by Bhante Dhammika of Australia
As is well-known, Lumbini is the first of the four major holy places in Buddhism, it being the place where the person who was to become the Buddha was born. Almost every account of the Buddha’s life, traditional and contemporary, recounts the incidents that supposedly occurred at his conception and birth: his mother dreaming of a white elephant before or as she conceived; giving birth to him while grasping the branch of a tree; and he emerging from her right side. Some later accounts even add that Mahamaya was a virgin when she gave birth. None of these stories are mentioned in the Tipitaka.
The only discourse in the Tipitaka dealing with the Buddha’s birth is the Acchariyabbhuta Sutta which relates several wondrous events that supposedly occurred before, during and immediately after the event. However, not all the ‘wonders’ it mentions should be dismissed as fantastic exaggerations; some may have been based on fact, while others may have had a didactic purpose.
For example, the discourse claims that Mahamaya gave birth while standing, which is by no means improbable. Little is known of ancient Indian birthing practices, but it appears that women commonly delivered in either a sitting, lateral or upright position. Interestingly, Britain’s Royal College of Midwives recommends upright birthing and says that it is quite safe if the midwife and other attendants are properly trained and prepared for it.
The discourse also says that a brilliant light appeared when the Buddha was born – not a star indicating a particular location as with the Christian nativity story – but one which allowed beings to think differently about each other. The sutta says: “When the Buddha came forth from his mother’s womb, a great immeasurable light more radiant even than the light of the gods shone forth into the world… And even in the dark, gloomy spaces between the worlds where the light of our moon and sun, powerful and majestic though they are, cannot reach, even there did that light shine.
“And the beings that are reborn in that darkness became aware of each other because of that light and thought, ‘Indeed there are other beings here’.” It would seem that this story was not meant to suggest that an actual light appeared when the Buddha was born. Rather, it is a literary device, an allegory, a way of saying that the advent of the Buddha would enable beings to become aware of each other, thus making empathy and understanding between them more likely.
Almost the only thing that can be said with certainty about the Buddha’s birth is that it took place in Lumbini, a place between the Buddha’s hometown and the main Koliyan town – Kapilavatthu and Devadaha. The birth is always depicted as happening in the open, with Mahamaya standing and grasping the branch of a tree, and although tradition says Lumbini was a garden, the Tipitaka says it was a village (gama) and King Asoka’s Lumbini inscription calls it a village too. So it is much more likely that she gave birth in one of the village houses or at least under some type of shelter.
The Buddha asked his disciples to try visit the places where the four pivotal events in his life occurred, one of these being Lumbini, and pilgrims must have started going there perhaps even while the Buddha was still alive. The first person we know of to have gone there was King Asoka who made a pilgrimage in 249 BCE. After that we have no records of Lumbini until the Chinese pilgrim Faxian went there at the beginning of the 4th century CE.
About two centuries later another Chinese pilgrim, Xuanzang, visited but neither he or Faxian gave much information about Lumbini other than to mention a few landmarks and to say that it was a rather forlorn place. It seems that by the Muslim conquest of India in the 13th century Lumbini was already lost in the jungle, it’s very whereabouts forgotten. Nothing is known at all about it for the next 1,000 years until the second half of the 19th century. Buddhists still knew of Lumbini’s significance in their religion but it seems they made no effort to locate it, an endeavor task that was taken up by westerners.
As a knowledge of Buddhism by westerns and particularly by British scholars grew, so did an interest in the religion’s historical geography – an interest which grew into a passion and a passion that became a race, to discover the places associated with the Buddha, particularly where he was born and his hometown.
Initially, where the Buddha attained awakening (Bodh Gaya) and where he proclaimed the Dhamma for the first time (Sarnath) were identified with little trouble, then one by one, Kosambi, Savatthi, Rajagaha, Visali and Kusinara were located and excavated, but Lumbini and Kapilavatthu remained frustratingly evasive. The ancient texts all said these two places were near each other so scholars knew that if they found one they would be able to find the other.
