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The 150th birth anniversary of Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala was commemorated under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Independence Square in Colombo this morning (September 17). Large number of different celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Anagarika Dharmapala’s birth is being held across Sri Lanka as well as in India, UK and many parts of the world.  He is remembered especially for his campaigns to preserve Sinhalese Buddhist culture and the promotion of Buddhist education in Sri Lanka and rest of the world.

The main ceremony began with the recital of the Five Precepts led by the Maha Nayaka Thera of the Amarapura Maha Sangha Sabhawa, Most Ven. Davuldena Sri Ganissara Thera, and the lighting of the traditional oil lamp at the Independence Square. Secretary to the President, Lalith Weerathunga has delivered the welcome address. The President and the distinguished guests laid flowers at the feet of a large statue of the late national leader inside the Independent Square. The Dharmapala orations were delivered by Most Venerable Dr. Niyangoda Vijithasiri and Most Venerable Banagala Upatissa Theros on Anagarika Dharamapala’s life and struggles.

Addressing the ceremony, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said that the late Anagarika Dharmapala is the greatest son produced by Sri Lanka during the last century. He was very critical of the people and leaders who were servile to Western ways, and the tirade against colonialism, in the end, gave birth to the process of nationalist awakening. The President also pointed out that the heroic personalities which have rendered an immense service to the country and the religion are compelled to withstand insults today as well as in the past. Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala had to face such accusations due to his efforts to revive the Sinhala Buddhist nation. Anagarika Dharmapala stood to uplift the Sinhala Buddhist at a dark era in the Sri Lankan history. He had realized that the best way to dispel the weaknesses of the majority was to engage in practical measures. Therefore, he urged the people to live according to the inherent noble virtues. Such a hero was labeled as a communalist. It was Anagarika Dharmapala who had stated for the first time that vocational training should be provided for children.

The year starting from today (17 September 2014) to 17 September 2015 has been declared as the ‘Anagarika Dharmapala Year’ by the President. This was announced after Chief Incumbent of Sri Sambodhi Vihara, Colombo-7, Ven. Daranagama Kusaladhamma Thera appealed to the President requesting him to name Anagarika Dharmapala as the ‘Father of the Nation’ in place of former Prime Minister, D.S. Senanayake, as Anagarika Dharmapala had rendered immense service to the nation. Ven Thero also has stressed that the Independence Square should no longer be named after British Colonial Governor Torrington, who committed brutal acts against the Sinhalese in his days and further requested the Independence Square in Colombo should be renamed as Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala Square in honour of the late Dharmapala, the brave and vibrant social reformer, who championed the cause of Buddhism and spearheaded a struggle for national awakening at a time when the country was under Colonial rule. A commemorative stamp was also issued to mark the anniversary. Winners of a speech and essay competition among school children conducted by the Department of Buddhist Affairs were presented awards.

Members of the Maha Sangha, several delegates from Japan, India and South Korea, Ambassadors, High Commissioners, politicians, members of the Hewavitarana family, members of several Sri Lankan Buddhist organisations, School children and the general public were present. One of the key delegates from Japan, Japanese parliamentarian, Antonio Inoki was also present along with some Japanese parliamentarians.

This main ceremony will be followed by another commemorative event organized by Mahabodhi Society at Mahabodhi Headquarters, Maradana, Colombo-10 this evening which will be attended by Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne and Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris.

Pix by: Nishanka De Silva

Sri Express
Sri Express
Sri Express
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