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Northern heat hits Sri Lankan pilgrimage to India

It is the hot weather in North India rather than the anti-Sinhalese sentiment in Tamil Nadu which has severely curtailed the flow of Lankan Buddhist pilgrims into India.

Published: 05th May 2013 08:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th May 2013 01:05 PM   |  A+A-

Sri-Lankan-Pilgrimage

It is the hot weather in North India rather than the anti-Sinhalese sentiment in Tamil Nadu which has severely curtailed the flow of Lankan Buddhist pilgrims into India, says the Buddhist Overseas Pilgrimage Tour Operators’ Association Sri Lanka (BOPTOASL). “The troubles in Tamil Nadu have ceased, and yet, the flow of pilgrims continues to be poor. It is virtually nil now. But this is because of the extremely hot weather in Delhi, Bodh Gaya and Varanasi, and not fear of attacks in Tamil Nadu,” said chairman of BOPTOASL, I P S Gunasekara.

“The other key inhibiting factor is cost. Avoiding Chennai and going to Bodh Gaya via Delhi, has greatly added to the cost of travel. It costs LKR 37,000 to fly to Delhi directly from Colombo, while the Colombo-Chennai ticket costs only LKR 17,000 to 19,000. Overall, it is much cheaper to fly to Chennai and take a train from there. When the weather eases in August, we will begin our operations and we will use Chennai as our port of entry,” Gunasekara said. “We are hopeful of getting pilgrims to transit through Chennai though there is still no guarantee that violence will not occur again,” he added.

IMPACT OF BOOK ON BUDDHA

The Lankan tour operators’ other worry is the possible impact of a new book on the birthplace of the Buddha written by a Buddhist monk Ven. Meewanapalaane Siri Dhammalankara of Padukka. Published in 2009, it says that the Buddha was born in Sri Lanka and not India, and that the holy land is not India but Lanka. It has been recommended by the popular monk politician Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka.

The title of the book is Apa Upan Mei Hela Bima, Budun Upan Jambudveepayee (This Hela Bima, where we are born, is Jambudveepa–the Birthplace of Lord Buddha). Here, Hela Bima is Sri Lanka, “the land of the Sinhalese.” Jambudveepa is the traditional Sinhalese name for India. According to Dhammalankara Thero, the Jambudveepa of yore is actually Sri Lanka, and not India.

Tour operators fear that people might stop going on pilgrimage to India after reading the book. But Gunasekara feels that only the followers of Dhammaloka Thero may be swayed by the book. The majority are opposed to it. “The issue is going to be taken to court,” he said.



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