Colourful lanterns to brighten Vesak
Boon for lantern and bucket manufacturers:
Have you heard about a Vesak lantern manufacturer who sold some Vesak
lanterns to a foreign tour group at a cost of Rs. 1,500 each. The medium
size lanterns were made in the shape of lotus flowers and pasted with
colourful oil papers and cellophane papers.
Although the actual price of a lantern was Rs. 200, the tourists who
were holidaying in Sri Lanka during the Vesak season a couple of years
ago had to spend a large amount of money to buy Vesak lanterns.
A star class tourist hotel at Hikkaduwa had organised a Vesak lantern
competition among foreign tourists who stayed in the hotel on Vesak day.
About 30 foreigners, took part in the competition. Many of them were
from Germany and France. The foreign visitors were very happy to take
part in such a competition held for the first time in Sri Lanka. They
were delighted with the competition and thoroughly enjoyed.
The foreign visitors were encouraged to take part in the competition
by their local guides. The guides took the foreigners into selected
places in Colombo to purchase Vesak lanterns for the competition.
This was a story, related by a 54-year old, Vesak lantern seller H.A.
Dharmadasa at Hevelock Road, Colombo 5.
The story was revealed by him when the Sunday Observer visited his
workshop at Kalutara to see how people are engaged in the Vesak lantern
and Vesak bucket manufacturing industry.
Recalling the Vesak lantern competition, conducted by a hotel in
Hikkaduwa three years ago, Dharmadasa said that selling Vesak lanterns
to foreigners for the first time in his life was an unforgettable
He said he helped the local guide who brought foreigners to buy Vesak
lanterns and said such a competition had never conducted thereafter by a
hotel in the country.
Dharmadasa also proposed the Sri Lanka Tourism to conduct such Vesak
lantern competitions in hotels during Vesak festivals, so that it will
promote camaraderie and be of great help for the people engaged in the
A father of four children, Dharmadasa said he started the Vesak
lantern manufacturing business at the age of 17 and the business is
currently carried out with the assistance of his two elder sons.
“This has now become a family business and I produce both lanterns
and buckets, while my daughter make Buddhist flags. We make the
structure for lanterns from reed and green bamboos and also from plastic
stripes which are not used by garment factories”.
He said he starts manufacturing lanterns and Vesak buckets at least
five months prior to Vesak every year and manufacturing about 40,000
buckets and about 5,000 Vesaka lanterns.
“Lanterns are manufactured from reed (Bata in Sinhala) and bamboos
(Una) and them are sold after pasting oil papers. The pasted lanterns
are covered with polythene bags in order to protect them from rain,” He
said he has his own shop at Nagoda, Kalutara and eighty percent of
products are distributed to private businessmen in Colombo and
outstation stalls three weeks prior to the Vesak festival.
A 29-year old Vesak lantern and Vesak buckets manufacturer and seller
of Kaduwela, Gamalath Ranasinghe said he has been in the business for
the past ten years and this has become a self-employment project for
underprivileged men and women in the district.
He said raw material such as oil papers and cellophane papers that
are used to manufacture lanterns and buckets are expensive in the Pettah
market and it is the duty of the authorities to release the tax imposed
on these papers, considering that it is a national need, so that
finished products could be sold to people at cheaper rates.
A 28-year old, Vesak lantern and bucket manufacturer of Homagama,
Buddhika Jayanath Kumara said he starts manufacturing lanterns and
buckets six months prior to the Vesak festival.
He said he is mostly manufacturing buckets than lanterns as he got
more income from buckets.“Buckets are made out of oil paper and
Cyclopean papers. I purchase these papers from Colombo. I make about
24,000 oil paper buckets and about 20,000 buckets from Cyclopean papers
during a season,”.
He said bucket making has become a household industry in his village
at Uduwana, Homagama since many families help him to manufacture buckets
during the season. The families too generate an extra income.
“Manufacturing buckets are time-consuming as workers have to do it
manually. They have to cut oil papers and paste them. Thereafter
cardboard bottoms and candle holders should be fixed”.
Buddhika said he earns around Rs. 100,000 during the Vesak season
from lanterns and buckets.
He said he has a shop at Homagama to sell his products and also
distribute them to other temporally erected stalls in Colombo,
Maharagama, Bandaragama, Horana and a few other places.
A long-standing Vesak lanterns and buckets seller of Bandaragama D.
Ajith said he purchases Vesak lanterns, buckets, Buddhist flags and many
other electrical items on credit basic from manufacturers.
“I earn about Rs. 75,000 during the Vesak season and I am also
engaged in other businesses during other months,” He said unlike in the
past, it is difficult to sell Vesak items as many people are engaged in
the business at almost every junction.
Another Vesak lantern seller, P. Gunadasa Perera of Bandaranaike
Pura, Rajagiriya said he has been in the business for the past 20 years
He said he has a permanent stall at Bandaranaike Pura at Rajagiriya
and sells about 10,000 Vesak lanterns during the season. He said he
receives large orders for Vesak lanterns from institutions such as
Police, Banks, tourist hotels and also from Government and private
Gunadasa’s son, Nuwan Perera said he helps his father to carry out
his business activities and they sell Vesak lanterns until the Vesak
Poya Day and thereafter they make kites for kite shows and also sell
them at the Galle Face Green.
A female Vesak lantern manufacturer, Kanthilatha Peiris said she is
engaged in various self-employment projects such as sewing, flower
gardening, prawn breeding, poultry and making Vesak lanterns. “I make at
least 2,000 lanterns every Vesak season and earn a sufficient income.
I worked in the industry with the assistance of my daughter who is an
Advanced Level student.”
She said she earns about Rs. 30,000 by selling Vesak lanterns to
ordinary people and also to tourist hotels at Katunayake. She proposed
authorities to hold State-sponsored Vesak lantern competitions in every
village, so that more people could sell their products. She also asked
the Sri Lanka Tourism to conduct a lantern competition at the Katunayaka
Bandaranaike Airport to attract visitors as it will also help lantern