Welcome Address by Ambassador Lalit Mansingh, Founder President, Kalinga Lanka Foundation:

“Your Excellency, Shri SC Jamir, the Honourable Governor of Odisha, distinguished personalities on the podium, our honoured guests from Sri Lanka, young friends from the University, member of the media, ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Kalinga Lanka Foundation, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you and especially to His Excellency the Governor of Odisha, Shri SC Jamir, who, when we approached him, graciously and readily agreed to inaugurate this seminar. I am also pleased to welcome His Excellency the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, Mr. Esala Weerakoon, who is the patron-in-Chief of the Kalinga Lanka Foundation, the Hon Minister of Industries of Odisha, Shri. Debi Prasad Mishra , the Hon Minister for Culture and Tourism of Odisha, Shri Ashok Chandra Panda, our distinguished patron, Shri.B.J.Panda, Member of Parliament, Shri.Gokul Pati, Chief Secretary of Odisha and Ms.Namrata Kumar, Deputy Director General of the ICCR. Their presence at this first major event of the Kalinga Lanka Foundation gives us inspiration and encouragement.

The Kalinga Lanka project has been for me, personally and professionally, a lifelong mission. Some sixty years ago, I was studying History (Hons) in this University, though not on this campus. My Professors were among the best historians Odisha has produced: Dr.Ghanshyam Das, Dr.Navin Kumar Sahu, Dr. Manmath Nath Das, Dr.Prabhat Mukherjee, Dr.Bhawani Rai, Dr.Altaf Hussain and the two Dr.Rajendra Dases. It was Dr.Navin Sahu’s pioneering research on Buddhism in Odisha which planted the desire in me to pursue the history of Kalinga’s shadowy links to Sri Lanka. I shared my plan to work on a doctorate on Kalinga and Lanka with my friend and classmate – Dr.K.S. Behera, a great historian himself, and he painstakingly wrote out a bibliography for me , which I still preserve.

Twenty years after I joined the Foreign Service, I had my first opportunity to visit Sri Lanka. I looked around. Yes, the Sri Lankans did look like distant cousins. I could even follow their language on Roopa Vahini, their television. A shop keeper in Colombo asked me what I thought was an absurd question. Sir, your name is Lalith Manasingha; Why are you carrying an Indian Passport? It struck me that my name had been pronounced in the Oriya way for the first time outside Odisha!

Kalinga has played a large role in Sri Lanka’s history. The Sinhalas trace their ancestry to the Kalinga prince Vijaya who landed on their shores with seven hundred men in the 6th Century BCE. Three centuries later Emperor Ashoka came to Kalinga as a blood thirsty conqueror but returned to his capital Pataliputra as a remorseful, peace loving follower of the Buddha.

Sri Lanka was the collateral beneficiary of the Kalinga war. Ashoka sent his daughter and son – Sanghamitra and Mahendra – to plant a sapling of the sacred Bodhi tree and to spread the message of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. The two nations maintained close dynastic, political, commercial, cultural and religious contacts for close to a fifteen hundred years.

The sacred tooth relic of the Buddha was taken to Sri Lanka from the Kalinga capital of Dantapura, identified by Dr.Navin Kumar Sahu as Palur on the Chilika Lake.Some of the most famous kings in Sri Lanka’s history were connected to Kalinga, by blood or by marriage . Mention may be made of, King Vijaya Bahu, perhaps also known as ‘Kalinga Magha’ and King Nissanka Malla. Incidentally, the queen of King Vijay Bahu was Trilokasundari, a princess from Kalinga.

The Sinhala language still retains remarkable similarities with the languages of Eastern India. It is interesting in Odiya the chilly is called ‘Lanka maricha’ and the cashew fruit is called ‘Lanka Amba’.

We are honoured to have with us HE the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, Mr.Esala Weerakoon, who is here on his very first visit outside Delhi. He is joined by a galaxy of leading scholars and experts from Sri Lanka. Among them are (1) Prof.B Nandadeva (University of Kelaniya), (2) Prof.S Coperhewa (University of Colombo), (3) Prof.Asanga Thilakaratne (University of Colombo (to join later), (4) Prof.Anura Manatunga (University of Kelaniya), (5) Mr.R.Vijesekhara (based in Delhi), and (6) Prof.Anoma Abhayaratne (South Asia University, Delhi). They will have an opportunity to exchange views with the best experts we have within Odisha and outside.

To all our distinguished Sri Lankan friends in this gathering, I am pleased to greet you with ‘Ayu Bhowan’ and welcome you to the land of your ancestors!

This seminar is not entirely an exercise in historical nostalgia. Even as we seek greater clarity through the fog of our historical past, we need to look ahead and assess the potential benefits of a renewed partnership.

India is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner, globally, while Sri Lanka is India’s second largest trading partner in SAARC. Our mutual trade and investments have taken a leap forward after the signing of the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement in 2000. One of the objectives of this seminar is to bring up new ideas on how to promote joint ventures in mutually beneficial areas like textiles, gems and jewellery, trade and tourism.

Sri Lanka has recently completed a new port in Hambantota. Odisha has similarly built Paradip and Dhamra, as modern versions of the ancient Kalinga ports of Tampralipta, Dantapura and Kalingapattanam. Sri Lanka and the Eastern region of India enjoy a strategic advantage for exploring the economic potential of the vast markets of ASEAN and beyond that, of the giant economies of China, Japan and Australia.

The Kalinga Lanka Foundation’s resources are modest, but its aspirations are unlimited. This seminar is just the first step in what we foresee is a long and rewarding journey. The Odisha chapter of the KLF will be inaugurated today by the His Excellency the Governor of Odisha. The next move will be to establish a chapter of KLF in Colombo. Our forthcoming venture in India will be a Kalinga-Lanka exhibition of textiles early next year, which will coincide with Sri Lanka’s National Day.

We have been overwhelmed by the generous support this seminar has received from many benefactors. I will however mention two institutions without whom this event would not have taken place: The ICCR, who readily agreed to sponsor the project, and the Utkal University, who most willingly took on the academic co-ordination and the local arrangements. I will be failing in my duty if I did not also acknowledge our team in the Kalinga Lanka foundation: in particular, my good friend and colleague Shri.D.P.Bagchi, former Chief Secretary of Odisha and the Secretary of the KLF, Shri Kumar, A big round of applause please, for all our benefactors.

Let me conclude by quoting a few lines from the poem ‘Sadhaba Jhia’ (which means the ‘the Merchant’s Daughter) by Odisha’s celebrated poet and my late father, Dr.Mayadhar Mansingh:

“Bijana Bela , Bijana Bela ,
Kahu Nahin Kahin Boita gala , Boita gala ”

The poet laments: Why is our sea shore empty? Where have the boats disappeared?

We would like the shores of Kalinga to be crowded by visitors and boats from Sri Lanka and South East Asia, as it used to be centuries ago. And for the people of Kalinga and Lanka to become, once again, the friendly cousins across the seas.

"Jai Hind and Namo Namo Lanka”