New frontiers of dansal fare:
Wi-fi, cinema, petrol and reload
If Vesak is about spirituality, beautifully crafted pandals and
artful lanterns, it is also about dansalas, of food and drinks offered
at pavements and street corners to weary sightseers looking for
sustenance for the body after a surfeit of visual and celestial
Vesak dansalas are about showcasing Dana Paramita - (perfection of
generosity), the first of the ten Paramitas (Perfections or
Transcendental Virtues) which every Bodhisatta (Buddha aspirant), has to
practice to gain Supreme Enlightenment (Samma Sambodhi).
For the curious, the other paramitas are Sila (morality), Nekkhama
(renunciation), Panna (wisdom), Viriya (energy), Khanti (patience),
Succa (truthfulness), Aditthana (determination), Metta (loving-kindness)
and Upekkha (equanimity). These virtues are cultivated with compassion,
guided by reason, uninfluenced by selfish motives, unsullied by
misbelief and all feelings of self-conceit.
The traditional dansalas have always been about food and drinks -
translating generosity to feeding the hungry and quenching the thirst of
the weary. Dansala offerings have encompassed a varied range of food and
beverages from the known and familiar to experimental and the herbal -
fried rice ghee rice, boiled manioc, Marie biscuit, milk coffee, soft
drinks, ice cream, beli mal, kottamalli.... But it has always been food
and drinks - the tried, the tested and the familiar.
are generally organized by individuals and groups such as youth clubs,
sports clubs, and three-wheeler driver associations of the area with the
help of the inhabitants. On a grander scale, dansals are also organised
by private companies, government departments, ministries and at times
even media institutions.
Interestingly however, the tried and tested had made way this Vesak
for the novel and unusual incorporation technological advancements,
inedible essentials and service to the smorgasbord of dansal fare, give
Vesak 2015 a 21st century flare.
The concept may have been unfamiliar, but a walkabout around Colombo
through some of the favourite must-visit sights including Town Hall,
Chaithya Road, Bauddhaloka Mawatha and Gangarama Vesak zones, showed
that the atypical dansala, though a surprise to many still managed to
draw the crowds with the neoteric offerings.
Topping the list and proving to be very popular was the 'Wi- Fi
Dansala' run by Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd. (ANCL). The hordes
who flocked to the Lake House 'Amadahara Vesak Zone', which also
showcased digital wonder, couldn't be but awed by the novelty of a Wi-Fi
According to General Manager, ANCL Newspapers Abhaya Amaradasa, the
main purpose of the novelty dansala was to give the public a good
exposure to modern technology and make a difference to the traditional
way of celebrating Vesak.
The 'Wi-Fi Dansala', which blended in beautifully with the digital
pandal in the 'Amadahara Vesak Zone was a brainchild of the Lake House
Management, and was facilitated by the Information and Communication
Technology Agency Sri Lanka (ICTA). This was the Wi-Fi dansala in Sri
Another uniquely unusual generosity that proved to be a major
attraction was the 'Cinema Dansala' organized by the Light of Asia
Foundation in association with the Embassy of Pakistan.
was a parallel event to the International Buddhist Festival 2015, and
had several giant movie screens set up around the BMICH premises giving
the public an opportunity to enjoy some classic Buddhist movies
absolutely free. A 3D animated movie titled 'The Monkey Hunter', and a
documentary on Anagarika Dharmapala, also proved to be a great draw.
According to Honorary Chairman, Light of Asia Foundation, Navin
Gooneratne, this is the 7th year the organization had held the Buddhist
They plan to make it a grand event next year, even go global and
invite Hollywood stars, who had become good Buddhists. One of the most
popular Hollywood celebrities in this connection is Richard Gere.
The main purpose of the project is to build a bridge of compassion
among all people, and highlight the true meaning of Buddhism.
Political Counselor to the High Commission of Pakistan Hasan Zaigham,
said they had set up a stall featuring booklets and pictures based on
the Buddha and His Buddhist teachings. He said the purpose of hosting
the 'cinema dansala'' was to share whatever they have, including the
literature with the general public.
He also said the High Commission plans to take some Buddhist monks to
Pakistan, which will help expand bilateral relationships between the two
Away from the digital and celluloid draw, there was also a 'Petrol
Dansala' in Kotikawatte organized by Shenaz Senarath and his own company
Destiny DJs. According to him the dansala was a joint project by Destiny
Djs and Stunt Mania, who handle all sports activities and have a special
Honda outlet in Kotikawatte.
to do something novel and unusual good deed this Vesak, they had decided
to hand out free petrol, but only for bikes. Popular pop artiste, Iraj
Weerarathne was among the special invitees for the opening of the
'Petrol Dansala'. Requests for Donations were made through Facebook, and
Senarath said it was the first time in Sri Lanka's history that such a 'Dansala'
There was no political involvement, but just friendship and Team
work, he said, adding that for the Poson season too, they were planning
to have a similar dansala in Anuradhapura, the nitty gritties of which
are still to be finalized.
There were several other unique dansalas across the country.
Columnist Mithra Sri Karunanayake in his popular Sunday column Samaja
Gaveshana wrote there had also been a 'Phone Reload Dansal' which gave
free reloads to everyone and media in the past have reported on a
dansala giving free haircuts.
So in this time of change and innovation, don't be surprised if the
dansal concept changes and evolves in the coming years, embracing the
technological developments that make life both comfortable and
And who knows, next Vesak we might even see 3D pandals and electronic