Hindu Cultural Trails: Celebration of a Timeless Tradition – Gods and Goddesses, Pilgrims and Prayers, Temples and Texts


The 18th SAARC Summit held in November 2014 in Kathmandu approved the proposal “South Asian Cultural Trails” which commenced with the Research Seminar on Buddhist Cultural Trails in 2017.  The SAARC Seminar, Research Grant and Publications on Hindu Cultural Trails will be the second Seminar in the series of “South Asian Cultural Trails”.

The SAARC Region is bound together through the shared cultural traits which have evolved through the centuries.  Hinduism is the oldest surviving living religion in South Asia dating back to more than three millennium BCE.

Hinduism is one of the shared cultural characteristics in the region, with art and architecture portraying “unity within diversity” as seen in the evolving styles and the embracing of new characteristics through the ages.  This diversity was a result of interactions that took place along the trading routes criss-crossing east and west Asia, South and Central Asia, along with the exchange of merchandise, knowledge, concepts, designs, religions, technology and other sundry of objects and ideas were also exchanged.  Although the ancient trade routes have long been abandoned, the legacy of those who travelled these routes can be found in the disseminated knowledge, ideas, religions and the diffusion of culture which persists.  These routes can be aptly named “Cultural Trails”.

The “Cultural Trails” display the material culture (Tangible Heritage) of our ancestors, their beliefs and ideologies, their life and culture.  The Hindu Cultural Trails (HCT) will be the second in a series of research fora which aim at strengthening cultural ties in the region through a walk into the shared past of our ancestors, empowering us to work together as the custodians of a shared heritage.  This will be an opportunity for the SAARC countries to revive a dialogue about inherited space through time.  A dialogue which will address the issues of conserving and preserving the Cultural Trails on one hand and how we can utilize this space to understand of our past, to enhance our present and to be economically sustainable through tourism in the future.

Research on Hindu Cultural Trails for 2018 was approved by the Ninth Meeting of the Governing Board of the SAARC Cultural Centre held from 3rd to 4th October 2017 and at the Fifty Fourth Session of the Programming Committee held in Kathmandu from 12th to 13th December 2017.  The Research Seminar on Hindu Cultural Trails is planned as a Regional Forum of discussion for Academics and Policy Makers to identify and develop the cultural, social, economic, religious, connections of the region.

Research Seminar Information

  1. Themes for the Research Seminar
    The following themes have been identified for the Research Seminar.  However, papers based on different themes will be accepted depending on their content and relevance to the Hindu Cultural Trails.

    1. Hindu Cultural Trails – Tirtha Yatra, Shaktha Trails, Shaiva Trails and Vaishnava Trails (Refer to Annexure 1 for Details).
    2. Identification of New Sites and Locations along the Hindu Cultural Trails.
    3. Comparative Studies of Hindu Temples in different areas.
    4. Comparative Research and interpretation of Landscape values of Hindu Sites.
    5. Travels of Hindu Pilgrims.
    6. Connectivity between Hindu Temples of different Countries and Regions.
    7. Art and Architecture of HCT.
    8. Archaeology of HCT.
    9. Intangible Heritage of HCT (Music, dance, folk art, folk stories, traditional healing, handicrafts, etc.).
    10. Trade and Commerce of HCT.
    11. Manuscripts, texts and inscriptions, languages and scripts of Hinduism.
    12. Technology of HCT (Irrigation, engineering, agriculture, etc.)
    13. Cultural Diffusion of Hinduism.
    14. Heritage Management of HCT sites.
    15. Tourism promotion of HCT.


  2. Dates and Venues
    Dates: 8 – 10 October 2018
    Venue: Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts in New Delhi, India
  3. Target Participants for the Research Seminar
    The Nominees for the Research Seminar may be selected from amongst diverse disciplines among Academics and Policy Makers.  Priority should be given to mid to senior level professionals involved in heritage management, policy makers and persons associated with the World Heritage Sites in the RegionAcademics and Scholars should include but not limited to:

    • Archaeologists,
    • Art Historians,
    • Conservators,
    • Curators,
    • Museologists,
    • Anthropologists,
    • Sociologists,
    • Heritage Site Managers,
    • Persons working with national and local authorities with experience in the fields of Conservation, Preservation,
    • Tangible and Intangible Heritage Experts,
    • Ancient Trade and Technology Experts and
    • Managers, planners and staff of heritage sites.

    Policy Makers should include Professionals but not limited to:

    • Ministries of Culture (Culture & Information, Cultural Affairs, etc.)
    • Ministries of Education (Education, Higher Education, etc.)
    • Ministries of Tourism (Tourism, Art and Culture, etc.)
    • Departments of Culture.
    • Departments of Archaeology, Archaeological Surveys, etc.
    • Departments of Museums.
    • Any other relevant Ministries, Departments, Organizations and Institutions.
  4. Details for Participation at the Research Seminar
    1. Officially Nominated Paper Presenters from the Member States
      The SAARC Cultural Centre invites all Member States to send a maximum of Five Official Nominations from experts and academics of their country.  The SCC hopes that at least one nominee would be from the Department of Archaeology of the Member State.

