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Phase II: Regional expansion

Sri Lanka

The 1998 terrorist bombing of the Temple of the Tooth Relic in the World Heritage city of Kandy highlighted the need to revive the tradition of sangha stewardship over and competence in the conservation of temples.  To repair the damage done to the Temple of the Tooth Relic, specialists had to be brought in from India, causing concern about the authenticity of the repair work in conformity with traditional Sri Lankan practice. 

To ensure that in the future the Sri Lankan sangha can maintain its religious and artistic heritage, the two sangharajas (Buddhist patriarchs) resident in Kandy requested UNESCO assistance in the revitalization of traditional building and craft skills within the Sri Lankan Buddhist sangha.

UNESCO was also requested by the Central Cultural Fund (the national agency mandated to conserve the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka) to integrate into this project the training of monks in preventive conservation with special attention to measures to halt deterioration of temple mural paintings.  As an initial project activity in Sri Lanka, a meeting of senior monks will be held to coordinate the training nation-wide. to formulate a national strategy for the implementation of the monks’ project in multiple sites.

With a peace process firmly in place, Sri Lanka is poised for a cultural renaissance and with it a massive upswing in tourism at the 5 World Heritage sites clustered together in the Cultural Triangle centered on the city of Kandy.  The annual Pageant of the Tooth Relic is already one of the region’s largest tourist events and one that places enormous stresses the infrastructure of the historic town of Kandy.  The Pageant however also provides the market for a large number of traditional arts and crafts, as well as traditional music and theatrical performances all of which flourish in and around Kandy.

With more and more of the country safe for travel and opening to tourism, the demand for high-quality craftsmen to repair the long-neglected and war-damaged temples, and to provide the supporting arts and handicrafts is increasing exponentially.  At the same time, the number of young men entering the monkhood has also increased.  The abbots of the two major temples of Anuradapura, the most ancient capital of Sri Lanka located in previously contested territory, have both approach UNESCO for assistance in training the young monks and novices in their temples in traditional religious crafts and building skills.