The sun shone once more on the Kingsbury Bak Maha Ulela,which was initiated by Aggamahapandita Venerable Galayaye Piyadassi Nayaka Thero and The Sri Lanka Educational, Cultural and Welfare Foundation, 25 years ago. This year it was organised by a group of dedicated members, as a result of incessant appeals from the public, for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year celebrations to be restored to the same format and scale as before, and open it to the public. The venerable Sangha Nayaka Thero was very pleased the event ended successfully with the large crowd under control.
The Festival started with the hoisting of the National Flag by Mr B. N. Pathiratne, Minister/ Counsellor of the High Commission of Sri Lanka , with Venerable Galayaye Piyadassi Nayaka Thero , Mr Ruwan Kumara, Deputy Manager, Bank of Ceylon(UK) Ltd and Counsellor Kairul Kareema Marikar of Harrow, participating in the ceremony, in the Byron Park adjacent to the Harrow Leisure Centre . The National Anthem was sung by the choir of the Sri Saddhatissa Dhamma School. This was followed by the traditional Raban playing by a group of damsels dressed in colourful Sri Lankan costumes.
The New year customs were enacted outside , in a tent, after Pansil was observed – the anointing of oil by the monks, offering of betel leaves by the students to the Sangha, teachers of the school and the VIPP present. The games and sports that followed were very extensive, with additional events added , the high lights being the Fancy Dress Parade for children, the pillow fighting and climbing the grease pole and the new cycle race for children. The prizes for these events were presented after the conclusion of every event.
The cultural performance proper commenced at 2.00pm in the Byron Hall. The special invitees arrived earlier and were served traditional Sri Lankan delicacies and tea in a reception room. A specially designed cake from Prestige Creations , for the New Year and the 25th Anniversary of the Sri Saddhatissa International Buddhist Centr,e was ceremonially cut by Ven. Galayaye Piyadassi Thero. Then the guests were escorted to the Hall by a troupe of drummers and dancers made up of children of the Sri Saddhatissa School. An ornate structure, in an ancient design, created by Jayaratne Bandara, was ceremonially lit by the guests, to commence the proceedings.
The special guests who participated included, The Acting High Commissioner of Sri Lanka Dr Chanaka Talpahewa and Mrs Talpahewa; Rev. Father Alex of the Sri Lanka Catholic Chaplaincy in Peters Avenue, Willesden; The Worshipful Mayor of Harrow, Councillor Ajay Maru and the Mayoress; The Worshipful Mayor of Brent, Councillor Kana Naheerathan and Mayoress; The Worshipful Mayor of Barnet, Councillor Hugh Raynor and Mayoress; The Representative Deputy Lieutenant for Brent Hon. Mei Sium Lai; Councillor Kairul Kareema Marikar of Harrow; Hon. Garreth Thomas, past MP for Harrow West; Hon. Matthew Offord, past MP for Hendon and Mrs Claire Offord; Mr Nimal Fernando, CEO/ Directo, Bank of Ceylon (UK) Ltd; Mr Indunil Wijekoon, Sales Manager, Sri Lankan Airlines; Mr Mano Dharmaraja, former Mayor of Harrow; Mr Nizam Ismail former Mayor of Harrow, Mrs Dilrukshi Perera, Chair, Millenium Grange Care Services Ltd; Ms Asoka Wijesinghe, Managing Director, Trico Freight U.K. Ltd; Mr Gerrard Tissa Fernando, Managing Director GG Solutions Ltd.
Following Aggamahapandita Venerable Galayaye Piyadassi Thero’s welcome address. , the acting High Commissioner of Sri Lanka,Dr Chanaka Talpahewa addressed the gathering. The acting High Commissioner praised the contribution Ven. Piyadassi Thero is making to the propagation of Buddhism and Sri Lankan Culture in the UK for over 25 years. The Sri Saddhatissa Dhamma School , had the highest number of Dhamma School students and the highest number sitting for the Colombo YMBA Dhamma examinations and also gaining outstanding results. The school not only teaches the Dhamma and Sinhalese, but it has also holds classes in Kandyan dancing and vocal music. The school is contributing to the development of the younger generation. This popular Festival also gives an opportunity for all Sri Lankans to unite and celebrate together.
The Cultural show, in which the students and staff of the Saddhatissa School participate, had newer items added this year and also colourful costumes made for this occasion. The dance and drums were composed and choreographed by Professor Mudiyanse Dissanayake, the children's dances were trained by Mr A.P. Attanayake and Mrs Rasika Attanayake and Mrs Olu Suraweera and the vocal music performances were trained by Mrs Anju Dabare.
The organisers made a special presentation to Ven. Galayaye Piyadassi Thero in appreciation of his services towards the culture and community of Sri Lanka in the UK for more than 25 years.The presentation was made by HM the Queen’s Representative Deputy Lieutenant for Brent, Hon Mei Sim Lai, OBE, DL. Other presentations were also made to the Principal and Staff of the Saturday School.
From 7.00pm to 10.00pm there was a musical extravaganza with popular Sri Lankan artistes, Mrs Chandani Hettiarachchi, Mr Chaminda Hewage and Mr Nilanthi Siri Pathirana.
The co- sponsors of the event were the Bank of Ceylon, Sri Lankan AirLines, Millennium Grange Care Services Ltd and Trico Freight UK Ltd and GG Solutions Ltd. Many others gave advertisements, which have been printed in a 66 page colourful brochure and others had taken trade stalls while yet others sent donations or contributed to the prizes.
Ven. Piyadassi Nayaka Thera thanked each and every one who worked so hard in organising the event and all the spectators who attended it.