      • The SAARC Cultural Centre would provide the local hospitality (Hotel accommodations on full board basis) and the local transport to all Official Nominees of the SAARC Member States.
      • The Airfare of the Official Nominees of the SAARC Member States is to be borne by the respective Member State.
      • The Host Country can nominate a maximum of 15 Official Nominees and they will be provided with local hospitality.  All Official Nominees of the Host Member State will be invited to participate in the Cultural Tour.
      • All Official Nominees must present a paper at the Seminar.
    2. Other Paper Presenters
      Category A – The SAARC Cultural Centre would also accept the participation of other Experts from the Member States (other than the Official Nominees of the respective SAARC Member States).

      • Applications with abstracts should be sent through the respective Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Ministry of External Affairs to the SAARC Secretariat.
      • The selection of Other Participants (Category A) will be at the discretion of the SAARC Cultural Centre based on the availability of space and relevance of the abstract to the Seminar Themes.
      • Air Travel to be borne by the participant and SCC will provide accommodation, Seminar kit and the cultural tour.

      Category B – Paper Presenters from the Host Country (India) where the Seminar is held can participate.  (It is anticipated that Researchers, academics, etc., from the host city will present papers at the Seminar.)

      • Other Paper Presenters (Category B) from the Host country (India) will not be provided with travel and accommodation.
      • Other Paper Presenters (Category B) will be provided with the Seminar Kit and meals during the seminar.
    3. Other Information
      • The Language of the Seminar will be English.
      • The SAARC Cultural Centre reserves the right to select the Other Participants (in Category A and B) for the Seminar.
      • The Seminar facilities (delegate kit, tea, working lunch) as well as invitations to special events and the field trip would be extended to all paper presenters.
    4. Nomination Process
      The Official Nominees will be selected by each Member State comprising of leading academics, archaeologists and other experts from the Member State.  Official Nominations should be submitted to the SAARC Secretariat, with the Registration Form (Annexure 2) and the Format for the Submission of Country Papers / Abstracts (Annexure 3) attached (or downloaded from the SCC website) and the details requested below.All Other Participants (Category A) from each Member State should forward their information (including the Annexure 2 & Annexure 3) through the respective Foreign Ministries to the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu.  An advance copy can be emailed to scc@saarcculture.org or dd-research@saarcculture.org.The last date for sending the Official Nominations / Other Participants is 31st July 2018. All Participants should include:

      1. Full Name and Affiliation of the Person and other details requested in the Registration Form attached herewith. (Registration Form – Annexure 2)
      2. Detailed CV of the participant.
      3. Scanned copy of Passport / Scanned copy of National Identification from the Paper Presenters of the Host Member State of India.
      4. An Abstract (300 words) of the proposed paper.  The Abstract should be submitted in the Submission Form attached herewith.  (Format for the Submission of Abstracts – Annexure 3)
      5. The participants are requested to submit their full papers by 31st August 2018 and prepare a Powerpoint Presentation of 15 minutes maximum to be presented during the Research Seminar.
    5. Format for Submission of Abstracts
      The Format for the Submission Abstracts are attached as a separate document (Annexure 3).
    6. Time Schedule for the Seminar Paper Submissions
      Call for Papers: 9th July 2018
      Deadline for accepting Nominees & Participants: 31st July 2018
      Selection of Abstracts & informing participants: 10th August 2018
      Submission of full papers to be published before the seminar: 31st August 2018

      Seminar: 8th and 9th October 2018
      Cultural Tour: 10th October 2018

Contact Information

Bindu Urugodawatte,
Deputy Director – Research,
SAARC Cultural Centre,
224, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 07,
Sri Lanka.

Email: dd-research@saarcculture.org or binduling@gmail.com
Tel/Whatsapp: 0094-77-105-3007

SAARC International Women’s Day 2018

In 2018, the SAARC Cultural Centre celebrated SAARC International Women’s Day, in collaboration with the Department of Cultural Affairs in Sri Lanka, on Thursday the 8th of March 2018, at the District Secretariat in Kalutara.  The International Women’s Day was celebrated in collaboration with the Department of Culture of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Wayamba Development and Cultural Affairs and the District Secretariat of Kalutara.

The Chief Guest was Ms. Yasoja Gunasekara, Senior Director General of the SAARC Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka and the former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Bangladesh.  Mr. Munir Ghiasy, the Charge d’Affairs from the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Sri Lanka and Mr. Intisar Sulehri, the Press Attaché from the High Commission of Pakistan in Sri Lanka participated as Guests of Honour.  The celebration commenced with traditional Drummers and Dancers leading the Chief Guest and other dignitaries to the Auditorium which was followed by the lighting of the traditional oil lamp by all Honoured Guests and dignitaries, the Director and Professional Staff Members of the SAARC Cultural Centre.  The Welcome Speech was made by Mr. U.D.C. Jayalal, District Secretary for Kalutara and the Director of SAARC Cultural Centre, Mr. Wasanthe Kotuwella addressed the enthusiastic audience with warm wishes for the celebration of Women’s Day and Women.  The Chief Guest Ms. Yasoja Gunasekara, the Senior Director General of the SAARC Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka encouraged the women to embrace their role as peacemakers and the corner stone of a society in her address.  The Vote of Thanks at the end of the Programme was presented by the Deputy Director for Programmes, Ms. Kishani Jayasinghe – Wijayasekara and concluded an enjoyable, informative and inspirational Programme.  The auditorium (650 seats) was filled to its capacity with women of all ages, careers and lifestyles from the area joining us to celebrate the SAARC International Women’s Day.

