27th September 2020 10:52:26 Hours
The iconic symbol of Sri Lankan gallantry, bravery, devotion, discipline, loyalty and great skill, the Sri Lanka Army, adored by countrymen, dreaded by enemies, and respected by all, turns 71 years of age on the forthcoming 10 October 2020 which is also recognized as the Army Day.
Founded on 10 October 1949 as the Ceylon Army forming its first regular force under the command of Brigadier Roderick Sinclair, the Earl of Caithness through the Army Act No. 17 of 1949, it established its own Military Academy in Diyatalawa afterwards, and Brigadier Anton Muthukumaru assumed the mantle of office as the first Sri Lankan Commander of the then Ceylon Army. Blossomed into a full-fledged Army during its life-span of past 71 years, the Sri Lanka Army to-date had been effectively commanded by 22 Commanders, elevating the organization to impressive heights. Its expansion with 24 Regiments with combat arms, support arms and support service arms has won the hearts and minds of all ethnicities across the country as the most people-friendly security provider to all at the expense of their own lives.
One of the most admired War Heroes, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva of Gajaba Regiment has been serving as the 23rd Commander of the Army since 18 August 2019 to-date, in addition to his office of the Chief of Defence Staff.
The Sri Lanka Army as the country's most-sought service provider and the defender of the nation, in addition to its prioritized and rejuvenated security roles for defence of the motherland, is currently engaged in a multitude of nation-building tasks, community-oriented welfare projects, search and rescue efforts during natural disasters and catastrophes, national emergencies, infrastructure development assignments, construction of roads, playgrounds, schools, etc.
The chain of commemorative events and ceremonies, the precursor to the forthcoming 71st Anniversary of the Sri Lanka Army and the Army Day (October 10) begins this year, too giving pride of place to veneration of 'Saririka', 'Paribohgika' and 'Uddesika' relics of the Buddha respectively at Kandy Sri Dalada Maligawa (28 Sept), Anuradhapura Jayasri Maha Bodhiya (30 Sep) and Kataragama Kiri Vehera ( 05 October) premises.
In Kandy on Monday (28), offer of Buddha Pooja, Alms and 'Ata Pirikara' to 71 members of the Maha Sangha, 'Pirith' chanting and invocation of blessings symbolically on all the Army flags would make up the initial ceremony of the Army anniversary. The routine and colourful flag blessing ceremony at Anuradhapura Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi precincts has been fixed for Wednesday (30) with the participation of the Commander of the Army as the Chief Guest. On the same occasion, the Commander on behalf of the Sri Lanka Army presents a financial contribution to the development of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi complex to the Atamasthanadhipathi (prelate of all eight sacred places) as a gesture of high regard of the Army.
At Anuradhapura on the same day (30), not forgetful of invaluable sacrifices they made, Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, together with several Senior Officers would symbolize the Army’s concern and goodwill towards injured War Heroes under recuperation at 'Abhimansala-1' wellness resort by awarding special gift parcels to each of those differently-able War Heroes and joining inmates for an anniversary lunch treat.
Organized by the Army Buddhist Association, the customary overnight 'Pirith' chanting ceremony, to be attended by 1000 Army personnel, representing all island-wide formations will take place on 1st October at Sri Jayawardenepura Army Headquarters complex where the Commander of the Army as the Chief Guest is expected to carry the relic casket and invite the monks for chanting. Offer of 'Heel Daana' (breakfast) and alms (Sangika Daana) to 71 monks, the following day (2) culminates that segment of the programme at the Army HQ.
On Saturday ( 3 October ), the Hindu religious observances, organized by the Army Hindu Association gets underway at Sri Ponnambalam Vaneshwar Kovil at Colombo 13 where a special 'Abhishekam' ritual would bless Army flags as in other religious instances. Islamic prayers to bless the Army meanwhile are scheduled to take place on 4 October at Jumma Mosque in Colombo 03, following preparations, put in place by the Muslim Association in the Army. All Muslim Officers and Other Rankers would participate in this prayer session. Symbolic donations are also to be made towards development of those two sacred places on the same occasions.
The sacred Kataragama Kiri Vehera premises and the Devala precincts on Monday (October 5) will remain adorned with Army flags and illuminations for conduct of religious ceremonies for the same purpose with elaborate segments. 'Gilanpasa and Muruthen Poojas' (offerings) are to be made during the ceremonies at both places before 1500 coconut lamps are lit surrounding the Kirivehera Dagoba premises, the same evening. A special 'Perahera' (pageant) with Kavadi dancers of the Army will adorn the sequence of religious programmes at Kataragama before the offer of 'Pooja' and invocation of blessings on Army flags takes place, the same evening at the Devala premises in keeping with formal practices with the participation of the Commander of the Army.
Likewise, Army members of the Christian faith will gather at St Thomas' Church at Kotte on Tuesday (6) for a special mass to bless the Army, organized by the Army Christian Association. A symbolic contribution to the church development is also to be presented at the same occasion.
On the eve of the forthcoming 71st Army Anniversary, memories of valiant War Heroes in contemporary times will be refreshed and commemorated with flowers on Wednesday (7) at Battaramulla War Heroes’ Monument by hundreds of Army soldiers, headed by Lieutenant General Shavendra Silva, amidst rhythmic beats of traditional 'Rana Bera',‘Hewisi’, ‘Purappattu’, ‘Magul Bera’, ‘Geta Bera’, etc.
The climax of the 71st anniversary commemorative ceremonies reaches at Galle Face Green on the Army Day, 10th October (Saturday), amid a mammoth gathering of distinguished invitees, headed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, HE the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who has been invited by the Army Chief to receive the salute in the special anniversary Guard of Honour as the occasion's Chief Guest.
The landmark 71st Army Anniversary Day parade in Colombo, organized in an unprecedented scale with a column of more than 2,000 troops, including Colour squads, Presidential Truncheons, President’s ‘Rana Parashuwa’ (Hatchet), Presidential Colours, Mascot of the Sri Lanka Light Infantry, etc, is set to commence with flag-raising and other formalities. A formal dinner for All Ranks on the following day (11) at Panagoda brings anniversary commemorative events to culmination. (Ends)