The Chinese pilgrims had left fairly detailed information about in what direction and how far one was from the other and scholars argued with each other, sometimes with a great deal of bile, where Lumbini might be found. The more intrepid of those involved in the search even hacked their way through the jungle risking malaria and tigers in a determined effort to be the first to find either place.
Eventually, some of the more perceptive scholars thought the two places might lie somewhere across the British-Indian border in Nepal, in what was called the tarai. This sparsely populated and thickly forested strip of land ran along the India-Nepal border and was dangerously malarial and deliberately left like that by the Nepal’s government in order to deter unwanted foreigners entering the kingdom.
Nonetheless, a few British officers – Vincent Smith, Laurence Waddell and Alois Fuhrer had got managed to get permission to explore parts of the tarai through the good offices of the British authorities. Fuhrer claimed to have discovered several antiquities in the area but all of them were shown to be fraudulent.
Interestingly, on several occasions the British went remarkably close to locating Lumbini without knowing it. In 1816 their surveyors demarcated the India-Nepal border in such a way that Lumbini ended up being in Nepal a mere seven km north of Indian territory. As a result, today one often reads or hears the ridiculous claim that “the Buddha was Nepalese.” If the surveyors had explored the jungle a bit more they might have stumbled on King Asoka’s great pillar and perhaps put the border slightly to its north, and Lumbini would have been in India.
A little more than 60 years later they missed another chance. In 1880, Laurence Waddell, a doctor and passionate amateur antiquarian with a particular interest in locating the Buddha’s birthplace, had been posted to a district abutting the Nepalese border and some locals had informed him that there was a stone pillar in the jungle just across the border in Nepal.
Intrigued, he instructed one of his Indian workers to go there and make a copy of any inscription that might be on the pillar, which was done. However, the worker made a copy of a small piece of graffiti near the top of the pillar – Asoka’s now famous inscription being covered by centuries of rubbish and rubble at the time. When Waddell read the graffiti, which was of no significance, he gave the pillar no further thought, and thus missed having the honor of discovering Lumbini. In the end, that honor went to a Nepalese rather than a Briton.
A Nepalese nobleman named Khadga Shumsher (1861-1921) happened to be the governor of the province which included Lumbini at this time and he came to know about British interest in finding the Buddha’s birthplace. When he heard about the pillar he went to see it, dug away some of the earth around its base and revealed Asoka’s inscription. To cut a long and rather complicated story short, British scholars heard of Shumsher’s discovery, the Nepalese gave them permission to make a copy of the inscription, it was translated and the words “for here the Lord was born” (hida Bhagavam jate ti) finally confirmed the location of Lumbini.
Newspapers in India, Germany, Britain and even Russia all reported the news. Over the next 18 months at the request of the British Indian government the Nepalese gave permission for scholars to visit Lumbini, including some of the big names in Indian and Buddhist studies, including Prof. Rhys David, Vincent Smith, L Waddell, and Willium Hoey.
Right next to Asoka’s pillar was a small temple to a goddess called by the locals Rupam Devi, the interior of which some of these visitors tried to examine, but not being Hindus the presiding swami would not let them enter. However, Hoey managed to slip into the temple unnoticed and found that its principle image was actually an ancient much worn and damaged image of the Buddha’s birth.
Realizing the importance of Lumbini’s identification, in 1899 the British authorities managed to get permission from the Nepalese government to allow
an archaeologist to come to Lumbini to do some excavations. Thinking that a Hindu would be more acceptable to the Nepalese they chose P. C. Mukherji although he was given only two months in which to do his exploration. Of many important discoveries Mukherji found was the missing part of the nativity image in Lumbini’s temple.
