Sri Dalada Maligawa goes green with ban on plastic of all kinds
Enshrining what may well be a genuine tooth of the historical Buddha, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is Sri Lanka’s most famous sight. Sprawling along the shoreline of Kandy’s Bogambara Lake, this ancient temple was founded in the third century BC, and it still sees a daily throng of Buddhist pilgrims jostling to get close to the revered relic of Siddhartha Gautama.
All these pilgrims – more than a million arrive just for the Esala Perahera festival in July and August – place a massive strain on the infrastructure of both the temple and the surrounding city. Devotees transport tonnes of fruit, flowers and other offerings into Kandy every day, generating vast amounts of rubbish from plastic bags and packaging.
Now the Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry have taken the radical step of designating the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic as Sri Lanka’s first green place of worship. From this week, the temple compound will officially be a plastic-free zone, and a special rubbish collection service has been set up to remove biodegradable waste from offerings of food and flowers.
The ban goes further than most; even plastic vases are now banned from the site as temple custodians strive to reduce the mountains of waste produced by the thousands of devotees who visit daily. The ruling is part of a wider plan to free Sri Lanka from the blight of plastic rubbish. Last week, the government announced a nationwide ban on polythene packaging and financial incentives for packaging and bags from natural materials or biodegradable plastic.
The government is following a long-established Buddhist tradition. The teachings of the Buddha place a strong emphasis on the rejection of material possessions and respect for all living things, and Siddhartha Gautama famously gave his first public sermon in the deer park at Sarnath, one the world’s first nature reserves.