Protocols reserved for state guests will be followed to welcome Buddha relics from Sri Lanka during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's October 20 visit to Kushinagar to inaugurate an international airport, Culture Ministry sources said on Tuesday.
A seat will be assigned for the relics on a Sri Lankan Airlines flight, an official said. A team of 123 Sri Lankan delegates, including a 12-member Holy Relic entourage led by the current mahanayaka of the Waskaduwa Temple, will accompany the relics.
The delegation will also comprise anunayakas (deputy heads) of all four Nikatas (orders) - Asgiriya, Amarapura, Ramanya, Malwatta - of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, as well as five ministers of the country's government led by cabinet minister Namal Rajapakshe.
"The relics will have a separate seat on a SriLankan Airlines flight. The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister (Yogi Adityanath) will receive the relics. All protocol associated with state guest will be followed. The relics will be welcomed by 'Mahayana monks at the venue," the official toold news agency PTI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Wednesday inaugurate the Kushinagar International Airport, which is an endeavour to connect Buddhist pilgrimage sites around the world and launch various development projects there during his visit to poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.
The PM's Office said he will also participate in an event marking Abhidhamma Day at the Mahaparinirvana Temple in Kushinagar before attending a public function to inaugurate and lay the foundation stone of various development projects.
The inauguration of the Kushinagar International Airport will be marked by the landing of the inaugural flight at the airport from Colombo, Sri Lanka, carrying the Sri Lankan delegation.
"The highlight of the event is the Exposition of Holy Buddha Relic being brought from Waskaduwa Sri Subuddhi Rajvihara Temple, Sri Lanka, by the Mahanayake of the temple. They will also be opened to the public for veneration," the official said.
In 1898, archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India excavated a large mound in the estate of British landowner William Claxton Peppe in Piprahwa, in Uttar Pradesh's Sidharthnagar district which is just 160 km from Kushinagar.
"They found a big stone box containing some caskets. On one casket it was inscribed: 'Iyang saleela nidhane Budhasa bhagawathe sakiyanan sukithi bahathanan sabhagini kathan sasuna dalatha' which translates to: 'this noble deed of depositing of Buddha's relics were carried out by the brothers, the sisters and the children of Sakyas'.
"Thus, these relics are accepted as real (bone fragments, ashes, pieces of jewels of the Buddha," the official said.
A part of the Buddha relics obtained from this stupa was sent to the King of Thailand, another to the King of Burma while another was given to Sri Subhuthi Mahanayake Thero of the Waskaduwa Temple, Sri Lanka, who had helped the ASI team.
Since then the relics have been enshrined at Rajguru Sri Subhuthi Mahavihar Waskaduwa in the island nation.
A part of the relics embedded in three small lotuses encased in a crystal ball kept in a casket fixed on a wooden stand is being brought to Kushinagar for public exposition.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will offer prayers to the holy relic and also visit the Mahaparinirvana temple to offer flowers and chivar to the reclining statue of the Buddha, officials said.
PM Modi will be accompanied in the event by eminent monks from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea, Nepal, Bhutan Cambodia and a large number of ambassadors of various countries.
The Union Ministry of Culture and the International Buddhist Confederation in association with the Uttar Pradesh government is organising the Abhidhamma Day on October 20, 2021, on the occasion of Ashwin Poornima.
"During the grand celebrations of Abhidhamma Day on 20th October, Sacred Buddha Relic will be taken to Kushinagar, UP for Exposition. Traditionally, Buddhist monks commemorate Abhidhamma day marking the end of a three-month rainy retreat - Varshavaas-during which they pray at one place," Union Minister For Culture and Tourism G Kishan Reddy tweeted.
The ancient city of Kushinagar in UP is the final resting place of the Buddha. It is among the most important pilgrim spots for Buddhists since ancient times.
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