys of Buddhist history, progressed especially as a outcome of an engrossing circumstance. 2011, marked the 2600th anniversary of the Enlightenment of ascetic Siddhartha, elevating him to the unprecedented spiritual stature of Gautama Buddha. During the run-up to this event (2011), a renewed, enlivened interest in Buddhism and associated Institutions could be vividly seen, right round the globe. This enthusiasm remains undiminished even today.

This new admiration for the Dispensation of the Buddha, was determined by yet another human factor as well. In the last few decades, the whole of humanity was overwhelmed by the strench of shocking violence everywhere, by man's cruelty to man and by the rapid deterioration of peace and harmony, in most threatres of human existence. This brought in a fresh yearning for the Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha.The associated events, enhance the significance of the International Conference of Buddhist Archaeology. A five-day (Aug. 21-26) Exhibition of Paintings by contemporary artists, will view the Buddha, through contemporary eyes.Twelve Films on the theme ‘The Story of Buddhism’ will be yet another compelling item of the cluster of events, associated with the SAARC International Conference on Archaeology of Buddhism (22-24 August) Other associated activities include a photographic exhibition and a book exhibition – cum – sale.

Sri Lanka should be grateful to Director, SAARC Cultural Centre, Colombo G. L. W. Samarasinghe and Deputy Director (Research) SAARC Cultural Centre, Colombo Dr. Sanjay Garg, for this spiritual and cultural ‘banquet'. Those who are responsible for the promotion of the image of Sri Lanka, will, I am sure, consider this a golden opportunity that has come their way, as such a galaxy of scholars and savants, forms a rare group of influential visitors to our land of Buddhism.As for the Central International Conference itself, it can claim its own niche in history, as an International Council of Buddhist Archaeology.

Success of this conference, can be considered a triumph for Sri Lanka too, as the host country for an Archaeological Conference, that will be remembered for a long time to come.

Special Note

An urgency enters into this conference. Currently Sri Lanka is plagued by the menace of widespread treasure lootings. The Conference of Archaeologists can establish the national and human significance of our archaeological heritage, bringing into being strong public opinion to counter such vandalism.

Those interested in details of this conference could contact Dr. Sanjay Garg (Convenor), Deputy Director (Research) SAARC Cultural Centre, Colombo.



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