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Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan monks cremate damaged Buddhist statues

Hundreds of abandoned sacred figurines given an 'honorable ending' at Vesak Day ceremony

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Updated: May 11, 2020 09:00 AM GMT
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Sri Lankan monks cremate damaged Buddhist statues

Novice Buddhist monks prepare food for people in need during Sri Lanka's nationwide coronavirus curfew at a temple in Delgoda on May 9. (Photo: Ishara Kodikara/AFP)

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Sri Lankan Buddhist monks have cremated damaged and broken Buddhist statues that had been abandoned in temples.

The sacred statues were cremated at Bodhiraja temple in Embilipitiya, 212 kilometers southeast of capital Colombo, on Vesak Day.

Devotees often leave broken statues in temple grounds and under sacred Bo trees without destroying them on their own sites.

Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under a Bo tree and the tree plays an important role in the cultural and spiritual life of Buddhists in Sri Lanka.

Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thera said leaving statues of Lord Buddha at various places in temples and under trees does great harm to his followers.

"These abandoned statues have been given due respect and cremated. In this way, by honoring and cremating them, something good happened. This is the first time we have done something like this. Everything should have an honorable ending," said Ven. Sobitha Thera.

Buddha statues that had been damaged in houses and temples were recently collected after being left in places that were insulting to Lord Buddha.

The statues were first garlanded with flowers and about 30 Buddhist monks participated in the ceremony. Hundreds of statues were cremated using sandalwood, an expensive wood famed for its distinct fragrance.

The event took place on Vesak Day on May 8. The Vesak festival, coinciding with the full moon each May, commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Lord Buddha.

Due to the nationwide lockdown to stem the Covid-19 outbreak, Buddhist devotees performed rituals in their homes to celebrate the Vesak Poya on May 7-8.

Chief monks have urged avoiding public gatherings including Vesak zones, dansal (alms-giving stalls) and pandals during Vesak.

Neela Ranjani, a Buddhist mother from Meerigama, said she has seen many broken Buddhist statues left under Bo trees by the side of roads. "I have also made the same mistake several times and it is common sight under Bo trees," said Ranjani.

Ranjani appreciated the work of Buddhist monks who cremated the abandoned statues

Anton Saparamadhu, a Catholic teacher from Ja-ela, said Catholics also leave damaged statues of saints in church premises and under large statues in public places.

"Evangelical Christians destroy statues of saints. When some Catholics join evangelical churches, they destroy the statues of saints in their homes," he said.

"The Church encourages imitating saints as role models and Catholics honor and admire saints. In the recent past, many statues of saints that had been damaged were left under life-size statues of saints." 

Of Sri Lanka's 21 million people, 70 percent are Buddhist, 15 percent Hindu, 9 percent Muslim and 7 percent Christian.

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