Sri Lanka has been issuing Vesak stamps every year since the late 70s. The majority of these early issues are some of the most treasured in my collection because they depict some awesome bits of history, mythology and art and I tend to geek out over that type of thing. Unfortunately, most of the later ones have not been as interesting and this year is much the same.
We actually had two separate Vesak issues this year with a three stamp set commemorating Vesak and a separate one stamp issue commemorating the State Vesak Festival. Why this was necessary is beyond me and none of the stamps look particularly special.
2015 Vesak stamps
Date of issue: 20 April 2015
Sri Lanka Vesak 2015, Rs 8
Sri Lanka Vesak 2015, Rs 10
Sri Lanka Vesak 2015, Rs 50
So we’ve obviously taken the path of misplaced devotion with this year’s stamps since they all feature types of ‘offerings’ and ‘homage’ one can offer to the Buddha (the dude who literally said fuck this shit and walked away from the world). To be fair, the illustrations are nicely done although the theme leaves me utterly uninspired. To quote from the stamp bulletin,
Amisa Pooja (Material Offerings)
Offerings of material items such as flowers, incense, water, victuals (Gilanpasa) etc. by way of paying homage to Buddha is known as Amisa Pooja. Apart from such offerings, activities such as conducting Dan Sal (offering free foods and drinks to devotees), making Vesak lanterns and taking part in pilgrimages too are considered as Amisa Poojas. Particularly on Vesak days, Buddhist devotees engage themselves in the practice of decorating their homes with Buddhist flags, lanterns etc., and making offerings of flowers, incense to Buddha by way of invoking merit for themselves. The main virtue which is developed through such Amisa Poojas is Saddha or piety. It is the basic requirement for Buddhists in the realization of the ultimate goal of Nibbana which is the sum total of the Dhamma. Therefore, it is with great enthusiasm and devotion that Buddhist people engage themselves in Amisa Poojas in order to cultivate such virtues as Saddha.
Pratipatti Pooja (Spiritual Offerings)
Making offerings to Buddha by engaging in excellent good deeds such as Sila (good conduct), Bhavana (meditation) etc, is known as Pratipatti or spiritual offering. Buddha has highly valued this type of activities in the total elimination of powerful evil deeds such as Lobha (desire), Dvesha (malice) and Moha (ignorance) which contribute to the prolongation of the Samsaric journey. Those good practices help the total elimination of such evil deeds; purify one’s mind and restrain one’s body and words. Ultimately, a noble being is created in this manner. Therefore this practice is the nobler one of the two and Buddha has even preached that it is the best respect that one can bestow upon him. Therefore Buddhists make it a point to engage in observing Sil on the full moon day of every month in order to make that noble offering and particularly on the Vesak day they engage themselves in such meritorious acts in large numbers.
The 2015 State Vesak Festival stamp
Date of issue: 4 May 2015
Sri Lanka State Vesak Festival – 2015
The State Vesak Festival is just the annual governmental nonsense they do to commemorate Vesak each year. I’m sure the Buddha encouraged elaborate Vesak lanterns and lightshows much in the same way that Jesus condoned 85 foot Christmas trees. No seriously.
This year’s ‘festival’ was held in Mahiyangana, which is believed to be the site of Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka. The event included Vesak lantern competitions and the Mahiyangana Saya Wandana which involved “the lighting of thousands of bulbs”. What’s interesting is that the government obviously waited until the festival was over to declare May as an energy conservation month.
As for the stamp itself, it features an image of the Mahiyangana stupa and some pieces of a painting which was discovered within its relic chamber during excavations conducted by the Department of Archaeology in 1951. The pieces shown in the stamp depicts the god Vishnu
bearing a tray of flowers dated to be between 9-11 century AD.
Mahiyangana relic chamber painting – Vishnu (image via artsrilanka.org)
It is currently on display at the Anuradhapura museum.
The formal issue of the stamp and first day cover can be viewed in the below news report (featured at around the .39 sec mark)
- For more information on Vesak as celebrated around the world go here.
- To view the full stamp bulletins for these two issues go here and here.