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16 June 2014

Students from the department of Religion and Theology host Bristol’s first ‘dansal’ (free food stall)! Free ice cream will be available to all those who happen to be passing 3-5 Woodland Road on Saturday 21 June

3-5 Woodland Road on Saturday 21 June from 12 o’clock noon


After journeying to Colombo (Sri Lanka) from the University of Bristol, two students from the department of Religion and Theology have decided to bring a little piece of Colombo back by hosting Bristol’s first ‘dansal’ (free food stall).

PhD student Laura Frude and Bryony Darke, who will begin studying for an MA in Buddhist Studies at Bristol this year, travelled to Sri Lanka in May to witness Vesak in its full glory and research the practice of Buddhism in Asia. Vesak is the most important festival in the Buddhist calendar, commemorating the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. The dansal was one aspect of the Vesak celebration that both students particularly enjoyed, so much so that they didn't want other students of the University of Bristol – present and future – to miss out. 

The dansal – free food stall or more literally ‘generosity’ stall – has been a significant component of Buddhist festivities in Sri Lanka for centuries. Hundreds of years ago the kings gave food, drink and even their barbers to their people on festival days. In modern Sri Lanka, however, a dansal could be held by anyone and often neighbours or friends team up to collect money and organize the food preparation and distribution. During festivals such as Vesak (May) and Poson (June) food stalls will line the street, with children often flagging down passers by and giving them a soft drink, some curry, and even chocolate ice cream (if you're lucky)! And you don’t have to be Buddhist to enjoy the free food or to get involved in the organization of a dansal.

During the university's open day on the 21st June, roughly coinciding with the festival of Poson (commemorating the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka), Laura, Bryony and a small group of other students, will raid the freezers of Bristol's supermarkets in an attempt to recreate a Sri Lankan ice cream dansal. One of the organisers explains: "In Sri Lanka the dansals seem to bring every member of the community, Buddhists as well as non-Buddhists together, if not to help with preparations, just to eat with their neighbours. I think hosting a dansal at our open day not only gives prospective students the chance to experience what they could be studying, but it will reflect the feeling of community within the department." 

Professor Rupert Gethin (Professor of Buddhist Studies and Head of Subject) has shown the department's support for the event: "I think it is great that our students take the initiative to get involved and share their knowledge of Asian culture. The department of Religion and Theology is very happy to sponsor this event and we hope it will be a great success."

Free ice cream will be available to all those who happen to be passing 3-5 Woodland Road on Saturday 21 June from about 12 o’clock noon until the last ice cream cone is handed out.

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