This year the International Women’s Day was celebrated through an aesthetic journey and appreciation of South Asian music.  The music was interspersed with educational and inspiring information on the changing roles of rural women and acknowledgement of their contributions to the national economy, building confidence and self-esteem of the women in society, creating awareness of the psychological factor that affect and influence women, to appreciate and acknowledge the beauty of women as depicted in poetry, songs, art and culture, to appreciate women as the corner stone of any society.

The theme of the International Women’s Day 2018 was “A Mother’s Song: An aesthetic journey through South Asia in search of the Rhythms of Love” and the programme was conducted by Mrs. Anusha Gokula Fernando, the Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs in Sri Lanka, with the accompaniment of live musicians illustrating her words.  The Programme consisted of an aesthetic exploration and appreciation of rhythm, music, tone, language, song and many aspects of South Asian music, especially formulated for the womenfolk of the Kalutara District.  The Programme further included identifying and understanding South Asian customs and the rhythms of daily life and circumstance, common to the Region.  Most importantly it served to encourage and enhance the enjoyment and appreciation of culture through the music and song of the South Asian Region. The Programme was based on an International Programme titled “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.”

SAARC Exhibition of Paintings

The SAARC Cultural Centre is the custodian of the paintings created by the Artists from the SAARC Region during the SAARC Artists Camp held annually in different locations.  The SCC will an exhibition showcasing these paintings to the public in Sri Lanka to understand the art and culture of the region through the eyes of artists.

SAARC Literary Award and Ceremony 2018

The Honoured Members of the 54th Programming Committee and the Governing Board Members of the 9th Governing Board Meeting of the SAARC Cultural Centre approved the presentation of the SAARC Literary Award 2018, which would bring attention to the Writers of South Asia within an International sphere.  The SAARC Literary Award commenced with a nomination from the Member State of Afghanistan in 2018 and as per SAARC practice, this will be followed in alphabetical order, by subsequent Awards to the Honoured Member States of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka,.

South Asia is known as the home of world’s best Epics, Stories and Poems which is an integral part of culture through the centuries.  The Region shares a common literary tradition that has developed through the centuries – through varied and scattered times and spaces.  Ranging from oral histories to epic poems, the South Asian poetry tradition and the written word offers a rich and pulsating experience of the unique aspects of South Asia.

The delight and influence of South Asian Literature as a catalyst that brings together diverse cultures within the Region reflects a cultural confluence unsurpassed by any other region of the world.  This rich and vibrant mingling deserves to be appreciated and celebrated by giving due recognition to indigenous cultures and styles represented by the Region so as to celebrate unity within diversity and to preserve splendid South Asian expressions that are a fundamental part of the Region’s cultural ethos.

Within the period of the last two decades, we have witnessed South Asian writers, who have written in the English language, have won many prestigious literary awards celebrating their great contribution to the literary world.  The SAARC Literary Award will be giving Regional recognition and appreciation of the Region to the Writers of South Asia.

Winner of SAARC Literary Award
The Inaugural SAARC Literary Award 2018 was Awarded to Mr. Najibullah Manalai, nominated by the Honoured Member State of Afghanistan.  Mr. Manalai is a multilingual writer of poetry, of narrative fiction, a newspaper columnist, translator and political analyst.  He writes in Pashto, Dari (Farsi), French and English.  He is building bridges between Western Philosophy and Oriental Mysticism through translations of Western and Afghan literature.  During the last decade he has worked tirelessly to promote reading and books in Afghanistan.  He is the creator of the “Golden Reed Prize” in Afghanistan, given annually to a literary personality, highlighting the importance of literature and promoting other writers.

The SAARC Literary Award Ceremony 2018
The SAARC Literary Award 2018 was presented at the National Literary Awards held at the Galle Literary Festival which took place in the World Heritage City of Galle on 26th January 2018.  The Minister of Finance and Mass Media Hon. Mangala Samaraweera was the Chief Guest at this event.  Mr. Manalai was presented the inaugural SAARC Literary Award by the Minister of Finance and Mass Media Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, and the Director of the SAARC Cultural Centre Mr. Wasanthe Kotuwella.

SAARC Handicraft Exhibition and Workshop

The SAARC Handicraft Exhibition and Workshop will provide a suitable platform for the Exhibition of handmade treasures form the South Asian Region and to provide the creators of these valuable pieces of the Region’s Heritage, a forum for discussion, interaction and exchange of valuable tools and knowledge of the trade, within an atmosphere of friendship and Regional corporation.  The commitment of the SAARC Cultural Centre to promote and further shared South Asian culture through handicrafts has been consistent, comprehensive and well received.  Over the past few years, this Programme, which has been held in several SAARC Member States, has given craft persons in the Region the opportunity to exhibit their products, meet other artisans from the Region and discuss new trends and techniques within the industry.  SAARC Cultural Centre aims to rejuvenate the creation of local handicrafts and promote social regeneration and social cohesion through the Handicraft Industry.

