PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Rare relics believed to be remains of the Buddha will be displayed in the Czech Republic this week, 2,500 years after his passing away, the event's organiser Helmut Gassner told AFP.
The 12 small pieces of bone will be on public display in Liberec in the north of the country on Friday. They will then move to Prague where they will be on show on Saturday and Sunday as part of a European tour.
In 2000 the governments of three Buddhist countries - Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar - agreed to yield their most prized Buddhist relics - 12 bones believed to come from the Buddha - so that they could be permanently preserved together at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The gesture was a means of thanking the UN for internationally recognising Vesak Day, considered by Buddhists to be their most sacred day, as a holiday. Since May 2001, when a train of monks began an epic pilgrimage with the relics, they have been on show in 30 countries including Germany, Austria, Switzerland and, most recently last week, Hungary. "There is no doubt that these bones are genuine," Gassner, director of the Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Feldkirch, Austria, said.
"It is a rarity for people to be able to see them. It is the first time they will be seen in the Czech Republic," he added.
After Prague the relics will return to Bangkok. From 2005 the relics will be placed at the UN headquarters, where they will be open to the public only once a year, on Vesak Day in May.