One would have hoped that the discovery of Lumbini would allow pilgrims to once again go there in keeping with the Buddha’s instructions that it would be uplifting for a devotee’s faith it they did so. But it was not to be. Nepal’s oppressive and reactionary Rana government was determined to prevent any outside influence into the kingdom, fearing, probably correctly, that it would endanger their grip on power.
Thus for the next 50 years it was almost impossible to visit Lumbini despite being only a few km from Indian territory. Despite such hinderances a few people, sometimes in disguise, managed to do so. A trickle of Indian, Burmese and Sri Lankan Buddhists were able to get to Lumbini, mainly because the border guards thought they might be Nepalese. A few Europeans managed to do it also.
For example, in 1933 the German Indologist Ernst Wald Schmidt teamed up with a small group of locals and accompanied them all the way to what he called “the Bethlehem of Buddhism.” But as soon as he got there a guard noticed him and demanded he leave, although they did allow him to have a look around before being accompanied back to the border.
In 1951 Nepal’s Rana regime was finally overthrown, the king, who had been confined to his palace for decades was freed, and the first attempt to establish a modern democracy in the country was made. In 1955 Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to the king of Nepal informing him that the coming year would mark the 2500 anniversary of the Buddha’s birth which was expected to be celebrated around the world and suggested that he develop Lumbini for the numerous pilgrims who were expected to visit the Buddhist holy places.
King Mahendra took the hint and with a development plan provided by the Indians, a reasonably good road was constructed from Lumbini to Nautanwa (which was to become the main India-Nepal border crossing), a tourist bungalow, post office and a small Theravadin vihara were built and a tube well was dug, all paid for by the king – 100,000 rupees all told. Further, he had a forest of sal trees planted a modest garden laid out and banned animal sacrificed being made in the temple, something he could do as many Nepalese believed, an incarnation of Vishnu.
On the big day of the 1956 Buddha Jayanti the king actually visited Lumbini and announced that from that day onwards that Vesak would be a public holiday.
It should also be noted that beginning in the 1930s but especially after 1951, the Newari Buddhists of Kathmandu, many of who had converted from Mahayana to Theravada, did much to help develop Lumbini: leading pilgrim parties, looking after pilgrims who came, petitioning the governments concerning problems at Lumbini, etc., chief among being Ven. Dhammaloka and Ven. Aniruddha, an alumni of Sri Lanka’s Vidyalankara Pirivana.
When, in 1967, the deeply religious Buddhist Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant, visited Nepal he flew from Kathmandu to Lumbini and after his visit commented: “This is the most important day of my life” and then broke into tears.
On his return to Kathmandu, he met King Mahendra and discussed with him the possibility of further enhancing Lumbini’s sanctity. On his return to New York, he set up a UN committee to turn the nativity site into an international center for peace, got UNESCO involved who in turn hired the famous Japanese architect to draw up a master plan. Tange visited Lumbini and spent some time studing Buddhism and its history (he was not at all religious), and in 1978 his firm submitted its design.
The project to preserve Lumbini and landscape the sacred garden and surrounding park was supposed to be finished by1985, but bureaucratic indolence and corruption in Nepal slowed progress and in 2005 without ever seeing the completion of his master plan. Despite these and other setbacks, Tange’s master plan is largely finished and with most Buddhists countries and several bigger Buddhist organizations building temples there, Lumina has been reborn.
How Hamas built a force to attack Israel on 7 October
Five armed Palestinian groups joined Hamas in the deadly 7 October attack on Israel after training together in military-style exercises from 2020 onwards, BBC News analysis shows.
The groups carried out joint drills in Gaza which closely resembled the tactics used during the deadly assault – including at a site less than 1km (0.6 miles) from the barrier with Israel – and posted them on social media.
They practised hostage-taking, raiding compounds and breaching Israel’s defences during these exercises, the last of which was held just 25 days before the attack.
BBC Arabic and BBC Verify have collated evidence which shows how Hamas brought together Gaza’s factions to hone their combat methods – and ultimately execute a raid into Israel which has plunged the region into war.
