Not many stop at Vessagiriya in Anuradhapura. It is, however, an important historical site and is believed to have23 caves. While there are notices describing the findings at Vessagiriya, there are at least two signs telling people wedding photography and videography are prohibited. Despite this there are couples who lean against the pillars and smile at a camera while the cameraman instructs them on how to pose.
Vessagiriya isn’t the only place infested with brides and grooms. Historical sites seem to be the ideal places for wedding photographs. While archeologists try to preserve these sites and people show interest in learning about the country’s history, wedding photographers have found a whole new purpose to be associatied with them.
It’s as if the rulers of the past had people build palaces and places of worship, so that centuries later, they can serve as props and backgrounds in wedding photographs.
What’s the big deal, one may wonder. If no harm is done to the sites, why not pose at these places? What needs to be understood is the disrespect done to not just century old bricks and stone, but an entire nation’s history. The ruins in Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa aren’t just the history of Sinhalese or Buddhists. They are the history of all Sri Lankans, regardless of their ethnicity. History is important, but it is robbed of its importance and value when people use historical sites as props and backgrounds for wedding photographs.
When we visited these historical sites during school trips, we were careful to not step on the bricks or stones. Sometimes we were told not to, but mostly, we respected our history too much to step or sit on the ruins. We were taught about the kings and the great constructions by them.
We were told of the adage, “not even a little water that comes from the rain must flow into the ocean without being made useful to man,” as we looked at the great Parakrama Samudraya. We were shown the great kingdoms and stupas. We learnt of the country’s history, learnt of our history and felt immense pride at how great our country was centuries ago.
Yet, how can this same pride be felt by younger generations if we don’t show respect to our history? How can a child take care of the ruins if they see couples stepping on them and leaning against them? How can the value of this nation be taught to children when we don’t set a good example?
The country’s history may be meaningless to you, but it is important to Sri Lankans and people in general. It is thus important that we respect our history and historical sites and preserve them for future generations.