23rd May 2022 11:00:56 Hours
The formal culmination of the week-long State Vesak Festival at Army-revived, built and completely renovated ancient Kuragala cave temple complex, known as Kuragala Rajamaha Viharaya took place during this weekend (21-22 May) in the presence of a gathering of Buddhist monks and General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army who graced as the Chief Guest for the final phase where offer of Buddha Pooja in the new Relic Chamber and alms to over Buddhist monks, Procession to the Pagoda and Performance of Rites and Rituals, Ashtapana Pooja and Gilanpasa and the final devotional song (Bhakthi Gee) show, comprised of cultural show followed by ‘Pirith’ chanting took place on Sunday (22).
A gathering of about 200 Buddhist monks in accordance with age-old traditions in the Maha Sangha community performed the ritual of vesting the entire temple complex in the ‘Sasana’ where the day’s Chief Guest General Shavendra Silva joined the sacred ‘Penwedeema’ ritual amid chanting of the Maha Sangha as the final phase of the series of ceremonies. Prior to that, the Chief Guest, made offerings to the ‘Suganda Kutiya’ in the relic chamber. Similarly, Adjutant General Major General Swarna Bothota, Director General, Directorate Personnel Administration, Major General Udya Kumara and few other Senior Officers made offerings to the ‘Esidisi Maha Seya’ (Dagoba) around the same time.
The oldest in the Sabaragamuwa Province, historic Kuragala, which has a proud history of over 2300 years, turned a new lease of life on this Thrice Blessed Day (Vesak) in less than a year by holding the State Vesak Commemoration ceremony, thanks to the dedicated incumbency of Ven Waturakumbure Dhammaratana Thera and unfailingly committed contribution of Army troops for major share, devout Buddhists and Civil Defence Service personnel.
Ever since its revival and re-construction work began in earnest in 2021, Army troops of the Corps of Engineer Service actively threw their weight behind reconstruction of this Buddhist religious site of archaeological value in consultation with the incumbent monk and on the guidelines given by General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army.
During the final afternoon segment, a colourful procession wended its way to the newly-erected pagoda (Dagoba) carrying 'Gilanpasa' and offerings for conduct of the regular 'Thewawa' (daily ritual) and the 'Ashtapana' offerings to the chamber of relics were afterwards made by General Shavendra Silva, Mrs Sujeewa Nelson, President, Army Seva Vanitha Unit, Senior military Officers and several other devotees. Soon after those observances, distinguished invitees joined the offer of 'Gilanpasa' (refreshments) to members of the Maha Sangha attending the final phase of the ceremonies.
As dusk fell, a colourful 'Bhakthi Gee' (devotional songs) concert plus a cultural show that highlighted the legacy of Buddhism and this sacred place running into prehistoric times in particular got underway after General Shavendra Silva inaugurated the day's spectacle.
The Army Chief presented gifts to the winners of the Vesak lantern competition. The 1st place was won by Sri Lanka Artillery troops, 2nd place by Sri Lanka Engineers and the 3rd place went to Sri Lanka Armoured Corps.
On the Vesak day (15), General Shavendra Silva was invited by the incumbent monk to vest the newly- built flight of entrance stairs to the Lion Statue, Samadhi Buddha Statue and the entire complex in the Buddha Sasana as the first segment after piercing a garland made of while flowers. A few minutes later, as hundreds of traditional drummers began rending the air and members of the Maha Sangha went on reciting 'Seth Pirith', General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army, together with other donors respectfully unveiled the golden pinnacle with its crystal gem atop at Kuragala 'Asidisi Shaykamuni Mahaseya'.
General Shavendra Silva was also invited to vest the new preaching hall 'Esidisi Shakya Sugatha Damsabha Mandapaya' and the Bodhigaraya (parapet wall), erected round the sacred Bodhiya in the Buddhists of Sri Lanka after unveiling a plaque and ribbon-cutting amidst chanting. General Shavendra Silva, together with other donors also opened the relic chamber, built with funds, provided by the Army Buddhist Association, Neth FM and other devotees.
As in other instances of constructions in this complex, manpower and engineering expertise of the Sri Lanka Army enabled the erection of this spectacular chamber of relics of exclusive architecture. Around the same time, the 4-storied residential quarters (Sanghawasaya), administrative section and the alms hall (Daana Shalawa) for the monks were declared open on the same day for the benefit of resident monks and the administration of the location.
Ven Wathurakubure Dhammaratana Thera gratefully acknowledged the initiation of the project by HE the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa some years ago and his continued support to make it a reality in less than a year with the unfailing support, extended by General Shavendra Silva and Army troops, in addition to the contribution of Civil Security Department personnel and hundreds of Buddhist groups. He also profusely thanked the troops for their dedicated roles and admitted that it took nearly 50 years for the Buddhists to have it reclaimed as it remained unattended.