This year the annual historic Bellanvila Esala Perahera will take to the street for the 67th year during August.
This meritorious ceremony includes three days of Dhamma Desana sessions which draws devotees to the historic Bellanwila temple. Invoking of blessings starts with a week - long Pirith chanting. This is followed by the Deva Dootha Perahera, Dorakada Asna, Kumbal Perahera, Mal Perahera, Paawada Perahera, Ransivili Perahera, the final Randoli Perahera and the Diya Kapana Day Perehera and Deva Daanaya along with many other ceremonies.
This perahera which started as a ceremony to invoke blessing on the people and their cattle in times of famine and epidemics in the Bellanvila area, has gradually grown into a month of religious and cultural celebrations. A concept introduced by the Late Ven. Bellanvila Somarathana Thero, this majestic street pageant has come a long way and today under the guidance of Ven. Dr. Bellanvila Dhammarathana Thero, the Chief Sanghanayaka of Singapore.
The Temple also builds cost effective houses for the poor every year. This is an incredible service and support to those from low income families in the area
The incumbent Viharadhipathi of Bellanvila Temple Ven.Prof. Bellanvila Wimalarathana Anu Nayake Thera continues to be the chief architect of this esteemed festival.
In this consumerist society, it is no secret that people deal with stress on a regular basis. A temple is a place that gives them the relief from all that. Particularly a temple such as the Bellanvila Maha Viharaya, which over the years have given the people the confidence to face life is a symbol of spiritual upliftment. In addition to that, the Bellanvila Temple provides many services to the community throughout the year.
There are two Dhamma schools which function in the English and Sinhala media. In addition to giving support to schoolchildren who study Buddhism in both languages, it also enhances their knowledge of English. The Sri Somarathana Memorial Programme also provides scholarships to schoolgoing children from low income families. This is a huge relief to parents who struggle to find the means to pay for school materials.
Technical and vocation training
The Temple provides technical and industrial training to youth which includes lathe work and welding. These trainings along with English and Japanese language classes are offered free of charge to young people in the area. The Vocational Training Centre has been in existence for over 30 years. The number of students who enrol at the centre after Ordinary Level exams has increased over the years. The Centre continues to offer these opportunities and those who have enrolled are reaping benefits of the training.
The Temple also builds cost effective houses for the poor every year. This is an incredible service and support to those from low income families in the area.
The entire income from the car park goes into the health programme, especially to provide financial assistance to patients who undergo heart surgery. Approximately Rs. 50,000 is granted every month to many people. This service is continually done without any publicity.
The Temple also conducts health clinics where government doctors voluntarily come to serve. Lab tests are also done and this is an invaluable service to low income families. Especially, the cost of diagnostic tests are extremely expensive to get done and this clinic eases that burden. Going to a government hospital at 5 a.m is difficult especially for ailing and ageing patients.
Hence this service is greatly appreciated, as it is a reach out programme for the needy. In addition to this, vision tests are also done and spectacles are donated during the
The Temple conducts health clinics and doctors voluntarily come to serve
Supporting other Temples
Every year the Nayaka Thera selects a temple in a distant location and supports in many ways. Beginning with an alms giving, essential utensils are gifted to these temples. Saffron robes are offered to the monks while books are also gifted among the children. Individual assistance is also granted to the priests.
Flood relief assistance
During the recent floods, the temple was instrumental in collecting dry rations for the affected people and distributing in collaboration with the Government. While many groups and media institutions sought publicity during this calamity, the Temple did a silent service of helping the flood and landslide victims.
Coming back to our main topic this month, it should be acknowledged that the Perahera is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and colourful pageants in the country. The Perahera Committee also ensures opportunities to students of traditional dance to display their talents and most importantly includes dance forms of various parts of the country without any discrimination. Not only hill country dances, but also low country and Sabaragamu dances styles are included. The Perahera in Bellanwila is very unique in providing opportunities for men, women and children to take part. This is most significant as most Temple pageants disallow women from participating. Bellanwila Esala Perahera is indeed very inclusive in all aspects.
This is one event which goes beyond commercial norms of having exclusive sponsorships. Even traditional business rivals come together to sponsor the Bellanvila Perahera. Although there have been many changes in our society, the event as a whole, has protected religious and cultural traditions and passed it on from generation to generation. Also, not only Buddhists, but Hindus, Christians and those of Islamic faith support and in turn benefited from this week long event. It is a time for all to come together. It is also an opportunity for vendors to make significant profits during the perahera time. Pineapple, achchaaru and gram sellers can earn their monthly income during this period as large crowds gather to watch the perahera.
The Perahera will be shown live on a private TV channel and also on the website for international viewers from around the world. As the Perahera Committee hopes to promote this event with the Tourist Board from next year, a high influx of tourists who are expected to visit the Temple and the Perahera in the future. The Perahera will commence on August 20, and continue until the final Randoli Perahera on Saturday, August 26, 2017, culminating with the holding of the Day Perahera on the following day and will conclude with the Deva Dana.
The writer is the Secretary to the Bellanwila Esala Perahera Organizing Committee