Thursday, 1 July 2004  
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Mihintalava - The Birthplace of Sri Lankan Buddhist Civilization

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Fragmentation of coconut plantations

The above has become a common sight mainly in the coconut triangle which is continuing for a number of years without any action being taken to arrest same. Many plantations are continued to be acquired and sold for other purposes. Accordingly, it would not be long when we would be required to import coconut similar to many other commodities depending further for our survival.

When taking tea, rubber and coconut, coconut claims more extent than tea and rubber put together. However, due to the above situation this position is sure to change due to no proper planning by those in authority, inspite of this disaster is obvious for everyone to see. Let's hope that this unsatisfactory position is brought under control preventing the creation of another crisis, when it would be too late to prevent same.

Tommy Wanigesinghe, Krunegala

Bicycle exhibition and information

I refer to the article 'Cycling towards a pollution-free Lanka' (June 15). It was an informative and interesting article both for the bicycle users and the bicycle producers, particularly highlighting the benefits of using a bicycle. Surely, public awareness should be made all about the goodness and the benefits of riding and possessing a bicycle. But it has to be done not only through newspapers, but also on television channels for the message to reach the common man.

Bicyle importers, assemblers and manufacturers should be interviewed and their opinion must be considered by the authorities concerned for them to take beneficial steps in developing the bicycle industry and encourage people to buy bicycles. Actually, the use of a bicycle by a person is of immense value to him and if this mode of transport is convinced to the public, there will be more bicycle users.

A poor country like ours, struggling to develop it, should have travelling and transport facilities too to those who could afford to buy for themselves, without depending on the unsatisfactory service provided by the State. Therefore, the affordable vehicle one could own, without doubt, is a bicycle.

It is predictable that even those who use their 4-wheelers for their office and other commitments, including 3-wheelers as well, will soon be peddling the 2-wheelers when the future fuel price hikes will gradually 'stir their budget'.

The writer, while informing that Sri Lanka Intermediate Technology Development Group 'has planned a mega cycle rally in September this year', the address of it nor the date of the exhibition and carnival to be held at Viharamadevi Park has not been mentioned in the article for the interested parties to contact.

NAZLY GASSIM, Colombo 13

Death - a heartbreak no one can heal

Whenever a death occurs in our homes, as a tradition we Sri Lankans spend a lot of money for the burial, we also give alms on the 7th day, 1 month, 3 months and on the 1st death anniversary in the name of our dearly beloved deceased. In most of our middle-class and poor families we make this occasion to invite our relations and friends and this ends like a birthday party celebrations with liquor etc.

Nearly 50 years ago it was an honour to have a band playing from the deceased home to the cemetery, decorate the roads with black and white flags, throw river sand on the funeral route.

These are no doubt a waste of money which could be used to feed the poor of the poorest and the destitute in our country. However, this practice is today is ceasing gradually.

We also see in our immediate neighbourhood the poor and the starving people.

Many feel ashamed to stretch their hands, but they suffer silently.

The need of the hour is for the heads of all religious organisations in the country to join hands together and educate its followers that there is no merit gained by the dead when giving alms to friends and relations, who in fact can find their own meals and make a party on a death commemoration.

The poor may have not slept on a bed during their lifetime, but the deceased relations would prefer to borrow money and give a grand funeral, buy an expensive coffin etc. to bury or cremate to show off. Why waste money in funeral tamashes etc.? When a person is dead many come forward to make statements, write appreciations, and pay tributes, but the person who is dead cannot see nor hear those accolades, whilst living no mention is made.

Several religious organisations in our country with limited financial resources and on donations have provided for the old and destitute, but this is far and few compared to the needs of the poor and the elders of the country. In this millennium, it would be a blessing to see whatever religion you may believe to be realistic in life and give help to the Elders Homes in memory of the dead.

In some of these Elders Homes they do not know when the next meal will come.

It is we elders who should drive this point to our growing children, take them and show these charitable institutions and to provide meals, alms, send cash donations etc. on a regular basis to the Elders Homes in our country and not have tamashes in the name of our dead parents, relatives and friends. 'The hand that gives gathers'.


Nikko - an epitome of Japanese culture

On one of my several visits to Japan, on this occasion as a member of the Sri Lanka-Japan Business Council attached to the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, I had the opportunity of visiting the City of Nikko, one of Japan's foremost cultural centers, and an extremely beautiful tourists resort, in the hill country north of Tokyo.

We were staying at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo located next to the Emperor Hirohito's Palace in Tokyo, which had a very beautiful garden full of flowers, and sakura trees in bloom. We could witness from our hotel rooms the Emperor's family members doing their daily morning jogging exercises. One of the Hotel Managers informed me to visit Nikko, if I am staying in Tokyo for a few days as many foreign tourists patronize this place which is a world heritage city.

One Sunday morning, with a friend of mine from Sri Lanka we left the hotel and took a two hour train journey. On reaching Nikko, our first visit was to the famous beautiful Toshogu shrine, built in the early 17th century during Japan's Edo period (1603-1867). The magnificent shrine houses the mausoleum of the first Tokugawa Leyasu shogun. Shogun means a Generalmisso, who was a ruler of the country.

During his rule Japan was isolated from the rest of the world, and most of the foreigners who had migrated during the visits of the Portuguese and Dutch were expelled, and the Christian influence was almost eradicated. Japan became a predominantly Buddhist country with the indigenous Shinto Buddhism mingled with Buddhist practices introduced by the Chinese. Japan became a secular country isolated from the rest of the world until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

In Nikko, there were many 8th century Shinto Shrines. It has a wonderful National Park which comprises 70 per cent of the city. Its roads studded with 350 year old Cedar Tress and mushrooms. It has a beautiful lake called Chuzenji, with plenty of Princes Trout fish, a delicacy in Japan.

The Kengo waterfall, one of the famous in Japan is in Nikko on the river Daiya, flowing near the city. The solitude and tranquillity in the place was remarkable and unique. We had lunch in a Japanese Ryokan restaurant which dates back to the 17th century and the service here amply demonstrated the Japanese culture. We were welcome to a Japanese tea ceremony. We had to sit on the floor on tatami mats and kimono clad girls served our food, which was a delicious dish of princess trout washed down with sakae and peachwine.

Nikko is one of the most beautiful places I had the privilege to visit in my travels to many countries in the world. It is truly a world heritage city.

V. K. J. Ramanayake, Dehiwela

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