April 2018


The Colourful Celebration of Vesak
April 2018




Beautiful lanterns representing the pink lotus, an important symbol for Buddhists

Sri Lanka commemorates Vesak, the thrice blessed day, with great reverence. The entire country lights up with bright and beautiful Vesak lanterns, pandols and floats, observing the light of knowledge dispelling the darkness of ignorance.


Words: Kulanthi Silva
Photography: BT Images


Vesak commemorates the Gautama Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment and Parinibbana. It is one of the most important events commemorated in Sri Lanka, with religious observances. The entire country will also be illuminated with Vesak lanterns, strings of twinkling lights and pandols. The date of Vesak changes yearly depending on the lunar calendar, and this year the religious event will be marked on April 29 and 30.


Vesak is known as the Themagula in Sinhala. Buddhists worldwide celebrate this day performing rituals in reverence of the Buddha. The intention of this is to reflect on one's life and the impermanence that comes along with it as well as to obtain a state of supreme serenity.


On the Vesak day, Buddhists in Sri Lanka pay a visit to the temple in the locality, dressed in all white to perform rites. Special Sil programmes will be held at the temples in the country and sometimes Sil is observed on the Day Following Vesak as well.


The Buddhist flag is hoisted at homes and institutions across the country. Many households will make their own lantern as an offering of light to the Buddha. Others will purchase delicate lanterns from makeshift stalls along the streets. Lanterns come in different shapes, sizes and colours; the traditional lantern is called the Atapattama which is made in the shape of an octagon. Another customary aspect of Vesak is dansal. It is the tradition of giving food for free in the spirit of benevolence. These dansal serve everything from hot and cold beverages to sweets to boiled kadala (chickpeas) and even rice and curry for lunch or dinner.


At sunset during the Vesak week, the lights along the streets of Colombo mark a line between the sky and earth. The fluorescent decorations glow throughout the city illuminating the entire city. Thousands will visit Colombo and other Vesak Zones to immerse in the atmosphere of Vesak. The setting that is full of vim and vigour is unequalled and is longed-for. The Vesak pandols of psychedelic hues narrate a Jataka Katha from the Pansiya Panas Jathaka Potha. It is a collection of anecdotes that depicts tales of moral value from previous incarnations of the Supreme Enlightened Buddha. These colourful pandols are raised all over the country retelling the tales to devout crowds. Folk plays and stage dramas will also be performed across the country, each having themes and morals derived from the philosophy of Buddhism.

The historical Gangaramaya Temple organises Buddha Rashmi Vesak, the National Vesak Festival along the waters of the Beira Lake under the guidance of Ven Galboda Gnanissara Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya Temple.


The historical Gangaramaya Temple organises Buddha Rashmi Vesak, the National Vesak Festival along the waters of the Beira Lake in Pittala Junction, Sir James Peiris Mawatha, Nawam Mawatha, Perahera Mawatha and Sri Uttarananda Mawatha. It is held annually under the guidance of Ven Galboda Gnanissara Thero, Chief Incumbent of the Gangaramaya Temple. This year, the festive Vesak Zone will be held from April 29 to May 2. The entire zone will be illuminated spectacularly. Creative lanterns will enthrall the crowds.


There will be pandols along the streets as well as floats with devotees singing Bhakti Geetha (devotional songs) along the lake. At night, the streets will be filled with crowds; families and friends all grouped together, enchanted by the glowing city. People travel from far and near to witness the Buddha Rashmi Vesak. Similarly, Vesak festivals will be held across the country.


Vesak is a time of reflection. It is a commemoration that echoes with the doctrine of the Buddha, and thus advocates love, kindness and harmony.

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    Vesak lanterns in the shades of the Buddhist Flag, represent faith and peace

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    Atapattama, the most popular Vesak lantern

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    An awe-inspiring Vesak Kudu Rajaya

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    Makeshift stalls with Buddhist symbology are seen across the country during Vesak

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    Devotees light lamps at temples while reflecting on the light of wisdom

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    Buddhists observe Sil on Vesak Poya

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    A colourful Thorana retelling a Jathaka Kathawa (story)

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    A mesmerising float in the Beira Lake during Vesak week

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    Devotees sing Bakthi Geetha on a barge along the Beira Lake

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    Gangaramaya Buddha Rashmi Vesak, is an enthralling celebration of light and colour

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