Posted on February 29th, 2024


Buddhist lobby made it a point to celebrate Wesak in the Northern Province. Wesak celebrations were organized in Jaffna in 2005. Religious activities were at Naga Vihara and Kadurugoda temple. Large crowds had thronged to Jaffna for Wesak to view the celebration. There were lanterns and dansala at the Alfred Duraiyappah stadium.

Jaffna celebrated Wesak in 2009 too. The celebration lasted for three days. Wesak lanterns were lit along the main trunk roads.  Wesak was celebrated   at Lumbini Vihara, Kilinochchi.

The most celebrated moment of Buddhist rituals and festivals in the post-war” Tamil region was the government sponsored celebration of Vēsak in May 2011 said Tamil Separatist Movement.

N 2011 there were no Buddhists in the North except the occupying army, Jude Fernando observed. But, the whole of North, from Vavuniya to Jaffna along the A-9 road, was full of colorful Vesak decorations, huge lanterns and flying Buddhist flags as if the people of the North are Buddhists. A number of Vesak dansal had been set up in several places. All this was done by the occupying Sri Lanka   Armed Forces and Police as a sign of subjugation of the Tamils by the Sinhalese Buddhists, Jude said.

In 2014, Wesak celebrations were organized by the Jaffna Buddhist Society” with the assistance of the army. This too attracted large crowds. There was a special Wesak zone with a giant pandal and a dansela run by the army.   The Wesak zone attracted over 100,000 on first day.  Bhakthi Gee were sung by soldiers, students of Jaffna schools and the students of the Manipay Nandarama Tamil Buddhist Dhamma School.

Wesak celebrations organized by the Jaffna Security Force Headquarters in 2018 were very popular, judging from the crowd turnout.  The Wesak Dansela catered to over 15,000 people each day. The Wesak pandals attracted large crowds.

 Previously, if a person from Jaffna needed to witness the Wesak celebrations, they would have to travel either to Anuradhapura or Colombo, but now with the Wesak celebrations being held in the North, the Northern people too could enjoy this festival,” said viewers.  Both the young and old come for the Wesak celebrations. They enjoy seeing the lanterns and pandals and it also gives them an understanding of the Buddhist culture, they said. Tamil politicians, however, objected to the Wesak celebrations.

The Buddhist lobby is now in a position to initiate a string of Buddhist pilgrimages to the north and east. In the past the Buddhists only went to Nagadipa, now there is Sapumalgaskada and Kurundi, in Mullaitivu, Boralukanda and Tiriyaya in Trincomalee. 

It is now time to transfer worship of Nagadipa from Nainativu island to the Jaffna peninsula. Jaffna was the original Nagadipa. Therefore Jaffna must now be recognized as Nagadipa, and made a part of the Solosmastana pilgrimage.

The Buddhist lobby must also consider propagating Buddhism in the north and east. There is no rush to obtain converts. The Buddhist philosophy must be available to any Tamil who wishes to learn about Buddhism. That will be sufficient, in my view.

At a talk I attended in 2019, It was suggested, that Tamil should be taught in the Pirivenas, so that they can teach Buddhism to Tamil speakers.  The present objection to temples is because there is a distrust of Buddhist temples in Jaffna, said one analyst. Ethnic discord may not have arisen if in the 30s and 40s monks learnt Tamil and preached the Buddha’s words in the North and East, said another. It may be better to sponsor Buddhism in the north east without enforcing Sinhala colonization, said a third commentator.  The presence of more Buddhists may have diffused the situation and prevented a war. So it should be Buddhistization and not Sinhalisation, he said.

There was a short period in Jaffna when in 1962 a small group of Tamil speakers converted to Ambedkar-Buddhism and later re-converted to Hinduism. There was a short-lived conversion to Buddhism in villages such as Caṅkāṉai, Kāṅkēcanturai, Puttūr and Karaveṭṭi in the mid-1960s said AJV Chandrakanthan.

The Maviddapuram Temple entry crisis and the growing political and social discriminations that were meted out to the minority Tamils, culminated in the declaration by a group of minority leaders, their families and children of their desire to convert to Buddhism. This led to the formation of The All Ceylon Tamil Buddhist Association (Akila Ilaṅkai Tamilar Pauttac Caṅkam) in 1962. [1]

They jointly ventured into the task of establishing Tamil Buddhist schools to respond to the need for education of minority Tamil children and to facilitate the religious needs of the newly converted Tamil Buddhist children. Four schools were established in four villages in the Paruttittuṟai district. These are: Puthoor Panchaseela Vidyalaya, Atchuvely Shree Vipasi Vidyalaya, Karaveddy, Kanpolla ShreeNaratha (Kanpollai) and  Alvaii Somage Vidyalaya

these schools gradually became Tamil schools for all Tamil children in the area and the short lived Buddhist religion eventually lost its fire and fervour. In retrospect, conversion to Buddhism was seen only as an abortive short cut to sharp and swift social emancipation. By climbing the ladder of Buddhism the minority Tamils hoped for  social egalitarianism which they thought was enshrined as a fundamental Buddhist religious principle. Thus, those who opted to climb this ladder were soon disillusioned as their expectation was unattainable.

The Tamils knew that this conversion will wither away and die in a matter of months. As expected it did. Critics observed that  this activity received no support from the Buddhist public. What form of sustainability did the Sinhala Buddhist officialdom provide for the new converts?  did they ever provide a system that would enable the continuity of their newly founded mission, t Asked critics. ( continued)

[1] The following were the office-bearers of this Association: President: Taviṭ Mārimutu Vairamuttu, J.P. Joint Secretaries: K. Kanagaliṅkam, V. Mārkkaṇṭu Vice-Presidents: N. Ciṉṉattampi, M. Poṉṉuturai, S. Kiruśnacāmi Treasurer: S. Iyāturai Buddhism among Tamils in Tamilakam and Īlam Part 3 Extension and Conclusions Editor-in Chief: Peter Schalk https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:604163/FULLTEXT06.pdf p 171

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