Buddha relics will be taken to Mongolia and Rijiju will lead the team
In a unique move, four holy relics of Lord Buddha are being taken to Mongolia for display as part of Mongolian Buddha Purnima celebrations on June 14.
A 25-member delegation, led by Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, will accompany the relics on their journey, starting Monday.
The relics will be exhibited at the Batsagaan Temple on the premises of Gandan Monastery, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited in 2015.
The four relics come from 22 Buddha relics, currently housed in the National Museum, Delhi, and known as the “Kapilvastu Relics” because they come from a site in Bihar believed to be the ancient city of Kapilvastu. They were discovered in 1898.
During the 11-day visit, said Union Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy, the relics will be granted state guest status in Mongolia and will be transported in the same air-conditioned showcase as currently kept in the National Museum.
The best of Express Premium
The Indian Air Force has provided a special aircraft – C-17 GlobeMaster – to transport the holy relics, which will be received in Mongolia by the country’s Minister of Culture, the adviser to the country’s President and a group of monks. The Buddha relics available in Mongolia would also be exhibited along with the relics in India, he was informed.
Two bulletproof envelopes as well as two ceremonial coffins are transported by the Indian delegation for the two relics.
The last time these relics were taken out of the country was in 2012, when they were exhibited in Sri Lanka. In 2015, the Holy Relics were placed in the “AA” category of antiquities and art treasures that should not normally be taken out of the country for display, given their delicate nature.
Reddy said New Delhi made an exception and allowed the display of holy relics in Mongolia at the request of Ulaanbaatar.
Calling it a milestone in India-Mongolia relations, Rijiju said it will further strengthen the cultural and spiritual relations between the countries.
The relics were discovered at Piprahwa in the Siddharthnagar district of UP which is believed to be part of the ancient city of Kapilavastu. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had conducted excavations at Piprahwa between 1971 and 1977, where they discovered two inscribed soapstone coffins containing 12 sacred relics from the larger coffin and 10 sacred relics from the smaller coffin. The inscription on the lid of the box refers to the relics of the Buddha and the Shakya clan. These are considered the sacred relics of the Buddha and are now on long-term loan from ASI to the National Museum in New Delhi.
Last October, at the inauguration of Kushinagar International Airport (the final resting place of the Buddha), sacred relics from Sri Lanka were also part of the delegation that landed in Kushinagar on the inaugural flight from Colombo. The display of Buddha’s relics in other people’s countries is an important component of Buddhist ties.
Kapilvastu relics have only been taken out of India six times in the past. Rijiju said Mongolia and India see each other as spiritual and cultural neighbors and “Mongolia can also be considered our ‘third neighbour’, even though we do not enjoy any common physical border.”