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20th Anniversary of the Mora Tree Revolution PDF Print E-mail

There is ample evidence to prove that Sri Lanka’s culture could boast of traditions extending beyond 2,500 years. Although the values of this proud culture had fluctuated over the years the Sri Lankan Buddhist Priest should invariably get the honour of protecting it, in fact for centuries. It is an accepted fact that the Maha Sangha was the forerunner of the Sri Lankan Nation and its culture.

Only a few Bhikkhus are engaged in national missions with far reaching environmental importance having ventured beyond the traditional timetable of the Bhikkhus who are expected to devote their lives and energy for the religious and social duties of the Buddhists at large.

This article is issued as a mark of respect, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the revolution initiated by a Buddhist Priest who is engaged in such a national mission.

It is indeed doubtful whether there is anybody in Sri Lanka today who is not aware of Asia’s biggest Pink Quartz Deposit belonging to the pre-historic era of 550 million years ago and the biggest Na forest located in Sri Lanka.

This national treasure that has by now attracted the attention of the whole world was a mere forest reserve in the Mahaweli H-Zone just two decades ago. It was, then known as Galappalle Lunugal Debala and Na jungle. At a time when the present National Namal Uyana was being stripped of her natural beauty by the relentless onslaught of illicit timber dealers and hunters, this area attracted the attention of Venerable Rahula Thero residing at a close-by temple at Ranawa as a result of some information passed on to him in a dream.

When the Ven. Rahula Thero visited the site described in the dream he was able to catch the sight of not only Na trees but also some ruins of an ancient Buddhist place of religious worship, including a Bodhi Chamber, Dagoba, Statues etc. A special object that caught the eyes of Ven. Rahula Thero who had a natural inclination to Mother Nature was a stone receptacle filled with water that was carried in a small stream flowing along the forest.

While these legacies of nature were there on one side, a historic Buddhist Sacred Place was also there on the other side. These Buddhist ruins were scattered all over the place. The bio-diversity of the site was enhanced with the presence of mammals, reptiles, fish, birds and numerous species of plants. They were really pleasing to the eye as well.

Ven. Rahula Thero had never entertained any misgivings about fulfilling his duty in performing the challenging task of identifying this site not only as a magnanimous creation of mother nature but also as a centre which gave prominence to the martial capabilities of the ancient Sinhalese and as a meditation centre for the Buddhist Bhikkhus with all the facilities necessary for the achievement of their goals in meditation and preserving the site safely and securely for future generations.

Emboldened by this attitude the Maha Thera ventured to act as the veritable defender of the site having set up a camp on a Mora Tree a height of about 40 feet from the ground on March 28, 1991, disregarding the grave dangers posed by the venomous reptiles and other wild beasts including wild elephants. However, it was no easy task for a Buddhist Priest. He had to face the wrath of the illicit timber merchants as well as the inhuman hunters.

In spite of the fact that various undesirable elements had got together to drive away Ven. Rahula from the site, his conscience did not allow him to shirk the responsibility of preserving the sacred site consisting of numerous historic artifacts, for the benefit of the future generation.

The biggest Pink Quartz Deposit in South Asia and the largest Na forest in the island that caught the limelight of the people as a result of the revolution of the Mora Tree launched on March 28, 1991 have attracted the keen attention of the whole world today.

At a time when the national parks of our country, which have been declared world heritages, have been named after the white imperialists who had no love for the indigenous culture or the environment, the National Namal Uyana is the only plot of land at national level which is identified by an indigenous name that is close to our hearts and in keeping with our culture.

Ven. Rahula Thera was rewarded with the Presidential Environment Award in 2004, the Sri Lanka Green Award and also awards from the Sri Lanka Ramangna Sect and the Sri Lanka Amarapura Sect for his valuable noble deeds, proving the point that there are still grateful people in this island of ours.

Thanks to his great insight he took action in 2003 to hand over this national treasure to the Department of Forests with a view to ensuring state protection for the site.

The Chairmanship of the National Namal Uyana Conservation Trust is presently graced by none other than Mr. Namal Rajapaksa, MP. It is fervently expected that being an illustrious son of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Mr. Namal Rajapaksa would undoubtedly render yeoman service for the maintenance and development of this national treasure in view of the fact that the President is a national leader who was born and bred in the natural environment of a village in the Ruhuna.

While expressing my heartiest greetings on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the National Namal Uyana let me also express my best wishes for long life to Ven. Rahula Thero who is engaged in a great national endeavour in protecting and preserving the national environment.

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