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Walking across the parking lot to go to yoga this evening, I happened upon an intriguing structure about 8 ft high and made of white paper! Upon closer inspection I could see intricate patterns had been cut out of the paper but also images of Buddha, so presumed it had something to do with the yoga studio.  Out came my camera and I started taking pictures of it, whatever ‘it’ was. 


what is this?


When I turned around I noticed a couple of men approaching.  I asked them what it was.  They told me they were Sri Lankan and it was made in honor of their celebration of  Buddha’s birthday.  I then asked if they made it.  They had.

The celebration was held on the 27th of May so they were here this evening to dismantle it.  They added “it also lights up and moves” and proceeded to turn it on for me.   (my apologies for the sideways view, as I don’t have the techno-ability to get it right-side up from the way I filmed it).


How fabulous!   The two men on the left, in the video, made this pandol. 

Doing a very quick check on Wikipedia when I got home, I learned this about the paper structure:

Electrically lit pandols called toranas are erected in various locations in Colombo and elsewhere, most sponsored by donors, religious societies and welfare groups. Each pandol illustrates a story from the 550 Jataka Katha or the 550 Past Life Stories of the Buddha. In addition, colourful lanterns called Vesak koodu are hung along streets and in front of homes. They signify the light of the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha.

Having finished filming I started to walk away but noticed machinery tucked around the back behind the backdrop or curtains, which was what powered the structure.  It reminded me of the story of William Kamkwamba, the 14 year old Malawian boy who built an electricity-producing windmill from spare parts and scrap.   Here, these men had powered their pandol using a 2 wheel rims from their bike, a pulley system, a small generator or transformer (I think) and a fan to keep it from overheating.

wheels in foreground, from bike in background

power and electrical workings of the pandol

It is fascinating to see what creative minds can do with a few basic items and some ingenuity.  And talent!

I don’t know why it was built in this location – this parking lot. Maybe they live in nearby accommodations and the owner agreed they could use the space for a few days.

I also don’t know what these men do at their day jobs. From the way they were dressed in the familiar blue coveralls I assume theirs is one of the thousands of laborer jobs, here in Qatar.  What is perhaps assumed by their outward appearance excludes or sometimes overshadows the gifts and talents that lay below the surface.  Of them.  Of  each of us.

What was I going on about yesterday …. the world being so interesting because of our diversity?