Links forged in faith
While many are aware that Theravada Buddhism was brought to Siam by Sri Lankan monks, few know that Siamese monks were later in a position to return the favour; this year the two countries celebrate the anniversary of a very special bond
Buddhists in Sri Lanka are preparing to mark the 260th anniversary of a milestone in their history: the arrival on their shores of a high-level delegation, dispatched by the king of Ayutthaya, which was to play a key role in reviving the monkhood in their country.
The murals which adorn the interior of the prayer hall at Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara in Colombo are still in impeccable condition. Unusual for their use of a modern artistic perspective, they depict stories about the Lord Buddha’s three visits to Sri Lanka and other major Buddhism-related events on the island. One of the wall paintings shows King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe presenting a ritual fan to Phra Upali, the missionary dispatched by King Borommakot of Ayutthaya.
The Theravada school of Buddhism is thought to have originated in Sri Lanka around 300 BC and monks from this island later spread their brand of faith in Siam and other parts of Southeast Asia. But when Phra Upali Maha Thera and 17 other monks from Ayutthaya disembarked at the port of Trincomalee in 1753, Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka was in a state of crisis.
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