The Significance of holy relics of Buddha, sent on exposition to Mongolia

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The Significance of holy relics of Buddha, sent on exposition to Mongolia

  • FOUR HOLY Relics of Lord Buddha from the National Museum are now in Mongolia, on an 11-day exposition for Mongolian Buddha Purnima celebrations.
  • A 25-member delegation is accompanying the relics, which are being displayed at the Batsagaan Temple in Gandan Monastery complex in Ulaanbaatar.

The sacred relics

  • The four Buddha relics come from among 22 housed at the National Museum.
  • Together, they are known as the 'Kapilavastu Relics'.
  • They are from a site in Bihar believed to be the ancient city of Kapilavastu. The site was discovered in 1898.
  • According to Buddhist beliefs, Lord Buddha attained salvation at age 80 in Kushinagar,now in Uttar Pradesh.
  • The Mallas of Kushinagar cremated him, and the relics from the funeral pyre were collected and divided into eight shares for erecting stupas over the sacred relics.
  • Two more stupas came up-one over the urn in which the relics had been collected and the other over the embers.
  • Stupas erected over the bodily relics (saririka stupas) are the earliest surviving Buddhist shrines.
  • It is said that emperor Ashoka opened up seven of the eight stupas, and collected a major portion of the relics for enshrinement within 84,000 stupas he built.

The Kapilavastu relics

  • The discovery of a casket in 1898 at the stupa site in Piprahwa (near Siddharthnagar) helped identify the site with the ancient Kapilavastu.
  • An inscription on the casket's lid refers to the relics of Buddha and his community.
  • Further excavation of the stupa in 1971-77 brought to light two more steatite relic caskets, containing a total of 22 sacred bone relics, which are now under the care of the National Museum.
  • This was followed by the discovery of more than 40 terracotta sealings from different levels and spots in the eastem monastery at Piprahwa.
  • These were in the Brahmi script of 1st and 2nd centuries, providing further evidence that Piprahwa was the ancient Kapilavastu.

The visit

  • During the 11-day visit, the relics are being accorded the status of a "state guest" in Mongolia.
  • They have been taken in the same climate control case in which they are currently at the National Museum
  • The Indian Air force has made available a C-17 GlobeMaster for the trip. Two bulletproof casings and two ceremonial caskets are being carried by the Indian delegation.
  • In 2015, the Holy Relics were placed under the 'AA' category of Antiquities and Art Treasures, which should not be ordinarily taken out of the country for exhibition, considering their delicate nature.
  • But upon the request of Mongolian government, the government has made a special exception.
  • The Kapilavastu relics have been taken out of India only six times in the past.

Buddhist tourism

  • Although he was born in Lumbini, Nepal, Buddha spent most of his life in India.
  • He attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. It is from here that Buddhism spread to China, Tibet, Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.
  • It is this aspect that the present government has embarked upon highlighting through various diplomatic, cultural and tourism initiatives.
  • In 2016, the Ministry of Tourism announced the Buddhist Circuit as the country's first transnational tourism circuit, Covering sites in Nepal and Sri Lanka alongside those in India.
  • There are around 490 million Buddhists across the world and since Buddha lived only in India in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, those in the government feel a big chunk of these tourists should be attracted to India more than China and other south Asian neighbours.

Prelims Takeaway

  • Buddhist relics
  • Buddhist circuit
  • Buddhism- Lumbini, Bodh gaya, Kushinagar, kapilvastu and Piprahwa.
  • Antiquities and Art Treasures
  • Batsagaan Temple