Cultural Activities

In Sinhala culture, when a girl or a boy graduates from a School of Oriental Dancing, their debut or first public performance revolves around a beautiful and poignant ceremony that is performed before
their parents, usually on sacred grounds. For this, what better than the hallowed precincts of the Kalutara Bōdhi! The debutantes form a group of dancers, both boys and girls, and make their symbolic
offerings to the gods or personifications of the arts – all laid out in containers woven out of fresh and tender leaves of the coconut palm and placed on an improvised tripod.

The girls have their tresses upswept and tied in knots. They kneel in a dance pose before the parents. The mother places the Sheersha Ābharanaya or ceremonial headgear upon the daughterʼs styled knot of hair. This event is referred to in Sinhala as Pāyinpath Pǽlendaveema (ceremonially placing the intricate headgear).

In the case of the boys they too kneel in ceremonial style before the parents. The father adorns the sons with the dance masks, the Ves Ābharana Pǽlendaveema. The ceremonial headgear is positioned at a precise, auspicious minute which is determined through the science of stars or astrology. The chorus chants in beautiful tones, reminiscing upon the sustenance drawn from the breast of the mother and from the sweat of the fatherʼs brow, acknowledging the debt to parents and ancestors.

Then formal parental authority is sought by the children to perform before the public. The drumming reaches a crescendo when the auspicious moment arrives, and with a gentle action each parent performs his and her role – placing the headgear or the dance masks. It is a moment of high emotion with tears of joy drenching everyoneʼs face – parents, children and audience. There are moments of veneration devoted to the dancing teachers. The entire event is charged with Buddhist sentiments and laced with teachings of gratitude to parent and teacher, evocative of the best ethical teachings of the Buddha and the most laudable social manners and traits of Sinhala culture.

Upasampadā or Higher Ordination Ceremony

After their period of initiation, novice Buddhist monks (Sāmaneras) who should be over the age of 20 years may request graduation to higher ordination. Conferment of this status is through a ceremony known as Upasampadā. This ceremony marks their entry into the advanced level of the Sangha or the fraternity of Buddhist monks. It is the highest code of precepts which includes thousands of rules and rituals. Upasampadā ceremonies have been held at the Kalutara Bōdhi site since 1964. To conduct this ceremony, a Seemāmālaka (a platform), is raised on the waters of a river or lake on which a beautifully decorated enclosure is constructed. The Upasampadā ceremony is performed within this enclosure. This is a tradition that has been maintained with the last ceremony in 2009 being conducted with great attention to detail under the patronage of senior monks.

Exposition of the Relics of the Dǽngasauv or Two Chief Disciples of the Buddha

In May 2008, as part of Vesak celebrations, KBT hosted the exposition of the sacred relics of Sāriputta and Mogallāna the Agrashrāvaka or two chief disciples of the Buddha. These relics were excavated from the Sānchi Stūpa in India, by Alexander Cunningham, the famous archaeologist who served in India. A part of the relics was gifted to Sri Lanka by the Government of India in 1955. They are safely preserved at the Sri Lanka Mahā Bōdhi Agrashrāvaka Vihāra in Colombo for the veneration of Buddhists locally and abroad. The Kalutara Bōdhi had the rare honour and privilege of being one of the first ever organisations to be permitted such an exhibition and thousands of devotees flocked to the Kalutara Bōdhi to pay homage to these sacred relics.

Mid-Day Meal For Devotees Who Observe Sil On Poya Days and Week-Ends

On Poya days an estimated 2,000 to 5,000 devotees observe Sil (three additional precepts making up eight precepts), within the Kalutara Bōdhi premises. Additionally, the Kalutara Bōdhi organises and hosts weekend meditation retreats and Dhamma Deshanā or preachings of the Dhamma. Devotees who attend these programmes are provided with a mid-day meal in the form of an almsgiving (dāné). Most often, such alms are offered by well-wishers who provide dry rations required for the preparation of the meal, or bear the cost of either the full meal or a part. On occasions where no well-wisher or devotee has volunteered to sponsor the dāné, the KBT funds the mid-day meal ensuring that the tradition is maintained.

Rescue of Cattle from Slaughter Houses

To discourage the slaughter of cattle and in a spirit of Abhaya Dāna or the Gift of Life/Freedom from Fear, donors fund the purchase of cattle from slaughter houses. They are then released to poor villages through a Cattle Bank. Each head of cattle is indexed and those who receive these rescued animals make a livelihood through the sale of milk, working them in their fields etc. The redeemed livestock are transported mainly to Tantirimale from where they are given to farmers in villages such as Vilacchiya and Medavachchiya. The Cattle Bank is managed by a group of persons who help to uplift the lives of poor people in rural villages and they monitor the programme closely to ensure that the animals are not re-sold to slaughter houses. KBT has appointed the Cattle Bank to act as trustees of the released animals. They are responsible to KBT. Donors too can visit the animals that they have rescued.

Unveiling of a Statue of Sir Cyril de Zoysa at Kataragama

Sir Cyril de Zoysa pioneered development projects within the Sacred City of Kataragama. His philanthropic work in the area bears testimony to his commitment and devotion to Kataragama, much of which he initiated to foster a greater appreciation of the Sacred City. Sir Cyril funded a Pilgrims’ Rest too. His singular contribution was the restoration of the Kiri Vehera, an ancient dāgoba located in Kataragama, one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka. Displaying the same commitment as he had to the Kalutara Bōdhi, Sir Cyril turned his attention to the Kiri Vehera and formed the Kiri Vehera Restoration Society. The Vehera and its precincts had progressively yielded to the jungle tide and no more than the pinnacle was visible. The ancient chronicles had its dimensions set out in unmistakable detail. The excavations revealed a structure which matched these specifications with precision. This greatly facilitated the process of restoration. Sir Cyril’s mission culminated in total success, the Kiri Vehera was restored and it was crowned with a gilded pinnacle on October 26, 1970, by the Prime Minister of the day, Honourable Dudley Senanayake. To commemorate Sir Cyrilʼs services to the Sacred City of Kataragama, his statue was unveiled in May 2009 by the Honourable Speaker of the House, W.J.M. Lokubandara, at the invitation of H.E. Mahinda Rajapakse, President.

Almsgiving at Kataragama

To mark the unveiling of the statue of Sir Cyril de Zoysa in Kataragama, a pirith ceremony, a pahan pooja and a lotus flower pooja were conducted at the Kiri Vehera caitya premises. This was followed by an almsgiving to all monks present. They were also offered the traditional evening gilanpasa together with robes and Buddhist literature.

Meditation Centre in Waskaduwa

Through the generous donation of a five-acre block of land by Mr. Indrawansha de Silva of Waskaduwa, the Kalutara Bōdhi Trust will be able to establish a meditation centre. The meditation centre is situated 3km from the Kalutara Bōdhi to the north-east of the Kalutara town. Mr. de Silva donated this land in memory of his parents and two children who are deceased. The current market-value of the property is estimated at well over Rs. 50 million.

Other Activities

KBT also undertakes an extensive volume of work by providing services to Buddhist monks, devotees and institutions such as temples. These range from financial assistance for construction and repair of places of worship, assistance to Buddhist monks by way of offerings of food, clothing and health care, support for key ceremonies such as peraheras (religious pageants), ordination ceremonies etc. The work undertaken and accomplished by KBT has now significantly expanded from its founding philosophy and recipients and beneficiaries are identified irrespective of race or creed.