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.


International Women’s Day 2017

The SAARC Cultural Centre will be celebrating International Women’s Day with an evening of cultural performance by Thuuryaa, a young all female drumming ensemble from the University of Visual and Performing Arts and honouring several iconic Sri Lankan female Artistes on 08th March 2017 at the Lionel Wendt Theatre, Colombo 07 at 7.00p.m.

Sri Lanka’s first and only female Executive President, Madam Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and iconic and beloved Sri Lankan artists Iranganie Serasinghe, Vajira Chitrasena, Sumithra Peiris, Nanda Malini and Mary Anne David will be honoured at this celebration. These distinguished pioneers, have paved the way for future generations of women with their persistence, versatility, hard work, courage, integrity and continue to share their knowledge with grace.  They have widened the landscape of possibilities and given young girls the hope and power to dream without boundaries. It is our privilege to honour them.

The art of percussion has traditionally belonged to the domain of men. Thuuryaa brings a feminine touch and a definitive beat without boundaries, changing the face of drumming.  Embracing rhythm, creating & mixing art, their quest began within the walls of the University of the Visual and Performance Arts in Colombo, with nine talented under-graduate souls, created by Sithara, the first female percussion graduate of the University.  Embracing the essences of Kandyan, Low country & Sabaragamuwa – the tri-tradition of the Sri Lankan percussion art, they mix international percussion music to their presentation. The inspirational and innovative efforts of Thuuryaa, creates an entertaining and unique cultural performance.

This is an evening of honour, entertainment and celebration not to be missed.

Admission by Invitation Only.
Please contact Mahinda (0771053008), Yenuka (0112584451 ext 114) or Shanthini (0112584451) at the SAARC Cultural Centre for an invitation.
The programme will end at 9pm.


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SAARC Cultural Capital – Bangladesh – 2017

The SAARC Cultural Capital for 2016, will be a city in Bangladesh, namely Mahasthangargh, in Bogra. On the 21st of January 2017, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh will formally inaugurate, the SAARC Cultural Capital for the year 2017.

The SAARC Cultural Centre launched a programme for designating a city amongst the SAARC Member countries as the SAARC Cultural Capital for a year during which a series of year-long cultural events with a national but with an overall South Asian dimension will be organized. Last year the SAARC Cultural Capital was Bamyan, in Afghanistan. Preparing for being a SAARC CULTURAL CAPTIAL can provide an opportunity for the city to generate considerable cultural, social and economic benefits and it can help in fostering urban regeneration, boosting the city’s image and raising its visibility and profile on a regional and international scale.

SAARC Children’s Art Competition – to commemorate Non Violence Day

The SAARC Children’s Art Competition was held in Sri Lanka, reaching out to all schools in the island. The themes given were :

Junior Category :  “You must be the change you want to see in the world” Mahatma Gandhi ( Junior Category)

Senior  Category: “My religion is based on truth and non violence. Truth is my God, Non Violence is the means of realizing him” Mahatma Gandhi  (Senior Category)

Over 990 paintings were received and three winners were picked per category. The winners are:

Senior Category

1st Place
Waththe Vidanalage Nimesh Milinda Premasiri Daluwaththa
MO/ Medagama National School

2nd Place
Tharushi Kaveesha Manawage
R/Gankanda Centar College

3rd Place
Hewagamage Dinushanka Chandimal Wijesinghe
MO/ Medagama National School

Honorable Mentions
Mohammed Raza
Readway INTL Collage

Gane Arachchilage Hashini Prabodha
R/Gankanda Central Collage

Varathalingam Kajeepan
J/Manipay Hindu Collage

Husain Fathima Kasiya
Strisammanthurai Muslim M.M

Balasuriyalage Himashi Amanda Kulawansha
R/ Gankanda Central Collage

W.M.S.K.G Mayuri Rasangi
AM/ Dehiattakandiya M.M.V


Junior Category

1st Place
Ramika Pooja Sooriyaarchchi
R/Sivali Central College

2nd Place
Samarasinghe Thanasha Dinithi Manawage
Ferguson High School

3rd Place
Jayasundara Namal Wishwa Bandara
President’s College


Honorable Mentions
Rahma Ameer
Muslim Ladies Collage

Fathima Suha Mohamod Ziard
Muslim Ladies Collage

E.S.W Yoshan
Sussex Collage

Amarasinghage Hansana Ravisara
K/ Kalawana National School

Fathima Ruzna Ismath
Muslim Ladies Collage

Lioyd Frank
Readway International

Bentotage Oshitha Sehan
ST. Michael’s Collage

Sanuji Chamathkara Dasanayake
Royal Institute International School

Sanuji Chamathkara Dasanayake
Royal International School

Fathima Zahara Sadath
Readway International

The award ceremony will take place at the SAARC Charter Day Celebrations, which will take place on the 8th of December 2016.

