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Local Sri Lankan community builds towering, freestanding structure to mark Buddhist festival

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A new, towering structure celebrating a cherished Buddhist festival will light up the Winnipeg sky this month.

The freestanding display is known as a thorana, which means gateway or arch in Sanskrit. They depict Buddhist stories using dynamic lights and artwork.

The local Sri Lankan community decided to create Manitoba's first to celebrate Poson, a festival marking the advent of Buddhism in Sri Lanka during the June full moon.

"It was just an idea and then it became a reality with a lot of effort from many people," said Anuradha Kariyawasam, a member of the Manitoba Buddhist Vihara and Cultural Association.

Anuradha Kariyawasam is pictured during a June 19, 2024 interview. (Joseph Bernacki/CTV News Winnipeg)

Manitoba's thorana is over 25 feet tall and features over 7,000 light bulbs and 15 paintings.

The paintings tell a Buddhist story about vengeance between two kings, and the prince who helped them find peace.

The thorana's construction was a labour of love between many generations.

"Most of the Sri Lankan community helped, and the youth in the Sri Lankan community volunteered many hours to do this," Kariyawasam said.

The thorana will be lit up from June 22 to June 30 at 88 Cadboro Road from 10 p.m. until midnight.

There will also be a Sri Lankan street food sale on June 22 and 23 starting at 8:30 p.m.

All are invited to come and enjoy.

Some of the individual paintings in Manitoba's first thorana are pictured on June 19, 2024. (Joseph Bernacki/CTV News Winnipeg)

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