The SAARC Handicraft Exhibition and Workshop will be held at the Shilpakala Academy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, from 30th November 2017 to 3rd December 2017.  In addition to an Exhibition and the display of crafts, there will also be the additional aim of promoting the exchange of knowledge and technical expertise amongst its Artisans and to promote the development of new designs and products which are appropriate and attractive to the demands of the new world market.  Lying at crossroads between the arts, business and technology, the creative industries sector comprises a large variety of creative fields, from those heavily industrialised such as advertising and marketing, broadcasting, film industries etc, to those which are less so, like cultural industries. This sector is increasingly important for the benefit of the people of the Region, from the perspective of heritage preservation and economic terms, and the SAARC Cultural Centre is committed to assisting the Region to realise its full potential.  Development of creative cultural enterprises and creative industries, promoting cultural product development, creation of market opportunities, exchange of information and networking arrangements is in accordance with the underlying principal of encouraging better cultural understanding between the SAARC Member States.

Preliminary Meeting
A Preliminary Meeting was held on 28th November 2017 at the Shilapakala Academy chaired by Mr. Liaquat Ali Director General of the Shilpakala Academy with Mr. Wasanthe Kotuwella, Director of the SAARC Cultural Centre and Ms. Kishani Jayasinghe-Wijayasekara, Deputy Director Programmes at the SAARC Cultural Centre at the head table.

SAARC Cultural Festival on Traditional Dance

Culture within the South Asian Region is rich, diverse and is flavoured with a multitude of influences.  The very concept of art and culture, knows no boundaries and has the ability to transcend differences and unite nations and people.  Few entities are as powerful as the universally accepted mechanism of building bridges and fostering understanding through the arts of cultures.  There are few experiences in life that could measure the joy, understanding and acceptance of bearing witness to the glorious spectacles and varied and wonderful displays of Culture.  Cultural Festivals also have the ability to bring together individuals and nations with the mutual interest of exchanging art.  Witnessing and being party to such cultural exchanges is one of the most powerful ways in which to experience culture, inherent traditions, people and their lifestyles and above all, to promote cultural development and Regional corporation.  The Festival will celebrate the diversity of cultural dance across the Region, recognising ethnicities and the artistic talents and unique abilities of the people of the SAARC Region.

The SAARC Cultural Festival on Traditional Dance will be held at the Shilpakala Academy in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 30th November 2017 to 3rd December 2017.  The Festival would commence with an Opening Parade with Dancers from all the participating Member States joining the occasion followed by an Opening Performance by all participating Member States.  There will be similar performances by all participants at different venues in the vicinity so that more people will have an opportunity to witness and experience the rich cultural dance traditions of the Region.  An Interactive Workshop is also organized during this period dedicated to Dance and all things related to Dances.  On 3rd December 2017 there will be a performance by all Dancers of the participating Member States.

Preliminary Meeting
A Preliminary Meeting was held on 28th November 2017 at the Shilapakala Academy chaired by Mr. Liaquat Ali Director General of the Shilpakala Academy with Mr. Wasanthe Kotuwella, Director of the SAARC Cultural Centre and Ms. Kishani Jayasinghe-Wijayasekara, Deputy Director Programmes at the SAARC Cultural Centre at the head table.

SAARC Cultural Extravaganza

Culture within the South Asian Region is extremely diverse and is formed of many different types of artistry. Music, dance, art, film, literature, poetry etc are a few examples of the wonderfully dynamic ways within which a country and indeed an entire Region could share their unique and colourful cultural heritage. On this occasion, we hope to focus on the unifying and incredibly varied form of culture, Music.

The SAARC Cultural Extravaganza will be held in the Member State of Pakistan and the dates will be announced shortly.  This Programme will take place over the course of four days in 2017.

There will be an opportunity to showcase and share a variety of Musical genres from the Region, with performances, interactive workshops and fellowship opportunities for the Musicians.

We hope to include the following elements in the Cultural Extravaganza, subject to confirmation from the Host Member State of Pakistan:

  1. Opening Ceremony and Inaugural Performance of traditional music: The Opening Ceremony of the Extravaganza will include a performance featuring all the musical artists from the participating Member States.  It will showcase the musical talents of the Region, and display the diverse traditional cultural musical identity of each Member State. Musicians are requested to be in traditional attire wherever possible, so there will be an additional element of visual diversity as well.
  2. Additional performance: We hope to arrange an additional performance for the Musicians which will give the musicians to further showcase a different genre of music, giving them the opportunity to display their versatility as musicians
  3. Interactive Workshop – There will be an interactive workshop facilitated by a professional musician, which will encourage participating musicians to share the unique aspects of their traditional music. It will include discussions about the importance of musical education and its importance in the Region. It will also consider other varied forms of music such as popular, film, folk music etc. The Interactive Workshop will be open to all artists, teachers and students.
  4. Session for creativity and fellowship: We hope to include a very unique combined performance by all the participating Member States for the Closing Ceremony. This would give all Musicians an opportunity to interact and create something they enjoy and which is unique. Through it, strengthen the relationship between the musicians from the participating Member States. We will schedule adequate rehearsal time during which we hope the participating musicians may be able to prepare a joint musical item for the Closing Ceremony
  5. Closing Ceremony: The highlight of the Closing Ceremony will be the jointly produced piece of music, which will have been prepared by the participating Member States.