‘A sign of unity’
On 29 December 2020, Hamas’s overall leader Ismail Haniyeh declared the first of four drills codenamed Strong Pillar a “strong message and a sign of unity” between Gaza’s various armed factions.
As the most powerful of Gaza’s armed groups, Hamas was the dominant force in a coalition which brought together 10 other Palestinian factions in a war games-style exercise overseen by a “joint operation room”.
Prior to 2018, Hamas had formally coordinated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Gaza’s second largest armed faction and – like Hamas – a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK and other countries.
Hamas had also fought alongside other groups in previous conflicts, but the 2020 drill was billed in propaganda as evidence a wider array of groups were being unified.
Hamas’s leader said the first drill reflected the “permanent readiness” of the armed factions.
The 2020 exercise was the first of four joint drills held over three years, each of which was documented in polished videos posted on public social media channels.
The BBC has visually identified 10 groups, including PIJ, by their distinctive headbands and emblems training alongside Hamas during the Strong Pillar drills in footage posted on the messaging app Telegram.
Following the 7 October attack, five of the groups went on to post videos claiming to show them taking part in the assault. Three others issued written statements on Telegram claiming to have participated.
The role of these groups has come into sharp focus as pressure builds on Hamas to find dozens of women and children believed to have been taken as captives from Israel into Gaza by other factions on 7 October. Three groups – PIJ, the Mujahideen Brigades and Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades – claim to have seized Israeli hostages on that day.
Efforts to extend the temporary truce in Gaza were said to be hinging on Hamas locating those hostages. The structure was set up in 2018 to coordinate Gaza’s armed factions under a central command.
While these groups are drawn from a broad ideological spectrum ranging from hard-line Islamist to relatively secular, all shared a willingness to use violence against Israel.
Hamas statements repeatedly stressed the theme of unity between Gaza’s disparate armed groups. The group suggested they were equal partners in the joint drills, whilst it continued to play a leading role in the plans to attack Israel. Footage from the first drill shows masked commanders in a bunker appearing to conduct the exercise, and begins with a volley of rocket fire.
It cuts to heavily armed fighters overrunning a mocked-up tank marked with an Israeli flag, detaining a crew member and dragging him away as a prisoner, as well as raiding buildings.
We know from videos and harrowing witness statements that both tactics were used to capture soldiers and target civilians on 7 October, when around 1,200 people were killed and an estimated 240 hostages were taken.
Telling the world
The second Strong Pillar drill was held almost exactly one year later.
Ayman Nofal, a commander in the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades – the official name for Hamas’s armed wing – said the aim of the exercise on 26 December 2021 was to “affirm the unity of the resistance factions”.
He said the drills would “tell the enemy that the walls and engineering measures on the borders of Gaza will not protect them”.
Another Hamas statement said the “joint military manoeuvres” were designed to “simulate the liberation of settlements near Gaza” – which is how the group refers to Israeli communities.
The exercise was repeated on 28 December 2022, and propaganda images of fighters practising clearing buildings and overrunning tanks in what appears to be a replica of a military base were published to mark the event.
The exercises were reported on in Israel, so it’s inconceivable they were not being closely monitored by the country’s extensive intelligence agencies.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have previously carried out air strikes to disrupt Hamas’s training activities. In April 2023, they bombed the site used for the first Strong Pillar drill.
Weeks before the attacks, female surveillance soldiers near the Gaza border reportedly warned of unusually high drone activity and that Hamas was training to take over observation posts with replicas of their positions.
But, according to reports in the Israeli media, they say they were ignored. Brigadier General Amir Avivi, a former IDF deputy commander in Gaza, told the BBC: “There was a lot of intelligence that they were doing this training – after all, the videos are public, and this was happening just hundreds of metres from the fence (with Israel).”
But he said while the military knew about the drills, they “didn’t see what they were training for”.
