By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, July 4, 2018: There is vast scope and opportunity to promote Odisha tourism in Sri Lanka due to historic boding between the two regions.

According to some historians, the first settlement in Sri Lanka from the sub-continent of India was from the ancient kingdom of Kalinga. It is believed king Vijay sailed to Sri Lanka after he was expelled by his father for marrying outside his caste. He took his followers and supporters along with him. He must have encountered the local aboriginals but he eventually set up his kingdom in Sri Lanka.

Many years thereafter following the Kalinga war when Ashoka sent his son Mahendra to spread Buddhism, he also went with the relic of Lord Buddha (his tooth) from Dantapura, near Chilika. The word Dantapura has come from the word Danta which means tooth. Pura of course means habitation. The present Buddhist temple at Kandy hosts this sacred relic. Hence Buddhists from across the world visit this ancient temple. Many also believe that the construction of canals in Sri Lanka was done by the engineers from Kalinga.

The Singhalese language has close proximity with Pali and no wonder there are many words which are similar to Odia which was influenced by Pali. There are many Singhalese who have surnames which sound like Odia surnames like Senanayake, Bandaranayake, Ratnanayake Burisinghe, Abhayratne and Pattanayake.

During my first encounter with a delegation from the Tourism Department of Sri Lanka when I was Joint Secretary in the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism in the eighties of the last century, the first question the Director General Tourism of Sri Lanka asked me whether I was from Sri Lanka. He immediately told me that his brother-in-law is a Pattanayake.

When I went as a part of the civil aviation delegation to Colombo under the chairmanship of S.K. Mishra, Secretary Tourism and Civil Aviation, considered as the father of Haryana tourism (former Secretary to PM and Member of UPSC and later Chairman of INTAC), I was received with great affection by the then Secretary of Defence and Civil Aviation of Sri Lanka, General Attigale as my surname sounded like Singhalese surname.

I also saw in the Colombo telephone directory a number of Pattanayakes. Another remarkable thing I noticed was the Singhalese cuisine was similar to Odia cuisine except that it was more spicy and hot. During one of the sittings with my Singhalese counterparts, we identified many Singhalese words which had same meaning as Odia words.

After Kalinga International Foundation led by Ambassador Lalitendu Mansingh organized seminars in Bhubaneswar on Act East Policy some time ago and establishment of a vibrant Kalinga-Sri Lanka Group under captaincy of D P Bagchi, former Chief Secretary of Odisha, in New Delhi, the idea of promotion of tourism between Odisha and Sri Lanka took roots.

People-to-people contact considered as part of para-diplomacy was suggested in the deliberations of Kalinga International Foundation. Incidentally a large number of diplomats from the countries of South East Asia who attended the congregation on Act East Policy very eloquently supported the concept para-diplomacy. Tourism is the best way to promote people-to-people contact.

In an international conference organized by the Department Tourism of the SOA University, Bhubaneswar led by Dr Sitikantha Mishra, “international tourism as means of promotion of peace” was the main theme. Taking all these ideas into consideration, a group of senior citizens, former civil servants, businessmen, doctor and academicians decided to visit Sri Lanka for almost a week. They visited Colombo, Kandy and Nigombo. At Colombo they paid visit to Buddhist temple, floating temple, independent square, sea beach, the newly constructed maritime port with the Chinese assistance, Presidential palace, Prime Minister’s official residence, Parliament building and also International Cultural Centre of the Indian Mission.

Incidentally the Cultural Centre is headed by Mrs Rajashree Behera from Odisha who invited the group to witness the Indian dance programme based on Yoga theme. Importance of the Buddhist heritage of Odisha was highlighted with a view to attract tourists from Sir Lanka to Odisha. The group went to Kandy where they visited the famous Buddhist temple which has the Buddhist relic in addition to tea garden and tea factory, elephant orphanage, Ayurvedic Centre and Sri Lankan batik Centre.

Where ever the group went it left behind the tourist books, pamphlets and literature of Odisha for their display. Effort was made with travel agents, hoteliers and airline staff to promote tourism from Sri Lanka to Odisha.

After successful completion of this enterprise perhaps first of its kind from Odisha to Sri Lanka with avowed object of developing tourism between Odisha and Sri Lanka, more such groups will go to Sri Lanka and more tourists would come from Sri Lanka to Odisha. This will further facilitate if there is a direct air service between Bhubaneswar and Colombo.

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Swadesh Sundar Patnaik
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Swadesh Sundar Patnaik

Thanks & Congratulations to Mr.Pattanayak for writing such a brilliant write up. while the inflow of foreign tourists to Odisha is declining day by day this article gives new insight to attract potential tourists from Srilanka by propagating more about Odisha Tourism there.Recently my daughter and son-in law had visited Srilanka .They also could identify some ethnic and cultural similarities between Odisha and Srilanka and noticed a general curiosity amongst Srilankan to know more about Odisha. Srilanka is undoubtedly an attractive tourist destination for the people of Odisha and vice versa.