Religious and cultural links to cement indo-lanka ties

by Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, March 21, 2011

Kandy, Sri Lanka -- The unresolved fishermen issue and other diplomatic concerns might be plaguing the two countries but India and Sri Lanka attempted to strengthen their religious and cultural ties this week. On Sunday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa inaugurated an international Buddhist conference organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in the central hill district town of Kandy.

The conference was part of the joint Indo-Lanka commemoration of the 2600th anniversary of Buddha attaining enlightenment.

A statement from the High Commission of India said scholars from Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam are participating in the Conference, which has as its theme "Cultural Interface between India and Sri Lanka based on Buddhist history, art, literature and philosophy".

Besides the conference, an exposition of the Kapilvastu Relics in Sri Lanka later in 2010, setting up of an Indian gallery at the International Buddhist Museum in Kandy and installation of a specially crafted idol of Lord Buddha in Sarnath style from the Gupta period at the entrance of the International Buddhist Museum complex in Sri Dalada Maligawa will be part of the commemoration.

Indian high commissioner, Ashok K Kantha said that Indian Railways was planning to launch a special Buddhist theme train from Chennai to cater to Sri Lankan pilgrims visiting India.

Meanwhile, more than 3000 Indians attended the annual Kachchativu Feast of St Anthony's Church on Saturday, the first day of the two-day festival, the Sri Lankan government said.

The Sri Lanka Navy has made necessary arrangements to facilitate more than 10,000 Sri Lankans and 3,000 Indians attending the annual feast in Kachchativu. 

"The Navy has provided the necessary facilities for people attending from Sri Lanka and India for the festival," A Sri Lankan navy spokesperson was quoted by the Colombopage website has having said.

The Sri Lankan government last week announced that restrictions imposed on Tamil Nadu fishermen on entering the Sri Lankan waters would be lifted during March 19 and 20th to allow them to participate in the annual religious festival.

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