SAARC Literary Festival in collaboration with the Galle Literary Festival 2017

Known as home to many of the world’s best epics, stories and poems, South Asia is a region with a unique literary tradition. The region shares a common literary tradition that has developed over the years – scattered times and spaces. Ranging from oral histories to epic poems, the South Asian poetry tradition offers a rich and pulsating experience of  unique South Asianess.
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 needs to be appreciated and celebrated by giving due recognition to indigenous cultures and styles represented by the region so as to celebrate unity in 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 experienced that some of the South Asian writers who write in English have won many prestigious literary awards especially from Western Countries. The SAARC Cultural Centre has organized Literary Festivals over the last five years, but it would now like to broaden its horizons and take it forward, so that not only do we celebrate writers and literature in the region, but showcase the immense talent and wealth of knowledge we have in the field of Literature to the rest of the world. The SAARC Cultural Centre proposes to collaborate and work with the  Galle Literary Festival for the benefit of poets, fiction writers and other writers of the region, which will in turn promote South Asian Literature as well as enable writers/ authors to review new trends and emerging new areas in the regional and international arena of literature.

The SAARC Cultural Centre would like to invite authors and poets from the SAARC Region to be a part of a SAARC Forum and to participate at the Galle Literary Festival which is now a well renowned and established Literary Festival in Sri Lanka. The Festival will be an open forum for writers and poets and poetry critics to discuss, debate, and analyze poetry in South Asia and to indulge in exploring its unique cultural tapestry.

The Festival
The SAARC Cultural Centre calls upon at least 3 writers/ or poets from all SAARC Member States to be a part of the SAARC Literary Forum at the Galle Literary Festival which will take place from the 11th – 15th of January 2017.  At the forum, the SAARC Writers will be able to recite their poetry or explain/discuss their book to the audience. The nominees will also participate at the many other activities planned for the Galle Literature Festival. This Festival will provide a platform to the poets, writers, literary critics, publishers and literary enthusiasts in the region to share their thoughts, insights, voice their concerns and learn from the experts of South Asian Literature. It will also hold poetry reading sessions.

Dates And Venue
The Galle Literary Festival will be held in Galle, Sri Lanka from the 11th – 15th of January 2017. The SAARC Component of the Festival will take place from the 13th -15th of January 2016

Participation At The Festival

Official Nominees From The Member States:
The SAARC Cultural Centre invites all the Member States to send a minimum of THREE Poets or Authors

Official nominations have to be sent via the Ministry of concerned, through the Foreign/ External Affairs Ministry to SAARC Secretariat. An advance copy of the nomination may be forwarded to the SAARC Cultural Centre.

Last Date
The last date for sending in the nominations is 10 December 2016

The language for the Festival would be English.

Logistic Support
The SAARC Cultural Centre would provide local hospitality (hotel accommodation on full-board basis) and local transport to all nominees of the SAARC Member States.
The airfare of the nominees of the SAARC Member States is to be borne by the respective Member State.

Development of Cultural Industries – Handicrafts

17th – 20th November 2016
Colombo – Sri Lanka
Organized by the SAARC Cultural Centre in collaboration with the National Craft Council

  • SAARC Handicraft Village
  • Design Workshop

In 2012, the SAARC Cultural Centre, focused on Traditional Handloom with an Exhibition and Design Workshop titled, “The Wheel of Life” Delhi 2012. At the Handloom Exhibition, the Centre promoted Traditional Handloom Industries of the region, by giving weavers an opportunity to exhibit their products as well as meet with potential buyers and exporters. A workshop on current trends was also organized.  With similar objectives in mind, and with an aim to promote local handicrafts, also in terms of social regeneration and social cohesion through the Handicraft Industry, the SAARC Cultural Centre, also conducted a similar programme in Bangladesh, and Nepal with the focus being on Handicrafts.  Given the success of these programmes, the centre will once again promote Handicrafts in the region, and with the aim of  developing new designs and products 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 industrialized such as advertising and marketing, broadcasting, film industries etc, to less industrialized – like cultural industries. This sector is increasingly important for the benefit of the people of the region, from an economic point of view, and the SAARC Member States are yet to realize its full potential. The Handicraft Exhibition and Workshops will take place in November in collaboration with the National Craft Council.

SAARC Cultural Capital – Bogra, Bangladesh – Inauguration

The SAARC Cultural Capital Inauguration to declare the city of Bogra as the SAARC Cultural Capital for the year 2016/ 2017, will take place on 21st of January, 2017, in Bogra, Bangaldesh. The event will be jointly organized by the SAARC Cultural Centre and the Ministry of Cultural Affairs in Bangladesh. Several cultural programmes, both locally as well as those with participation from the SAARC countries will take place during this period.

SAARC Cultural Capital – Bamyan Closing Ceremony

The SAARC Cultural Capital for the year 2015/2016 was in Bamyan, Afghanistan, and during this period several local and other programmes involving all 8 SAARC Member States were successfully carried out. The SAARC Artist Camp was one such successful program.  Programmes were conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Government of Afghanistan.  The closing ceremony of the SAARC Cultural Capital will take place on the 3rd of August 2016.  At this ceremony all official cultural activities in Bamyan will come to and end, and the Cultural Capital will be handed over to Bangladesh, where the city Bogra will be named the SAARC Cultural Capital for the year 2016/2017