Sacred relics arrive in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa received the relics of Buddha (bone fragments excavated in Kapilavastu and considered sacred by Buddhists) at a stately ceremony at the Bandaranaike airport in Colombo. The sacred relics are thus being brought to Sri Lanka after three decades since their first exposition in 1978.

The sacred relics were brought to Sri Lanka in a special Indian Air Force aircraft. A delegation from India led by Minister of Culture, Kumari Selja, accompanied the relics. Prior to the departure of the relics to Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Maha Sangha residents throughout India at several sites associated with the life of Gautama Buddha, performed special religious ceremony and offered Buddha Pooja at the Indian Air Force Base in Delhi. High Commissioner Prasad Kariyawasam and the staff at the Sri Lanka High Commission in India attended the event.

Mr. Rajapaksa carried the relics, which have been accorded the status of a head of state, from the tarmac to the VIP lounge, where about 100 senior monks chanted pirith (Sinhala word for protection from all directions). After the chanting, the relics were then taken in a procession from the airport to the Manelwatta Viharaya, Kelaniya. The relics will be on public display at the Viharaya for the next three days. The relics will travel through Sri Lanka and will be on public display till September 4.

“Thank you for bringing the relics to Sri Lanka,” Mr. Rajapaksa told Ms. Selja, at a bilateral meet held soon after the relics left in the procession.

These relics of Buddha, which are known to the world as the ‘Kapilavastu relics’, are from a site in Bihar first discovered in 1898, which is believed to be the ancient city of Kapilavastu. This epoch-making discovery was at a stupa site, Piprahwa. The relic casket discovered in 1898 bore the inscription.

The first exposition of the sacred relics of Kapilavastu outside India was in Sri Lanka in 1978. Subsequent expositions of the relics took place in Mongolia in August 1993, in Singapore in July 1994, in South Korea in 1995 and in Thailand in 1996. Subsequently, taking into consideration the inestimable value and delicate nature of the relics, the authorities in India entrusted with the care of the relics decided that the sacred Kapilavastu relics will henceforth remain as a venerable object at the National Museum of India, New Delhi and will not be taken outside India for public veneration.

In June 2010, Mr. Rajapaksa had requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to afford Sri Lankan Buddhists an opportunity to pay homage to the sacred Kapilavastu relics by allowing the relics to be taken to Sri Lanka. Making an exception, the Indian government decided to send the relics to Sri Lanka.

Authorities of both countries worked hard, with commitment and perseverance, to make this sacred exposition a reality by making substantial effort in terms of logistics, safety of the sacred relics, facilities for devotees to pay homage, and other matters that a monumental event of this nature involves. (The Hindu)