The 22nd of September was an historic day for the people of Elliyadda and the surrounding villages. People woke up to see that a dream had finally come true. A dream that their parents, grandparents and great grandparents had. A dream that many did not survive long enough to see come true. This was an unforgettable day that brought them hope, a sense of freedom and peace of mind.
For many years and for many generations, the lack of a bridge across this river brought the villages uncertainty, fear and even death. The water level of the river ruled the nature of their day and there was so much uncertainty.
In the past whenever the water level rose there were numerous occasions that they could not cross the river to take the sick or injured to the hospital or for children to go to school. All that has changed and there is hope and enthusiasm in the mind of everybody today. A long awaited miracle has blessed them forever.
The 172 foot long Bridge sponsored by the Triple Gem Society which connects the two shores of the “Hulu Ganga” river has made history. The opening ceremony and the ceremonial crossing of the bridge took place at 10am on the 22nd of October.
The Hulu Ganga river will never be a threat to these villagers again. It is flowing so peacefully today. The villagers standing on the bridge, seventeen feet above the water were enjoying the serenity and the beauty of the river.
By 9am over five hundred people had gathered to participate in this special event. The village drummers and dancers were dressed up in traditional costumes and lined up along the dirt path that led to the bridge. Forty Buddhist monks had also arrived to chant blessings at the opening ceremony.
I was led to the bridge in this procession and my feet were washed just before stepping onto it, as a sign of respect and gratitude. The monks started chanting while ceremonial drums were played. As I cut the ribbon the echo of the drums and the chanting of the Buddhist monks brought joy to the ears of everyone present.
Lotus and other flower petals were spread on both sides of the bridge and I was touched to see how hard everybody had worked to make this event so special and memorable.
The whole atmosphere was more like a carnival. Loud speakers played songs in between the speeches of villagers. We heard about their past struggles and painful experiences with the river crossing. A big celebration feast was prepared and everybody who came was fed a delicious meal.
It would take many more pages to share everything that went on with the ceremony and the speeches of the villagers. I hope that you are satisfied with this much. This is your story as much as mine because you have all made it possible for this bridge to be built.
When you know that your acts of compassion and hard work have changed the lives of thousands of people or have brought happiness and peace to so many people, that moment is a perfect moment in your life.
By the time I left the scene it was about 1:30pm and people were still celebrating. I heard that about one thousand people had crossed the river by the end of the day. Most of them were visitors who came to participate in the event. It is a lot of people for the quiet village in the valley of Elliyaddha.
As I walked away feeling high on the joy of the day I was presented with a plan for a different bridge at Kotaganga where the villagers are desperate for a safe crossing. The same engineers and contractors who built the Triple Gem Bridge are ready to start our next bridge. I asked them to do the drawings and give me an estimate before I left Sri Lanka. They were fast as usual. They are waiting my approval to start work. My brain and the spirit is already working with the universe to attract the funds needed. If you know any angels who might be willing to help us, please let me know.
Although I have had the honor of completing this project and getting the work done, I cannot do such wonderful miracles alone. My friends and students and even some monks and my family members have supported me in this effort.
All of you are part of this honor. I am so grateful and I share with everybody who helped make this dream come true the honor I received, and the joy I experienced on the day this long-awaited bridge opened.