This is the first in a series of posts which will take an in depth look at some of the most interesting Vesak stamps of Sri Lanka.
The four stamp set issued to commemorate Vesak in 1996 featured four scenes from the Therigàthà which is the ninth book of the Khuddaka Nikaya, which in turn is the fifth part of the Sutta Pitaka, which in turn appears in the first division of the Tipitaka, the sacred scriptures of Buddhism (and boy what a mouthful that was). It has a companion volume,the Theragàthà.
Education in Sri Lanka is a big deal. We have a very high literacy rate, said to be the highest in South Asia and one of the highest when comparing across the whole of Asia. I can’t help wonder though, could this at least partly be a result of, or due to the booming education industry? The government’s free education system is great in theory but there is also a glut of privately run schools, institutes and universities and not all of them deliver. Just to give you some context, our Sunday newspapers often carry TWO multi page educational supplements!
Schools in particular also seem to generate a certain amount of class divide. Of all the things we could have picked up from our British ex-overlords, is the status we seem to confer on those who went to a “good” school. Admittedly, I have not been completely immune to this phenomenon because I still have the occasional fantasy about reading English at Oxford but, that’s a subject for a different post. The number of times I have been asked what school I went to within the first 5 minutes of me meeting someone, well, it’s enough to make my blood boil. And I did attend one of these so called “good” schools – a private convent for girls in fact. Anyone listening to me swear in the vernacular would be hard pressed to imagine that I ever spent any time there.
It all started with this 1985 stamp from Royal College – allegedly the “best” public boys school in Sri Lanka
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.
I’ve had this stamp for awhile but recently picked up the FDC at an auction. It’s a bit grimy but I got it for next to nothing so I won’t complain.
What I find interesting about the stamp however, is the way somebody carefully designed the partial arms holding up the flag to ensure each ethnic group was represented. Cute huh?
Sri Lanka 2008 Independence Day Stamp
This got me looking around on the subject of Sri Lanka Independence Day stamps and apparently there are quite a few. Of course, the successful ousting of the white man is a REALLY BIG DEAL in these parts, so it’s only to be expected I suppose.
2010 saw the issue of a stamp featuring the Magam Ruhunupura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port or quite simply, the Hambanthota port. Featuring a small portrait of the man himself, it is a typical “look at me, look what I built” piece of philately.
Look I think its great that the Universal Postal Union (UPU) got a brand new building way back in 1970 and that Sri Lanka felt the need to issue a completely unimaginative stamp to commemorate this glorious event but why on earth did they mark the face value in the red stamp using fractions?
Old buildings just get me. I don’t care if they are dusty or creaky or ugly or old – I love them with a passion. There is also a penchant to stand in them with my eyes squeezed shut trying to recall my past lives. There should be at least one in which I was the Dowager Countess of Grantham, I swear.
Telephones are the pits
I should point out though, that I would not actually want to live in one of these great hulking beasts today unless I had an army of maids and butlers. As a personal preference, I like to inhabit solidly air-conditioned (fuck the goddamn tropics), minimalist spaces with little to no furniture (when can we have self cleaning apartments again?) but this isn’t about my hangups, this was supposed to be about stamps. Specifically, these beauties.