Addressing the Vesak day celebration at the Embassy in Kathmandu Ambassador Himalee Arunatilaka highlighted the contribution made by Sri Lanka in making Vesak a public holiday in Nepal, as well as getting international recognition for Vesak Day within the UN system.
She further recalled that the decision to celebrate Vesak marking the Birth, Enlightenment and Passing of Gauthama Buddha, as is done today, was formalized at the First Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held in Sri Lanka in 1950, on an initiative by Sri Lankan scholar and diplomat G.P. Malalasekera.
According to a press release issued by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Kathmandu, the Vesak celebration was held with the participation of Buddhist monks representing the main Theravada Monasteries in Kathmandu, the Sri Lankan community and Nepali well-wishers. Religious observances and Buddha pooja were followed by Dhamma sermons delivered in Sinhala and Nepali languages by Ven. Pannasara Thero of Sri Sumangal Vihar and Sri Ashta Saddarmayathan Vihar in Patan, and Ven.
Dilibhadra Thero of Anand Kuti Vihar in Kathmandu, respectively.
Ambassador Arunatilaka also used the opportunity to express gratitude to the All-Nepal Bhikku Association for coming forward to help the people of Sri Lanka with a donation of medicines, for which arrangements are being made to purchase and dispatch at the earliest possible. The event concluded with the chanting of sethpirith, invoking the blessings of the triple gem.
On the day of Vesak in Nepal, on 16th May, the Embassy participated in religious observances at the Anand Kuti Vihar in Kathmandu. This historic Monastery has a long association with Sri Lanka and is the first Theravada Monastery in modern Nepal. Sacred Relics of the Buddha enshrined in the stupa of Anand Kuti Vihar are brought out for public exposition every Vesak Day after special religious observances.
The Sacred Relics are a gift from Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Ambassador is granted the special privilege of carrying the casket containing the sacred relics for veneration by the public, in a special procession, amidst the chanting of pirith by the resident monks. This is an annual event held every Vesak day and demonstrates the longstanding and special links Sri Lanka has with Ananda KutiVihar. The ceremony was followed by the offering of morning alms to the resident monks by the Ambassador and Embassy staff.
Ambassador Arunatilaka was the Chief Guest at the Vesak celebration at the United Nations Office in Nepal, organized by the Buddha Anniversary Celebration Committee of Nepal in association with the UN Office. Addressing the gathering Ambassador Arunatilaka highlighted Sri Lanka's role in achieving international recognition for Vesak Day, when in 1999, Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister at the time, late Lakshman Kadirgamar tabled the proposal supported by ten countries at the UN General Assembly to acknowledge the contribution made by Buddhism to human spirituality.
Ambassador Arunatilaka was a special guest at the Vesak Day Celebration at Bouddhanath Stupa, a prominent Tibetan Monastery in Kathmandu, and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Vice President of Nepal Nanda Bahadur Pun was the Chief Guest at this event, hosted by Supreme Head of Bouddha and Melamchi Gyang Guthi, Dharma Guru Rinpoche Chiniya Lama Bhupati Bazra Lama.
The Ambassador also joined the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gyanendra Bahadur Karki and other local dignitaries at a public Buddhist meeting held that afternoon, in line with the Vesak Day Celebration at Anand Kuti Vihar.
The Embassy was decorated with Buddhist flags and Vesak lanterns made by the Embassy staff.