Arts and Culture
This second volume of essays discusses certain aspects of the Buddhist Image House (Viharageya) focussing on murals and sculptures. It examines the transitions in the decades before and after Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948. The five introductory articles open the discussions surrounding Nation Building seen in visual cultures within the Image House, in 19th century Europe and in contemporary Panorama Museums in Pnom Penh, Istanbul, Volgograd, Prague and Atlanta. The volume seeks to understand how laypersons of the upcoming urban society living under the British in a cosmopolitan society, negotiated new identity formations while addressing aspirations for those speaking Sinhala called “Buddhists”. The academic essays explore strategies of creating this identity by sponsoring the building of Buddhist Image Houses and English-Buddhist schools, renovating stupas as new sites for pilgrimage, engaging in subversive anti-colonial activities, instigating riots and demonstrations to create public awareness, inaugurating vernacular schools, studying Abhidharma, meditating in urban and forest recluses and establishing networks through organized societies locally and internationally.
Photography, printing on paper - newspapers , lithographs and novels, automobile, train and steamship transportation, the emergence of radio as well as the gramophone as means of communication gave the aspirations of the Buddhists fresh momentum . The arrival of Westerners of British, American, German and Russian origin as missionaries, theosophists and orientalists resulted in strengthening of ties with spiritual leaders and intellectuals from India and brought traditional religious practices and lifestyles of the island under critique.