For two close neighbours with a shared history and civilizational links dating back several millennia, it is natural that cultural cooperation would be a very important aspect of the bilateral relationship. The advent of Buddhism in Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BCE is linked with the arrival in Sri Lanka of Prince Mahendra (also known as Arahat Mahinda) and later of Princess Sanghamitra, the children of the great Indian Emperor Ashoka. The bonds forged since then have become stronger over the years.
A number of events were organized in recent years to highlight the common bonds. In 2012, both countries jointly celebrated the 2600th year of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha – Sambuddhatva Jayanti. As part of these celebrations, the following events were organised:
The Indian Gallery at the International Buddhist Museum, Sri Dalada Maligawa, was completed just in time for CHOGM and was thereafter formally inaugurated on 8th December 2013 by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and the High Commissioner. The Gallery highlights the shared heritage and close Buddhist links between India and Sri Lanka, even as it traces the spread of Buddhism from India to different parts of the World.
The two Governments jointly celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Anagarika Dharmapala this year. The Hon’ble President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee released a commemorative postage stamp on Anagarika Dharmapala at Rashtrapati Bhavan on October 25, 2014.
The National Crafts Council published a Crafts Map of Sri Lanka with the assistance of the India Sri Lanka Foundation, and under the guidance of Dastkari Haat Samithi, New Delhi. The first copy of a Crafts Map Of Sri Lanka was presented to His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksa by Mr. Buddhi Keerthisena, Chairman of the National Crafts Council of Sri Lanka in the presence of Hon’ble Douglas Devananda, Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development of Sri Lanka, and Mr. Y.K. Sinha, the High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka, at a ceremony organized at Temple Trees on September 18, 2014.
The third meeting of Culture Ministers from the SAARC countries was held in New Delhi on September 25, 2014 under the chairmanship of Shri Shripad Naik, Hon’ble Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Culture of India.
The SAARC Culture Ministers appraised the meeting on national initiatives on conservation, preservation and promotion of cultural heritage, commended the work done by the SAARC Cultural Centre in Colombo in implementation of the SAARC agenda for culture and recognising the financing requirements of cultural development programs, proposed a joint meeting of SAARC Culture Ministers with SAARC Ministers of Finance.
Pursuant to an announcement made by Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, during his visit to Sri Lanka in March 2015, the High Commission of India launched Sangam: Festival of India in Sri Lanka in November 2015 and organized various events.
The theme of the Festival is "Sangam": a confluence of cultures of India and Sri Lanka. The logo of the Festival, which is a pictorial depiction of "Sangam" in Sinhala, Hindi and Tamil, is a manifestation of the symbiotic ties that bind us.
The inaugural event, a mosaic of Indian dance forms, "Nrityarupa", was held in Colombo on November 19, 2015 at the Nelum PokunaTheatre, at Kandy on November 21, 2015 at Hindu Cultural Hall, and at Galle on November 23, 2015 at Hall de Galle.
Under the banner of Sangam: Festival of India in Sri Lanka, High Commission of India organized a performance by the award winning singer, Ms. Sonam Kalra and her brainchild, 'The Sufi Gospel Project' at the Galle Literary Festival, on January 15, 2016 and in Colombo on January 16, 2016.
An Exhibition on "Rise of Digital India" was inaugurated by Smt. Sushma Swaraj, Hon'ble Minister of External Affairs of India on February 6, 2016 at Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH). This Exhibition was developed by the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM) of India and had 70 exhibits on themes such as 'India: A culture of information', 'First Steps into modernity', 'Maturing of an information civilization', 'Impact on society' and 'IT and Space Science partners in development'. Visuals and graphics, film clippings, artefacts/replica and interactive multimedia lend a real life authenticity to the exhibits.
Under the on-going Sangam: Festival of India in Sri Lanka, 2015-16, High Commission organized an exhibition-cum-sale of traditional Indian handicrafts and textiles (titled "Shilpa Kala") from March 23-27, 2016. Shilpa Kala showcased the best of traditional handicrafts from both countries and also emphasized the confluence of cultures that underlie the handicrafts traditions in both India and Sri Lanka.
Diverse events were built around Shilpa Kala. These included a buyer-seller meeting with Indian artisans on March 24, 2016 and a workshop on "Marketing of Traditional Handicrafts" on March 25, 2016. Mission had made arrangements for sale of Indian food, through a local hotel, for the entire duration of Shilpa Kala, which was very well received.