The IDF said they “eliminated” Nofal on 17 October 2023, the first senior Hamas military leader to be killed during the conflict.
Hiding in plain sight
Hamas went to great lengths to make sure the drills were realistic.
In 2022, fighters practised storming a mock Israeli military base built just 2.6km (1.6 miles) from the Erez crossing, a route between Gaza and Israel controlled by the IDF.
BBC Verify has pinpointed the site in the far north of Gaza, just 800m (0.5 miles) from the barrier, by matching geographic features seen in the training footage to aerial images of the area. As of November 2023, the site was still visible on Bing Maps.
The training camp was within 1.6km (1 mile) of an Israeli observation tower and an elevated observation box, elements in a security barrier Israel has spent hundreds of millions of dollars constructing.
The mock base is on land dug several metres below ground level, so it may not have been immediately visible to any nearby Israeli patrols – but the smoke rising from the explosions surely would have been, and the IDF is known to use aerial surveillance.
Hamas used this site to practise storming buildings, taking hostages at gunpoint and destroying security barriers.
BBC Verify has used publicly available information – including satellite imagery – to locate 14 training sites at nine different locations across Gaza.
They even trained twice at a site less than 1.6 km (1 mile) from the United Nations’ aid agency distribution centre, and which was visible in the background of an official video published by the agency in December 2022.
Land, sea and air
On 10 September 2023, the so-called joint committee room published images on its dedicated Telegram channel of men in military uniforms carrying out surveillance of military installations along the Gaza barrier.
Two days later, the fourth Strong Pillar military exercise was staged, and by 7 October, all the tactics that would be deployed in the unprecedented attack had been rehearsed.
Fighters were filmed riding in the same type of white Toyota pickup trucks which were seen roaming through southern Israel the following month.
The propaganda video shows gunmen raiding mock buildings and firing at dummy targets inside, as well as training to storm a beach using a boat and underwater divers. Israel has said it repelled attempted Hamas boat landings on its shores on 7 October.
However, Hamas did not publicise its training with motorcycles and paragliders as part of the Strong Pillar propaganda.
A training video posted by Hamas three days after 7 October shows fences and barriers being demolished to allow motorcycles to pass through, a tactic they used to reach communities in southern Israel. We have not identified similar earlier videos.
Footage of fighters using paragliding equipment was also not published until the 7 October attack was under way.
In a training video shared on the day of the attack, gunmen are seen landing in a mock kibbutz at an airstrip we have located to a site north of Rafah in southern Gaza.
BBC Verify established it was recorded some time before 25 August 2022, and was stored in a computer file titled Eagle Squadron, the name Hamas uses for its aerial division – suggesting the paragliders plan was in the works for over a year.
The element of surprise
Before 7 October, Hamas was thought to have about 30,000 fighters in the Gaza Strip, according to reports quoting IDF commanders. It was also thought that Hamas could draw on several thousands of fighters from smaller groups.
Hamas is by far the most powerful of the Palestinian armed groups, even without the support of other factions – suggesting its interest in galvanising the factions was driven by an attempt to secure broad support within Gaza at least as much as bolstering its own numbers.
The IDF has previously estimated 1,500 fighters joined the 7 October raids. The Times of Israel reported earlier this month the IDF now believes the number was closer to 3,000.
Whatever the true number, it means only a relatively small fraction of the total number of armed operatives in Gaza took part. It is not possible to verify precise numbers for how many fighters from smaller groups took part in the attack or the Strong Pillar drills.
While Hamas was building cross-faction support in the build-up to the attack, Hisham Jaber, a former Brigadier General in the Lebanese army who is now a security analyst at the Middle East Centre for Studies and Research, said he believed only Hamas was aware of the ultimate plan, and it was “probable they]asked other factions to join on the day”.
Andreas Krieg, a senior lecturer in security studies at Kings College London, told the BBC: “While there was centralised planning, execution was de-centralised, with each squad operationalising the plan as they saw fit.”
