India-Sri Lanka Cultural Relations
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India-Sri Lanka Cultural Relations

For two close neighbours with a shared history and civilizational links dating back several millennia, it is natural that cultural cooperation would be a very important aspect of the bilateral relationship.  The advent of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BCE is linked with the arrival in Sri Lanka of Prince Mahendra (also known as Arahat Mahinda) and later of Princess Sanghamitra, the children of the great Indian Emperor Ashoka.  The bonds forged since then have become stronger over the years.

A number of events were organized in recent years to highlight the common bonds. In 2012, both countries jointly celebrated the 2600th year of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha – Sambuddhatva Jayanti. As part of these celebrations, the following events were organised:

  • An International Buddhist Conference in Kandy ;
  • Installation of a 16-foot high statue of Lord Buddha, in Sarnath style from the Gupta period, at the entrance of the International Buddhist Museum in the Sri Dalada Maligawa complex at Kandy;
  • Launch of a new Buddhist pilgrimage circuit train “Damba Diva Vandana” originating from Chennai and touching key Buddhist sites in Northern India;
  • Dance-dramas, photographic exhibitions and screening of documentaries on Buddhism.
  • The exposition of the Sacred Kapilavastu Relics in Sri Lanka, which was the grand finale of this series of activities.
  • On the sidelines of the exposition, a Symposium on “Relic Worship: History, Archaeology and Religion” was also organized. At this event, a publication titled “The Journey of the Holy Tree” was released jointly by Hon’ble Kumari Selja, then Minister of Culture, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Government of India, and Hon’ble Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka.

The Indian Gallery at the International Buddhist Museum, Sri Dalada Maligawa, was completed just in time for CHOGM and was thereafter formally inaugurated on 8th December 2013 by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and the High Commissioner.  The Gallery highlights the shared heritage and close Buddhist links between India and Sri Lanka, even as it traces the spread of Buddhism from India to different parts of the World.

The two Governments jointly celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Anagarika Dharmapala this year. The Hon’ble President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee released a commemorative postage stamp on Anagarika Dharmapala at Rashtrapati Bhavan on October 25, 2014.

The National Crafts Council published a Crafts Map of Sri Lanka with the assistance of the India Sri Lanka Foundation, and under the guidance of Dastkari Haat Samithi, New Delhi. The first copy of a Crafts Map Of Sri Lanka was presented to His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa by Mr. Buddhi Keerthisena, Chairman of the National Crafts Council of Sri Lanka in the presence of Hon’ble Douglas Devananda, Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development of Sri Lanka, and Mr. Y.K. Sinha, the High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, at a ceremony organized at Temple Trees on  September 18, 2014.

The third meeting of Culture Ministers from the SAARC countries was held in New Delhi on September 25, 2014 under the chairmanship of Shri Shripad Naik, Hon’ble Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Culture of India.

The SAARC Culture Ministers appraised the meeting on national initiatives on conservation, preservation and promotion of cultural heritage, commended the work done by the SAARC Cultural Centre in Colombo in implementation of the SAARC agenda for culture and recognising the financing requirements of cultural development programs, proposed a joint meeting of SAARC Culture Ministers with SAARC Ministers of Finance.

A three day long annual “The South Asian Bands Festival” organized by Seher, the Indian Council For Cultural Relations and the Ministry of External Affairs, was held in November 2014, at Purana Qila, New Delhi. The festival saw an extensive line up of bands and musicians from all the SAARC countries, including the famous band “The Herb and the Remedy” from Sri Lanka.