US Embassy in Sri Lanka Grants US$300,000 to Preserve Buddhist Relics
The Embassy of the United States of America in Sri Lanka has announced new grants totaling US$300,000 to help fund the restoration of the ancient Rajagala Monastery and the preservation of other artifacts stored at Anuradhapura Archaeological Museum. Since 2005, the embassy has provided grants for 11 conservation projects in Sri Lanka through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP), representing total funding of more than US$730,000.
The University of Sri Jayewardenepura will receive US$150,000 to continue its restoration of Rajagala Monastery. The funding will support a comprehensive ground survey of the ancient Buddhist structure and will also be used to help with conservation of some of the most important monuments at the site, which were used by early Buddhist monks. This latest grant is the second time the US has provided funding for the project, following a US$100,000 grant in 2013.
“Our partnership with the United States is important to help us learn more about the lives of Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka,” said Professor P. B. Mandawala, who heads the University of Sri Jayewardenepura’s Department of History & Archaeology. (Asian Tribune)
Sri Lanka’s Department of Archaeology will also receive US$150,000, to be used for improving the storage and preservation of artifacts at Anuradhapura Archaeological Museum—one of the most visited museums in the country. The embassy has previously provided grants to the museum in 2009 and 2012.
“Lack of funding and poor storage conditions threaten to destroy a priceless part of our history,” said archaeological conservator Anusha Kasthuri, who is working on the Anuradhapura project. “Now we can preserve it for future generations.” (Asian Tribune)
US Ambassador Atul Keshap said of the contribution: “The United States recognizes the importance of preserving Sri Lankan religious and cultural heritage sites and has committed 100 million Sri Lankan rupees to this effort since 2005. We hope that our cooperation with Sri Lanka to preserve cultural heritage sites will help raise international awareness and provide a boost for tourism and people-to-people understanding.” (Asian Tribune)
Anuradhapura Archaeological Museum, also known as Puravidu Bhavana, was established in 1947. It exhibits antiquities from various regions of Sri Lanka, including Buddhist statues, inscriptions, drawings, puppets, coins, and jewelry.
Rajagalathenna, or Rajagala Temple, is situated on Rassagala, commonly known as Rajagala (The Monarch’s Rock), a rugged and heavily forested mountain that is also an area of major archaeological significance in Sri Lanka as it is home to some 600 prehistoric ruins, monuments, and artifacts. The kings and princes of the ancient kingdoms of Sri Lanka visited the once great monastery, known in ancient times as Girikumbhila Temple, which is believed to date back to at least the 3rd century BCE.