India has released a new postage stamp commemorating Anagarika Dharmapala. Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the president of India, announced the release of the stamp at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the office of the Indian president, on 25 October. Union Minister for Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad and several dignitaries from India and Sri Lanka, including Buddhist monks, were also present at the launch. Dharmapala, who was born in 1864 and passed away in 1933, was famous among members of the Sinhalese Buddhist community for campaigning on behalf of Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism and the revival of Buddhism within and beyond the Indian subcontinent.
A grand celebration marking the 150th anniversary of Anagarika Dharmapala’s birth was held across Sri Lanka earlier this year, from 1–17 September. The event, which was inaugurated at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies in Colombo, included a number of religious and cultural programs. The celebration was attended by people from different social strata and professions, and the Anagarika Dharmapala Trust published a book in Sinhala, written by veteran journalist Edmund Ranasinghe, on the challenges Anagarika Dharmapala faced during his many campaigns. A special vehicle parade to remind people of Dharmapala’s contribution to Buddhism, local culture, and education was held as well, while the Sri Lankan Buddhist community in the UK organized an event at the London Buddhist Vihara, of which Anagarika Dharmapala was the founder.
When announcing the release of the commemorative stamp, Pranab Mukherjee was reported by the Business Standard as having said that it would further strengthen ties between India and Sri Lanka, bringing the two nations closer together. The Indian president continued: “This stamp release on one of the apostles of Buddhism, once again reminds us to work relentlessly and collectively to ensure an era of peace, stability, and friendly bilateral and multilateral ties in order to create an enabling environment for the rapid socio-economic development of the people.”
According to NetIndia, the president highlighted the fact that Buddhism, which is one of the major world religions and began in India, is based on non-violence and the pursuit of spiritual excellence. “Its principles continue to have great relevance even in this age . . . It aims to wean the humanity away from war and skirmishes and inspires people to channelize their collective energy towards the betterment of society,” he explained.
Anagarika Dharmapala’s contributions to Buddhist nationalism, culture, education, and the revitalization of Buddhism in Sri Lanka made him one of the most respected and remembered Buddhist figures in the world, especially among Sri Lankan Buddhists. He worked together with the founders of the Theosophical Society, Henry Steel Olcott and Helena Blavatsky, and also pioneered the campaign for the conservation of ancient Buddhist sites in India, such as Bodhgaya and Sarnath. According to the Daily Mirror, in 1931, two years before his death, Anagarika Dharmapala was ordained into the Buddhist Order and given the Dharma name Sri Devamitta Dharmapala. To commemorate his centenary, in 1964 Sri Lanka released its first postage stamp of the revivalist, which is still in use today.
Read the full speech of President Pranab Mukherjee.