02nd August 2020 12:23:59 Hours
Switching on street lights and decorated illuminations in the sacred Kataragama Devaala premises, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff, Commander of the Army and Head of the National Operation Centre for Prevention of COVID-19 Outbreak Saturday (1) evening symbolized the auspicious commencement of the day's Perahera (pageant) at the invitation of the Basnayake Nilame, Mr Dilruwan Rajapaksha.
Prior to it, he made offerings to the sacred 'Kiri Vehera' dagoba and paid his obeisance in accordance with ancient traditions. Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva joined religious observances at the Kataragama Maha Devalaya, offering 'Pooja' to the deities and received blessings from the Devalaya chieftain, Mr Somapala Rathnayake on members of the Armed Forces and fast eradication of the epidemic from the country.
He was then invited by the Basnayake Nilame to make offerings to the sacred replica of the god, Kataragama atop the tusker showering petals, to signal the start of the pageant. The Army Chief also took time off to speak to a cross section of dancers participating in the pageant and shared a few thoughts with them.
Repeating the Army's practice of assisting development of sacred places, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva afterwards awarded a cash donation to the Basnayake Nilame on behalf of the Army after the completion of the pageant. The Basnayake Nilame praised the Commander's role in spearheading the fight against the epidemic and gratefully acknowledged the donation.
In the meantime, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva in an exclusive gesture of considerateness, met a gathering of all region-based Officers and Other Ranks of three Brigades serving under the 12 Division HQ of the Security Force HQ-Central and gave away a large consignment of dry food parcels to all Officers and Other Ranks as incentives while inquiring into their well-being. Although this year's Perahera arrangements are conducted restricting the movement of the public, members of the Armed Forces and the Police were compelled to ensure security and smooth conduct of this ancient festival with its due pomp and pageantry, for which you all contributed dedicatedly, the Army Chief remarked during the meet.
The annual Esala Perhera festival is held this year on a low profile due to COVID-19 epidemic restricting to ancient rites and rituals, absent from mass scale participation of spectators. Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva was invited to be the Chief Guest by the Basnayake Nilame for commencement of the day's parade with limited numbers of elephants and dancers.
Mrs Sujeewa Nelson, President, Army Seva Vanitha Unit, Major General Keerthi Costa, Commander, Security Forces Central, Major General Prathap Thilakarathna, General Officer Commanding 12 Division, Brigadier Lanka Amarapala,122 Brigade Commander and several Senior Officers were at Kataragama to watch the Perahera.