  1. All Member States are invited to nominate a maximum of 5 musicians each to participate in the Programme. The Host Member State of Pakistan, is invited to nominate a maximum of 10 participants to attend the Programme.
  2. Nominated artists should have excelled in their field of music and the use of traditional instruments is encouraged.
  3. The artists should be prepared to present up to a minimum of 3 musical items for the duration of the Extravaganza, between approximately 6-8 mins duration each. One item should include traditional music.
  4. Musicians will be required to bring their musical instruments with them.

If you are a part of, or know of, a team of up to 5 musicians who would benefit from this opportunity, please contact the relevant line Ministry relating to Culture and SAARC Activities in your Country regarding an official nomination.

Airfare is generally provided by the nominating Member State and all accommodation, hospitality and transfers in Pakistan, will be provided by the SAARC Cultural Centre for all Officially Nominated Participants.


  1. Names of the nominated artists, together with the relevant details, need to be sent through the relevant Ministry concerned, via the Foreign/External Affairs Ministries in the respective Member States, to the SAARC Secretariat.
  2. A biography, photograph and contact details of each Nominated Musician from each participating Member State, should be sent directly – via email – to:
    The Deputy Director – Programmes, The SAARC Cultural Centre:
    Email: dd-programme@saarcculture.org

    With a copy to:
    The Documentation Officer, The SAARC Cultural Centre:
    Email: documentation@saarcculture.org

This material will be edited as appropriate by the SAARC Cultural Centre, and will be included in the Brochure prepared for the Programme.

The details of the Musicians as stated above should reach the SAARC Cultural Centre at the earliest convenience. 

SAARC Non-Violence Day

Art Competition for Children promoting Non-Violence
Conducted by the SAARC Cultural Centre

The SAARC Cultural Centre endeavours to promote the concept of non-violence amongst children across the Island, by conducting an Art Competition, based on the theme of love and kindness in honour of SAARC Non-Violence Day 2017. The Centre aims to create awareness on the need to inspire peace, tolerance, non-discrimination, co-existence and respect for people.

The Competition is open to all children in two age groups (Age as of 31st December 2017), using the following themes:

  1. Junior Category: 10 – 13 years: “Non-Violence is goodwill towards all life”-Mahatma Gandhi
  2. Senior Category:14 – 18 years: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”- Mahatma Gandhi

All paintings should be submitted in the following format

  1. Size: Standard A3
  2. Medium: Water Colours, Crayons, Acrylic, Oil

All paintings should be accompanied with the following information:

  1. Name in Full
  2. Age and Date of Birth
  3. Name of School
  4. Paintings should be certified by the Principal, Art Teacher, or the Class Teacher.

DEADLINE – Completed Paintings, with the above-mentioned information, must reach the SAARC Cultural Centre on or before the 20th of November 2017. Late entries will not be accepted.

The winners in each Category will be awarded a Certificate and Cash Prizes as follows:

  • 1st Prize     LKR. 20,000/=
  • 2nd Prize     LKR. 12,000/=
  • 3rd Prize     LKR.   8,000/=

The School that sends in the most number of entries will receive a Certificate of Recognition
The Award Ceremony will be held on SAARC Charter Day (8th Dec 2017)

Entries must be sent (By Registered Post or Delivered By Hand) to:
The Documentation Officer,
The SAARC Cultural Centre, No. 224, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7.

For further clarification please contact 0771053008 / 0112584451

SAARC Research Grants 2017

Call for Research Proposals for Short-Term Research Grants for further Research on Buddhist Cultural Trails


The SAARC Research Seminar on Buddhist Cultural Trails: Journey Through Time and Space, of Merchants, Monks and Pilgrims was held successfully in August 2017 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.  The Research Grants will provide an opportunity for the Academics, Scholars, Researcher, etc., from the Member States to explore new research areas and sites along the Buddhist Cultural Trails.  This will also act as a precursor to the Cultural Trails proposed for the future and lay the ground work in research to look at Cultural Trails as connected routes where ideas, information and knowledge travelled both ways.


To encourage new research through the SAARC Research Grants (8 Research Grants, one for each Member State)

  • Research on identification of new sites, locations, trails, Tangible and Intangible Heritage associated with BCT.
  • To facilitate new research and new approaches to study the BCT as an integrated entity.
  • To study and analyse all different perspectives and areas which influenced the establishment, development and continuation of the Cultural Trails in the region.
  • To present innovative measures for the conservation and preservation of BCT locations.


