Monday, September 21, 2009

Buddha Relics On Rare Display In Sri Lanka

Buddha Relics On Rare Display In Sri Lanka Image
Reclining Buddha passing into final nirvana (parinirvana) prior to cremation and disbursal of the relics, Thai megalith, Ayutthaya, Thailand (Marty Windle/Flickr)

Millions of Sri Lankan devotees pay homage to sacred Buddhist relics from Pakistan

Millions of Sri Lankan Buddhist devotees paid homage to sacred relics of the Buddha from Pakistan [until recently an ancient part of India called Gandhara alongside Afghanistan, formerly the Indian frontier region where Siddhartha was likely born and raised] during a 17-day exhibition of the sacred relics in Sri Lanka.

These sacred relics were sent by the Government of Pakistan at the special request of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, during the visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to Sri Lanka.

In addition to the millions of Buddhist devotees, the president, the prime minister, speaker of the Sri Lankan Parliament, several parliamentarians, and other prominent personalities paid homage to the sacred relics.

Sacred cremation relics of the Buddha on exhibition (IANS)

The sacred relics were taken back to Pakistan on Monday after the conclusion of the exhibition, according to a message received here from Colombo. They included the cremation remnants of the Buddha, the Kanishka relic casket from Shah-Ji-Ki-Dehri (pictured below), a stone reliquary in the shape of a stupa (Buddhist burial mound), and a golden casket.

The exhibition of the sacred relics was declared open by the Sri Lankan president on June 4 at Maligakanda Temple in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, where the sacred relics were on display from June 5-9, 2011. Over 300,000 people paid homage to these relics daily.

They were were then taken to the Gangaramaya Temple, Hunupitiya, where they went on public exhibition from June 10-12, when over 350,000 devotees visited them daily.

On June 13, the relics were taken to Tissamaharama Temple, Hambantota, to mark the celebration of Poson (June full moon day observance) on June 15. The sacred relics remained there for three days and were visited by over a million devotees.

On June 17, the relics were brought back to Colombo to Mahamewna Asapuwa in Malabe. From June 17-19 they were kept in the inner chamber of the newly constructed stupa [pagoda] to sanctify and confer blessings on the new stupa. As a lasting testimony to this blessed event, the stupa was named the "Blessed Gautama Dharma-King Reliquary" (Siri Gauthama Dharmarajika Stupa).

Afterwards the sacred relics were exhibited at Mahamewuna Asapuwa, Malabe until June 19. The exhibition of the relics in Sri Lanka has further strengthened the deep rooted cultural relations between the two friendly nations. It marked the 2600th year since the Buddha's attainment of enlightenment.

Buddhism left a rich and monumental legacy on the art and architecture of modern Pakistan [ancient Gandhara]. Despite the vagaries of the centuries, the Gandhara region preserved a lot of the heritage in craft and art. Much of this legacy is still visible [although being bombed and ruined by American military forces engaged in a destabilizing war of aggression using drone aircraft and secret raids] in Pakistan.

* [NOTE: "Pakistan" was, of course, only created a few decades ago when the departing British rulers and colonists partitioned it from India to ensure that the newly independent countries would remain divided, conquerable, and easily manipulated from a distance even as they relinquished legitimate control of this geo-politically sensitive region. Kashmir, Afghanistan, China, Iran, Tajikistan, India, Bangladesh and other provinces such as Sikkim and Nagaland have been in turmoil ever since.]

The Gandhara Civilization was the center of spiritual influence and also the cradle of world-famous Gandhara culture, art, and learning. It was from this center that a unique sculptural art originated, which influenced the ancient Greek statuary [although it is generally thought Greek art influenced Gandhara Buddhist art, often showing the Buddha with Westernized features, flowing robes akin to togas, and royal markings].

Today Gandhara sculptures occupy a prominent place in the museums of America [Norton Simon, Getty, etc.], England, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, China, India, and [of course] Afghanistan, together with many private collections the world over, as well as a vast collection in the museums of Pakistan.

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