The Perahera in Buddhist culture is a ritual to invoke the blessings of the Triple Gems and the Gods. The Navam Maha Perehera is held every year on Navam Full Moon Poya Day to mark the conferring of the status of Lord Buddha’s Chief Disciples on Ven. Sariyuth and Ven Mugalan Maha Theras, brought for peace and prosperity.
Many among us have forgotten that no Perahera excluding the Vel Perehera of the Hindu Temple could be held in Colombo while the country faced a severe economic crisis. However, in 1970, then Prime Minister R. Premadasa gave a new impetus to the Navam Perahera Festival , the main Buddhist festival in the city. It received the patronage of then President J.R. Jayewardene. Then Minister of Youth Affairs and Present Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe undertook the entire task and it has continued to date.
"If you abstain from one meal a day and contribute its price to the Perahera programme eleven small cultural pageants could be held for the rest of the year."
It was of significance that people of all communities, religious groups and religious dignitaries helped and contributed to it in various ways. Seating accommodation was provided to the thousands of devotees, who flocked to see the grand cultural pageant. Thousands of areca and bamboo trees were planted in place of those felled for the festival.
Just as the tuskers and elephants were gaily decorated, the mahouts were also dressed in new costumes. Sewing machines were donated to their families. Steps were taken to uplift their living standard every year and even gold sovereigns were presented to the members of their families in appreciation of their services.
The artistes who perform in the Perahera receive payments immediately, while the leadsmen of the groups receive bonuses and perks. The use of prisoners to bear flags, torches, buntings and Sesath was given up.
Students of Royal College, Ananda College, Nalanda College, Thurstan College and D.S. Senanayake College in Colombo undertook that task.
The Nawam Perahera was not suspended despite terrorism that posed a serious security threat to the city. Much havoc was caused by the terrorist attack on the Central Bank in February, when the Navam Perehera was to be held in a couple of days. The contributions received for the Navam Perahera were used to provide for the welfare of the families of victims of the attack.
Even though the people harboured fears to attend, the night Perahera and the day Perahera were both held as planned. The Navam Perahera was held continually despite many a challenge. When President R. Premadasa was assassinated in a suicide attack, a Navam Perahera was conducted from his last Udagama in Mihintale to the historic Mihintalagala rock followed by alms giving to 1500 Buddhist monks and conferred merits on him. Nawam Perahera in a previous year comprised 167 elephants including 27 tuskers. Three of them belonged to the Gangarama Temple. However, it would not be possible even to find three elephants to carry the casket of the sacred tooth relic.
Prominent personalities instigated by foreign organisations that have launched a campaign using their dollars under the pretext of kindness to animals, seem to have won. However, we in Sri Lanka do not have meat stalls that sell the flesh of elephants as the countries of those who talk about kindness to animals have meat stalls that sell the meat of horses at every nook and corner.
Venison and the meat of other wild animals are available in hotels in many areas in the country, but the officials of the Wildlife Department have turned a blind eye to this racket. It is sad that some of these officials also encourage eating meat. The dolphin is a protected species but its flesh is used as bait by fishermen.
However, the organisations that campaign against cruelty to animals are moribund inactive about the sad plight of dolphins.
Meanwhile, scientists who talk about kindness to animals eat the raw flesh of dolphins prepared as a Japanese savoury during their whale-watching trips in the south. It is also sad that many pilgrims to Kataragama relish a diet of venison, or even crocodile and iguana meat. The slaughter of cattle and sambur deer that are among the animals shown in the Sandakadapahana goes unchecked.
The killing of buffalo has been prohibited by law, but buffalo meat is available in beef stalls in Colombo.
"It is your duty to inculcate social and cultural values in your children during their formative years. Attempt to live in peace and harmony with your fellow men, devoid of hatred, and be free from court actions and other problems that would result in the waste of your hard earned money."
In the past animals were killed only at slaughterhouses, but today it is done in many places. Sinhala-Buddhists and Hindus must at least give up eating beef, mutton and chicken to bring that trade to an end. The cockerel is a symbol of prosperity that adorns the oil lamp lit at ceremonial occasions.
It is the duty of all those concerned to join hands to chase away the NGO scarecrows from the country. Some individuals, who talk about human rights just for the sake of publicity, use Facebook and cellular phones to mislead the younger generation.
It is high time that we organize and crush the movements that attempt to ruin the younger generation, or else our nation and culture would be no more. During the season of the Navam festival, it is the duty of all those concerned to understand their frailties, to get rid of them, and to follow in the path of loving kindness and equanimity. Abstaining from liquor and tobacco and meat-eating will be an integral part of that endeavour.
The Navam Perahera parades the streets from 7 p.m. on February 21 and 22. Several television channels are providing live telecast of the event.
If you abstain from one meal a day and contribute its price to the Perahera programme, small cultural pageants could be held for the rest of the year.
It is your duty to inculcate social and cultural values in your children during their formative years. Attempt to live in peace and harmony with your fellow men, devoid of hatred, and be free from court actions and other problems that would result in the waste of your hard earned money. Your suggestions to protect the future generation would be much appreciated. Please write to us about how you could contribute towards that endeavour.
Sri Jinarathana Bhikku Training School,
62 Sri Jinarathana Road, Colombo 2
Tel: 2435169 and 2327084