He said he had spoken to people inside Hamas who were surprised by the weakness of Israel’s defences, and assessed militants likely bypassed Israel’s surveillance technology by communicating offline.
Hugh Lovatt, a Middle East analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Israel would have been aware of the joint training drills but “reached the wrong conclusion”, assessing they amounted to the “standard” activity of paramilitary groups in the Palestinian territories, rather than being “indicative of a looming large-scale attack”.
Asked about the issues raised in this article, the Israel Defense Forces said it was “currently focused on eliminating the threat from the terrorist organisation Hamas” and questions about any potential failures “will be looked into in a later stage”.
It could be several years until Israel formally reckons with whether it missed opportunities to prevent the 7 October massacre. The ramifications for its military, intelligence services and government could be seismic.
Rebuild trust with people to revive economy
by Jehan Perera
The government is facing an uphill task to rebuild the country which continues to be in a state of economic and moral decline which was evident in parliamentary proceedings last week. The initial hopes of a quick transition from the economic and moral decline that accompanied the pre-Aragalaya period ended with the accession of President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the presidency. The President made skillful use of the security forces, in the first instance, and the parliamentary majority thereafter, to restore the old order, government rule and stabilise the economy, albeit at a much lower level of economic wellbeing. But this won for him and the government the support of those sections of the population who could still live their regular lives and the international community who did not want Sri Lanka to fall prey to rival powers.
The Central Bank Governor Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe has expressed confidence that Sri Lanka will receive the second tranche of the IMF loan before the end of the year. He has made this prediction despite the failure of the government to meet the basic IMF conditions, which include reducing the gap between revenues and expenditures. The ability to access IMF funds despite not conforming with its conditions is indicative of favoured status. The budget prepared by the government shows a widening of the chasm that are mitigated by optimistic predictions of increased tax revenues. The government has signally failed to deliver on the IMF’s “governance diagnostic” which highlighted the need for much greater efforts to tackle corruption and to be transparent in the signing of new contracts.
If social media reports and personal anecdotes are to be believed, corruption is thriving at all levels. Agreements with international companies continue to be entered into with little being known of the terms and conditions, and even the debt restructuring agreement with China continues to be a secret.
But there continues to be a belief amongst sections of the Sri Lankan population and international community alike that the present unsatisfactory governance needs to be tolerated until the country makes the transition to self-sustaining economic growth. There is concern that any change of government at the present time would jeopardise the economic stability that the country has achieved despite the unconvincing evidence to the contrary. The general population is expressing its lack of confidence in the future by fleeing abroad and giving votes of no-confidence in every public opinion poll they can.
Despite the government’s continued hold on undisputed power, and skillful use of its parliamentary majority and security forces to enforce governmental rule, it is not able to show that it has the backing of the majority of the general population. The government’s policies seem to have the support of the business and upper social classes whose position is that there is no better alternative at present, a view that is echoed in diplomatic circles. But this sentiment is not reflected in public opinion polls that equally consistently reveal that the government and its leadership get less than 20 percent of the support and even much less. This accounts for why the government has resolutely defied calls for the holding of local government and provincial council elections, the latter which are long overdue.
The President’s announcement that presidential and parliamentary elections will be held next year may be a recognition that the government has come to the realization that it cannot continue to justify holding on to power without obtaining a fresh people’s mandate. The proposed budget is an indication of the government’s preparation for those elections. There are efforts in it to provide benefits for different sections of the people, though whether these promises will materialize is another question due to paucity of resources. President Wickremesinghe has pledged to provide tens of thousands of farmer families with free hold title to the land they currently cultivate under state leases. The motivation to obtain the vote of people by providing them with economic benefits is one of the key features of the democratic process not only in Sri Lanka but worldwide.