The SAARC Cultural Centre invites Academics and Researchers from Member States to submit detailed Research Proposals (along with the detailed budget breakdown for US$ 1,000/=) for new and innovative short-term research projects on the Buddhist Cultural Trails.  One research proposal will be selected from each Member State to be awarded the short-term research grant of US$ 1,000/=.  The selection of Research Proposals will be carried out by a Team of Experts selected by the SAARC Cultural Centre.  The first instalment of the grant (US$ 500/=) will be made at the commencement of the Research Project.  The final payment is subject to the review of the final presentation made to a Team of Experts via Video Conferencing and submission of the Final Research Paper.  Any suggestions / recommendations made by the SCC Team of Experts at this stage should be included in the research process by the respective researchers.

At the completion of the Research Project each Researcher will be required to submit a Research Report of Academic Research quality to be published in the “South Asian Cultural Trails” publication series of the SAARC Cultural Centre in 2018.  The Research Project is to be presented at a local or international forum within 1 year and to disseminate the knowledge gathered with the relevant stakeholders (Academic discussion, Tourism industry, sustainable development, etc.) and to send SCC the relevant documents with regard to the above dissemination of information.


The following themes based on discussions and ideas submitted during the Research Seminar on Buddhist Cultural Trails held in Colombo, Sri Lanka in August 2017.  The Research Proposal can be based on the themes provided below but need not be limited to these themes only.

  • Identification of New Sites and Locations along the Buddhist Cultural Trails.
  • Comparative Studies of Buddhist Monasteries in different areas.
  • Comparative Research and interpretation of Landscape values of Buddhist Sites.
  • Travels of Buddhist Monks and Pilgrims.  (Ariyadeva, Buddhaghosa, etc.)
  • Connectivity between Buddhist Monasteries of different Countries and Regions.
  • Buddhist Cultural Trails (BCT) – The paths of the Buddha, Sites of Relics of Buddha, the way of Arahat Mahinda, the path of Theri Sanghamitta, the Fa Xian (Fa Hsien) Route, the Xuanzang (Hsuan Tsang) Route, the Cave Caravan Routes of the Western Ghats, the pilgrimage route of King Nissankamalla to Sri Pada (Sacred Footprint), Sixteen sacred places of Sri Lanka, Footsteps of Guru Rimpoche, Buddhist Cultural Trails in Maldives, Buddhist Cultural Trails in Bangladesh, Traditional Centres of learning, New Buddhist Cultural Trails for Tourism promotion and pilgrims, Buddhist Manuscript Trails, etc.
  • Art and Architecture of BCT.
  • Archaeology of BCT.
  • Intangible Heritage of BCT (Music, dance, folk art, folk stories, traditional healing, handicrafts, etc.)
  • Trade and Commerce of BCT (Aromatics, Spices, Exotic items, etc).
  • Buddhist Manuscripts, texts and inscriptions, languages and scripts (Gandhari, Prakrit, Sanskrit, etc., languages and Brahmi, Kharosthi, Greek Bactrian, etc. scripts) of BCT.
  • Technology of BCT (Irrigation, engineering, agriculture, etc.)
  • Cultural Diffusion of BCT
  • Heritage Management of BCT sites
  • Tourism promotion of BCT


Academics and Researchers of the SAARC Member States.
Academics and Researchers who have received Research Grants from the SAARC Cultural Centre previously will not be eligible.


  • Format for the Application is attached herewith.
  • Each Member State can forward any number of Research Proposals for consideration.
  • Research Proposals should be for an innovative and new research based on the themes mentioned above (No. 4 of this document) or on a new theme related to Buddhist Cultural Trails.
  • All sections of the application should be completed (Part A, B and C).  Incomplete applications will not be considered.
  • Applications must be forwarded to the SAARC Secretariat in Kathmandu, Nepal through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Ministry of External Affairs of the Member State.
  • An advance copy can be emailed to the SAARC Cultural Centre – scc@saarcculture.org with copy to dd-research@saarcculture.org
  • All Research Proposals must reach the SAARC Cultural Centre by 10th November 2017.
  • The Research Grant will be distributed in 2 instalments – The first instalment (US$ 500/=) at the commencement of the project and final instalment (US$ 500/=) after the submission of the Final Report.
  • The final payment is subject to the review of the final presentation made to a Team of Experts via Video Conferencing and submission of the Final Research Paper.  Any suggestions/recommendations made by the SCC Team of Experts at this stage should be included in the research process by the respective researchers.
  • At the end of the Research Project each Researcher will be required to submit a research report of academic research quality.


