"Buddhism is not a religion, but a way of life." Nothing sums up the essence of this religion more aptly. Vesak or Buddha Purnima is observed across diverse dates, by Buddhists, throughout the world, with each culture celebrating the day according to its own traditions. The day marks the three momentous events in Buddha's life ~ his birth, enlightenment and departure from the human world.

In New Delhi, the Vesak celebrations organised by the High Commission of Sri Lanka, had another objective: to further augment the historic Indo-Sri Lanka socio-cultural linkages and the time tested goodwill between the two peoples. This was also amply manifested during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Sri Lanka for the UN Vesak celebrations.

The first ever Vesak Pandal in New Delhi was inaugurated as the final phase of the celebrations to mark Vesak 2017 by the High Commission of Sri Lanka.

The ceremony was attended by dignitaries, officials, diplomats, members of the academia and a cross-section of the general public, and saw the inauguration of the glittering artwork of the 40 feet high Pandal, erected overlooking a park along the Shanti Path, which is also known as the Ceremonial Route in the diplomatic enclave in New Delhi. The Pandal attracted local crowds in large numbers, soon after its 15,000 multi-coloured bulbs illuminated the night skies.

The ceremony commenced with the invoking of blessings by the Maha Sangha led by the Chief Incumbent of the Varanasi Centre of the Mahabodhi Society of India Ven K Medhankara Thero and the Chief Incumbent of the New Delhi Centre of the Mahabodhi Society of India Ven R Sumiththananda Thero. The traditional oil lamp was lit by the Minister of Education of Sri Lanka Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in India Chitranganee Wagiswara, Minister of State for Home Affairs of India Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment of India Rajesh Athawale, New Delhi Municipal Council Chairman Naresh Kumar and the Joint Secretary of the Indian Ocean Region Division of the Ministry of External Affairs of India Sanjay Panda.

High Commissioner Chitranganee Wagiswara welcomed the gathering and outlined the importance of the Vesak day and the extensive arrangements made by the High Commission in collaboration with the city authorities to celebrate Vesak in New Delhi. She spoke of Buddha's universal message of peace which is internationally recognised by the United Nations following the initiative taken by the former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. She also referred to the Prime Minister Modi's remarks in Sri Lanka on "limitless possibilities of our shared future" and our "friendship that lives in the hearts of our people and is the fabric of our societies."

The Staff of the High Commission and their family members, joined by a group of Sri Lankan expatriates, sang Bhakti Geet. As the lights were switched on by the Ministers, the High Commissioner and Colonel Kumara ~ the leader of the Sri Lanka Army Engineering Corps team which erected the Pandal ~ the Hindi translation of the story of the Pandal ~ Angulimala ~ was played in the background.

A special 16-member team from the Engineering Services Corps of the Sri Lanka Army erected the Pandal and the main structure which was brought from Sri Lanka while the necessary facilities and assistance was secured in India. The High Commission of Sri Lanka had been facilitated to carry out this task by a group of well wishers and sponsors both from Sri Lanka and India. They include the Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lankan Airlines, ITC Maurya Group in India, RITES in India, Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) and the Indian Oil Company (IOC).