Lanka restricts 5-day national Vesak festivities to 2 days after blast

Sri Lanka's parliament is currently investigating security lapses that led to the Easter attacks despite intelligence warnings. Photo for representative purpose only.

The Sri Lankan government has restricted the five-day national Vesak festival celebrations to just two days citing the prevailing security situation in the country following the massive Easter Sunday bombings.

Vesak, the Day of the Full Moon in the month of May, is the most sacred day to millions of Buddhists around the world and this year it was expected to be observed from May 17 to 21. Sri Lankas top leadership has said that authorities have arrested or killed all the militants responsible for the deadly Easter blasts, but warned that the country still faces the threat of ISIS terror attacks. Buddhist Affairs Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera said that the five-day festival will now be limited to two days on May 17 and 18. Sri Lanka Chief Prelates (Mahanayakes — a high-ranking member of the clergy) of four Buddhist chapters have requested the public not to hold celebrations on a large scale.

In a joint statement, they said that the fundamental aim of celebrating the Vesak Full Moon Poya Day should be to wish for mental happiness for Sri Lankan’s affected by the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. Priority should be given for spiritual values leaving out external functions, they said. The Mahanayakes have requested to give priority for the advice given by security authorities and for public safety in organising all Buddhist functions.

Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21, killing more than 250 people. The ISIS terror group claimed the attacks, but the government blamed local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ) for the bombings. The victims included over 40 foreigners, 10 of whom were Indians. Vesak, also known as Buddha Jayanti, is a holiday traditionally observed by Buddhists and some Hindus globally. It was on the Day of Vesak two and a half millennia ago when the Buddha was born. It was also on the Day of Vesak that the Buddha attained enlightenment, and it was on the Day of Vesak that the Buddha in his eightieth year passed away, according to the UN.