However, the skillful use of state power to provide economic benefits, utilizing the parliamentary majority to come up with news laws and use of the security forces to enforce those laws are not the only ingredient for success in governance. The general population need to trust those who are in power. This trust comes from consistency in word and deed. One of the features of the present government is that deeds do not follow words. The exemplary anti-corruption legislation is being used to catch those at the lower levels of the hierarchy but those at the higher levels continue to escape. The recent Supreme Court decision that apportions blame for the economic crisis that plunged vast numbers of people into poverty has not been acted upon and there is no indication at the present time that it will be acted upon.
There are two other areas where the government needs to rebuild the trust of the people. First is to convince them that the burden of economic recovery will be apportioned justly and equitably. The restructuring of the EPF and ETF pension funds which affected the poorer sections of the people adversely while the sparing of the banking (and corporate) sector may have been motivated by the fear that the collapse of the banking sector was a real possibility. However, the evidence that is now coming out, as demonstrated in Parliament by the Opposition, that huge amounts of loans taken by companies have been absorbed by the banks is unconscionable. The government needs to promise that it will rectify this and other such inequities as soon as possible, including the tax holidays to favoured companies. The recent parliamentary debates have provided the opportunity for the Opposition to make presentations that highlight the need for consistency.
The second area that needs to be addressed is the ethnic conflict in the country. This is a problem that has receded into the background of the national discourse, due to the overwhelming nature of the economic crisis. However, one of the root causes of the country’s economic crisis is that huge amounts of resources were devoted to fighting a war that need not have taken place if there had been policies that promoted inter-ethnic justice and equity. The security forces continue to extract a large part of the budget. Sri Lanka is not a unique country when it comes to having different ethnic and religious communities. Other countries have them too, but most of those countries, especially those that are economically successful, have found ways to resolve their differences through dialogue and mutual accommodation that benefits the entire society. Provincial council elections have not been held for over five years.
There is a need to convince the ethnic and religious minorities that they are a part and parcel of the polity and treated as equal citizens. The provincial council elections cannot be postponed for another two years. There is no logical basis in the President stating they will be held in the year following the presidential and parliamentary elections. The wrong that was done to the Tamils of recent Indian origin at Independence has still not been rectified. They continue to be the poorest and most neglected community in the country. An issue that is scarring the Tamil and Muslim people at the present time is the takeover of grazing lands in the east by people from outside the area. The residents of those areas have no government to protect them. This is not the way to build trust that will unify the people with the government to uplift the economy.
Christmas and the New Year in the Seychelles…
Although the group Mirage has been relatively quiet, in the local showbiz scene, they will certainly be missed by music lovers, and their fans, during the festive period.
They leave on Sunday, the 3rd of December, for a month long stay in probably the smallest country in Africa – the Seychelles.
The group, comprising Donald Pieries (drums/vocals), Benjy Ranabahu (bass), Thushara Rajarathna (keyboards/vocals), Thilak Perera (guitar/vocals) and Dhanushka Uyanahewa (vocals), will be at the Hilton Seychelles for two major gigs – Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
They will also be entertaining guests throughout their stay at the Hilton.
The group’s male vocalist, the famous Manilal Perera, who is now very much a part of Mirage, is unable to make this trip due to prior commitments, in the local scene, as a solo artiste.
Dhanushka Uyanahewa, who is not a regular member of Mirage, replaces Manilal for this particular assignment.
Since this is their very first trip to the Seychelles, they say they are looking forward, with great excitement, to checking out that part of the world.
The Seychelles is known for its picturesque beaches, ecological diversity, dense tropical forests, and the bright blue ocean that surrounds it, all of which combine to make the archipelago world-famous.
Mirage will be back in early January, 2024, and then, a few weeks later, they will be off to Australia for a Valentine’s Day gig in Melbourne.
The band has been to Australia before but it will be the first time that the present lineup would be operating, Down Under, with Manilal Perera as their frontline vocalist.
Their female vocalist Dhanushka Uyanahewa, who will perform with Mirage in the Seychelles, will not be in the lineup to Australia.
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