  1. Deadline for Accepting Research Proposals                  10th November 2017
  2. Approval for the Research Project                                  25th November 2017
  3. Commencement of the Project                                        10th December 2017
  4. Presentation of the Research to the Team of Experts     February 2018 (Dates TBA)
  5. Final Report                                                                    1st March 2018


Bindu Urugodawatte
Deputy Director – Research, SAARC Cultural Centre.
Email: dd-research@saarcculture.org or binduling@gmail.com
Tel/Whatsapp: 0094-77-105-3007


SAARC Research Seminar on Buddhist Cultural Trails: Journey Through Time and Space, of Merchants, Monks and Pilgrims

The two-day Research Seminar organized by the SAARC Cultural Centre on “Buddhist Cultural Trails: Journey through Time and Space, of Merchants, Monks and Pilgrims” was held at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) from 26th to 27th August 2017.  The Seminar was the first Seminar on “South Asian Cultural Trails” which aims to strengthen cultural ties in the region through a walk into the shared past of our ancestors.  In this endeavour, the various perspectives of the socio-cultural, tangible and intangible connectivity established through the popularity and the dissemination of Buddhism during history across several centuries were explored.  Officially nominated participants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka presented 38 papers at the research seminar.

The inauguration was held at the BMICH amidst a distinguished gathering including Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic Religious representatives of Sri Lanka.  Mrs. Rajashree Behera, Director of the Indian Cultural Centre on behalf of the H.E. the High Commissioner of India, Mr. Intisar Ahmed Sulhery on behalf of the H.E. the High Commissioner of Pakistan, Mr. M.A.K. Girihagama, Director General of South Asia and SAARC Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sri Lanka represented the Member States.  Mr. Dwatmaji Hanomanresi, Counsellor for Socio and Cultural Affairs represented H.E. the Ambassador of Indonesia at this august gathering.  Academics from University of Colombo, University of Sri Jayawardenapura, University of Peradeniya, Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka and other scholars were also present.

Mr. J, Dadallage, Consultant Public Relations to the Hon. Prime Minister of Sri Lanka ably represented our Chief Guest Mr. E.M.S.B. Ekanayake, Secretary to the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka who was unable to join us due to his responsibilities.  Mr. Dadallage emphasised the importance of multi-disciplinary research seminars and promotion of tourism through the “South Asian Cultural Trails”.

The Welcome address was delivered by Mr. Wasanthe Kotuwella, Director, SAARC Cultural Centre and the Keynote Speaker was introduced by Ms. Bindu Urugodawatte, Deputy Director Research of the SAARC Cultural Centre.  Professor Nimal De Silva, Emeritus Professor of Architecture, University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, delivered the Keynote Address on “Kalpawruksha The Celestial Tree in Asian Art and Architecture”.  The keynote provided a wonderful beginning to Research Seminar by discussing the shared heritage of South Asia.  Prof. Nimal De Silva through his keynote was able to intellectually stimulate the audience by combining tangible heritage and intangible heritage using a multi-disciplinary approach.  The inauguration was concluded with Dr. Lopamudra Maitra Bajpai giving the Vote of Thanks.

Academic Sessions
Seven multi-disciplinary academic sessions covering a vast range of subjects from Archaeology, Geoarchaeology, Art History, History, Tangible Heritage, Intangible Heritage, Museum Objects, Photo Documentation and new research on Buddhist Cultural Trails was presented and followed by very lively academic discussions.  The Sessions were as follows:
1.    The Paths of the Buddha – Chair: Prof. Nimal De Silva

  • Buddhism and Megalithism by Prof. Prathapachandran S. Panicker.
  • Ancient Buddhist Cultural Trails in Bangladesh by Mr. Md. Altaf Hossain.
  • Monks, Monuments and Mobility: The Buddhist Monastic Sites as Place Across Time in Central India by Dr. L. Lamminthang Simte.
  • Kanheri: The Spartan Caves with the Reflections of Cultural and Economic Trails in Western India by Prof. Avkash Jadhav.
  • Monks, Merchants and Pilgrims: Their Message for Asian Century by Dr. Susantha Goonatilake.

2.    Relics of the Buddha – Chair: Dr. Shivakant Bajpai

  • Relic Worship: Ruwanweli Stupa as the most Sacred Place of Worship for the Buddhists in the World by Mr. Prasanna B. Ratnayake.
  • An Overview of Buddhist Tangible Heritage Sites (Archaeological & Historical): A Study on Bangladesh Perspectives by Prof. Biman Chandra Barua.
  • Archaeological Sites of the Greater Lumbini Area in Relation to Buddhist Circuit by Ms. Mandakini Shrestha and Ms. Sabita Neupane.
  • Geoarchaeological Study of Stone Structures in the Temple of Tooth Relic Premises in Kandy Sri Lanka by Mr. Dilan Chathuranga Ranaweera.

3.    Buddhist Art & Architecture – Chair: Mr. Prasanna B. Ratnayake

  • Aurangabad Caves: A Lesser Known Buddhist Cave Temples in Maharashtra by Dr. Shivakant Bajpai.
  • Mahastangarh: A Buddhist Cultural Trail for Religious Tourism by Ms. Surayya Akhtar Jahan.
  • Mes Aynak: Recent Archaeological Excavations Along the Silk Route by Mr. Noor Agha Noori.
  • A Distribution of Anuradhapura Period Buddhist Monasteries in Mullaitivu and Mannar Districts in Northern Sri Lanka: A Study Using Geo Informatic Tools by Ms. Vasana Premachandra, Mr. M.V.G. Kalpa Asanga and Ms. P.M.R. Priyadarshani.
  • Buddhist Sites in Telangana State by Dr. Narsinga Rao Deekonda.
  • Early Buddhist Stone Meditation Furniture in Sri Lanka: Stone Beds and Brick Seats from Meditation Monasteries by Dr. Ayesha Abdur-Rahman.

