|Saturday, 8 May 2004|
Celebrating the Truth
Text and photographs by Prasad Abu Bakr
It was a sight to behold watching Sri Lanka's renowned hill capital readying itself to celebrate the Most Holiest Day for the multitude of Buddhists spread across the Island State.
Kandy which is an area that has had Hindus, Muslims and Christians living side by side with their majority of Buddhist brothers over the years is an example of tolerance, which is one of the virtues among many others preached by the Buddha.
Not so far away from the Holiest of Buddhist Shrines, The Temple of The Tooth lie a Dutch Reformed Church, a Hindu kovil and a couple of mosques representing the cross culture that Kandy has turned out to become over the years.
And it is this fostering that was represented; as not only the Buddhists but also others belonging to various ethnic cultures took to the streets to witness the decorative event that lit-up the entire lake-city at night. At times it became too much of an overwhelming sight to behold as large crowds thronged the streets in total disarray.
Disarray with a capital D is what it was as people wandered about with no proper sense of direction. The worst of them all was when crowds queued up to watch the lantern contest, which was lined up around the lake front facing the upcoming city centre.
There were people queuing up in opposite directions in addition to others imposing themselves among the crowds that have already formed queues. It was one hell of a pandemonium trying to have a glance at what was there to be seen. A certain sense of responsibility lies with the Police in these matters.
As much as it is their responsibility to divert motor traffic in the proper direction they should also arm themselves with the responsibility of disciplining pedestrians thronging to the streets and roads these days.
When pedestrians cross the road at whim and fancy, specially at peak hours traffic cops should take stern measures against them or at least deter them from committing the offence.
As the first day of Vesak dawned the city lit-up in all colours, it was a kaleidoscope of colour specially around the lake, mostly in the direction of the Temple where most of the activities took place.
A large pandal with illustrations done by leading artist Jayasiri Semage took prominence over the others while a grand `Bakthi Gee' program featuring leading singers stole the spotlight on the first day.
Both events were given pride of place by allowing them to be located in the main grounds facing the Temple of the Tooth.
There was also a separate `Bakthi Geetha' recital by young schoolchildren accommodated in a brightly decorated chariot which was also equally illuminated which kept moving along the streets. Unlike regular 'Bakthi Gee' recitals this one differed a bit as most of the verses was set to modern musical scores giving it a touch of `Pop'.
The larger than life statue that stands atop `Bahirawa Kanda' was a feast for ones eyes as it stood gloriously illuminated in an overall shade of chrome yellow with hues of various colour playing at the base of it.
There were many devotees paying homage to the colossal statue and people took extra care to keep the vicinity absolutely clean which reflected a sense of purity that should prevail not only in places of worship but also in other public places at large.
It was a sad sight to witness how the sacred city of Kandy has deteriorated over the recent years, especially with regard to overall cleanliness. Garbage is piled up in odd corners while the market place is a mess. Muddy street corners are a common sight. Damaged pavements and pot-holes are a plenty.
The stench of un-cleaned drains due to being clogged with dirt is unbearable as one walks through the by-lanes. In comparison with size there are more beggars in Kandy than in Colombo.
The narrow pavements are strewn with beggars and pavement hawkers who occupy most of the space compelling pedestrians to walk on the main road which creates more traffic jams as almost half of the road area is also used for parking purposes by motorists, most of them it must be added, has weird patterns of parking their vehicles in.
At this point it must be recalled that Kandy got an overall facelift during the visit of Prince Charles a few years ago. It was a long awaited boost that eventually happened at the time and brought in many improvements to the city.
The underground pedestrian bypass is one of them that stands as an asset to the overcrowded city today. From a quiet and well laid out colonial hamlet the City of Kandy has grown to become one of Sri Lanka's busiest `transit' cities in recent times but the authorities have done very little to condone this fact, either through absolute ignorance or placing too much emphasis on personal glorification while in office or both.
This Vesak was an ideal opportunity for many to see the truth and inevitably to face it as well. Kandy has suffered long enough with its present conditions and this article is not the first one to highlight its miseries.
Many television channels and other media reports have brought forward these issues which have fallen upon the deaf and blind.
What the authorities should not overlook is the fact that the grandest of all events of this hill capital is due in a little under two months from now and the present conditions call for a radical change taking into consideration the time frame that all this has to be implemented within.
A brand new city centre is under construction and private property builders and developers are showing signs of creating their own sites that can change the city and its suburbs.
Leading food parlours amidst other commercial ventures have already identified Kandy as an important hub, good enough for them to carry out their business activities. A landmark of the city `Kandy Lake' has been attended upon and has been given a clean appearance in recent times.
These are necessary aspects that contribute towards a city that is ear marked to take off in a big way in the future.
But these are not enough, a comprehensive program will have to be drawn-up and implemented by the City Fathers if `The City they are Fathers to' is due to make any kind of impact upon, not only amongst the tax payers of Kandy but the thousands of visitors that are expected to visit the `Lake City' to witness its famous `Esala Perahera' in the month of July this year.
Produced by Lake House