The beginning of my trip coincided with a religious holiday known as Vesak, which falls on the night of a full moon during the month of May. Sri Lanka is a majority Buddhist country, and this year the country was the global epicenter of a UN-sanctioned celebration commemorating the birth and enlightenment of the Buddha. The holiday kicked off in Colombo and the ceremony came to a close in Kandy. At night, the streets of Kandy were aglow with fantastically ornate lanterns called Vesak koodu. Their lighting represents an offering to Buddha. Some came in colors while others rotated on contraptions made of bicycle wheels. Of particular note was the gigantic electric neon display from which Buddhist chants echoed into the damp night. In addition, people lined the side of the roads to give away free food and drink to those passing through in accordance with the practice of alms giving. However, alcohol is not permitted during this occasion. The artisanship and generosity observed during Vesak were truly something to behold.
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Most appear to be made of wood and paper. Some more sturdy versions may be made out of plastic or vinyl. Unfortunately, when all the celebrating is over, virtually all of these lanterns will just be thrown away. Apparently this creates a big problem in terms of waste management.
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