4.    Merchants, Monks and Pilgrims – Chair: Prof. Biman Chandra Barua

  • Re-Reading Fa Xian: A Review of the Account on Ceylon with Reference to Contemporary Data by Mr. Dhammika Priyantha Chandrasekara.
  • Pilgrim Route from Sri Lanka’s North-Eastern Seaboard to Samanta Kuta (the Sacred Foot Print): Potential Outstanding Universal Value for UNESCO World Heritage Listing by Dr. Nilan Cooray.
  • An Identification of the Itinerary of the Ibn Battuta’s Pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak or Sri Pada Mountain in Sri Lanka by Prof. Anura Manatunga.
  • An Exploration of Facts of Buddhist Cultural Bond Between Sri Lanka and Myanmar During the Medieval Period by Dr. S.M. Haldhar.
  • Nibbana Scene: Depicted in Stone Sculptures of Madhya Desa and Myanmar (2nd century CE to 12th century CE) by Prof. Vinay Kumar Rao.
  • Assessment of Cultural Heritage in Mantota Rajamaha Viharaya, Mannar using an Intelligent System by Mr. D.S. Kalana Mendis.

5.    Nuns and Artefacts – Chair: Dr. Nilan Cooray

  • In the Footsteps of Their Sanghamitta: A Gendered Survey of Buddhist Sites in India and Sri Lanka by Dr. Garima Kaushik.
  • Sri Lankan Women Travellers as Buddhist Trailblazers by Dr. Hema Goonatilake.
  • Masterpieces of Buddha Sculptures in Meditation in the Bangladesh National Museum by Mr. Shawkat Nabi.
  • Buddhist Artefacts in the Collection of the Colombo National Museum by Mr. Ranjith Hewage.
  • Some Glimpse of Buddhist Stone and Bronze Sculptures in the Collection of National Museum in Nepal by Ms. Mandakini Shrestha.
  • A New Approach to Documenting Ancient Paintings by Ms. K. Sumedha Kumari, Mr. Arjuna Samaraweera, Ms. R. Nishanthi Ranasinghe, Mr. Palitha Herath, Mr. I.P.S. Nishantha, Mr. Mahesh Gurumetiya and Mr. Lasantha Athukorala.

6.    Heritage Management & Tourism – Chair: Ms. Mandakini Shrestha

  • Trail of Guru to Central Bhutan by Ms. Tshering Choki.
  • Amaravathi Buddhist Heritage Town: Rehabilitation under the HRISAY and PRASAD Schemes of the Government of India by Prof. Amareswar Galla.
  • Heritage Tourism: ‘Packaging’ History and Places in the Central Indian Buddhist Pilgrimage Circuit by Dr. Prerana Srimaal.
  • A Proposal for the Promotion of Cultural Tourism in Sri Lanka: Ancient Buddhist Monastic Site at Telulla by Ms. Wasana Sirimalwatte.
  • Whether the Brahmi Script was brought to Sri Lanka with Buddhism? by Mr. Prasad Fonseka.
  • Fragmentary Dharani Scriptures: An Untold Story about Buddhism in Sri Lanka by Mr. Bertram G. Liyanage.

7.    Tangible and Intangible Heritage – Chair: Mr. Noor Agha Noori

  • Buddhist Monastic Hospitals in South Asia in the Historic Period with Special Reference to Sri Lanka by Ven. Wetara Mahinda.
  • Traditional Healing System of Lepcha Community of North Sikkim with Special Reference to Dzongu Reserve Area by Mr. Worrel Kumar Bain.
  • Reconstructing Aromatic and Medicinal Practices Along the Silk Road: As Recounted and Evidenced from the Dunhuang Manuscripts by Dr. Jyoti Marwah.
  • Yantra and Mantra in Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhism by Dr. Wimal Hewamanage.
  • Buddhist System of Education and its Relevance in Remodelling the Present-Day Ailing Education System by Dr. Neelima Dahiya.

Cultural Tour
On 28th August, the participants joined a Cultural Tour to the Arankele Meditation Monastery and Dambulla World Heritage Monastery.  The Cultural Tour provided an opportunity for participants to discuss the different ideas on tangible and intangible heritage as well as practical heritage management issues.  During the Cultural Tour, the lively and stimulating discussions which commenced during the Seminar continued in a much more relaxed atmosphere.  The two Buddhist Monasteries and discussions at the sites highlighted the shared cultural heritage and the slight differences within the region exemplifying the “Unity within Diversity” theme of the SAARC Cultural Centre.

The discussions were not all academic nor limited to Buddhist Cultural Trails but expanded to environment, food, habits, conservation, heritage management and even clothes and fashion.  The relaxed atmosphere helped to create closer links and understanding among the participants and possible future collaborations were also discussed.

The discussions and ideas shared and acknowledge during the Seminar and the contacts established among scholars and academics will carry the torch of Buddhist Cultural Trails to the future.