Lanka may be last recipient of Buddha's hair

The Daily Star, July 14, 2007

Chittagong, Bangladesh -- The hair-relic of Gautam Buddha, to be presented to the Sri Lankan government later this month, might be the last Buddhist relics to be given away, as Bangladesh's own stock of such relics is now very little.

"We would not be able to give any relics to anyone in future as the quantity is very little and might be exhausted," said Ajit Barua, President of the Bangladesh Buddhist Association.

Since a Tibetan monk donated it in 1930, the hair relics (Kesho Dhatu) of Gautam Buddha have been preserved in Chittagong Buddhist Monastery in the port city for last 77 years.

The gift to Sri Lanka would not only improve bilateral relations but also strengthen 'inter-faith bonds' between the Muslims and Buddhists, Foreign Adviser Iftekhar A Chowdhury told The Daily Star last night.

Madampe Senanyaka Aramaya Trust, a Sri Lankan organisation, expressed their eagerness to collect some of the relics to exhibit those to the Buddhist devotees in their country, said Ajit Barua, chairman of Bangladesh Buddhist Association.

After several correspondences, the association, authority of the monastery, agreed to hand over some of the relics officially through a function scheduled for July 18, Ajit said.

Madampe Trust also collected some relics from this monastery in 1958 through Pakistan government and built a mausoleum keeping the relics in the basement, sources said.

But as the Buddhist devotees cannot take a look at Buddha's holy remaining kept under the concrete cover, the Madampe Trust approached Chittagong Buddhist Monastery authorities once again for the hair relics so it could be kept for exhibition.

Local devotees here can take a look on the relics preserved in a wooden box only once a year when the box is opened during the Buddha Purnima.

However, the relics that are very small in quantity can hardly be seen with bare eyes and the devotees have to use magnifying glasses, said Adarsha Kumar Barua, secretary general of Bangladesh Buddhist Association.

Earlier at different times, Buddhist devotees from Sri Lanka, Japan and Thailand collected the holy remaining of Gautam Buddha from this monastery.

Matsutaro Soriki, a Japanese devotee, collected some more relics on September 25 in 1964.

The government of Thailand also collected some parts of the relics in 1979.

Shakya Bhikkhu, a religious mendicant of Tibet, came to visit this region in 1930 carrying some hair relics of Buddha.

After visiting some renowned monasteries (pagodas) of Chittagong, Shakya stayed in Chittagong Buddhist Monastery for a few days.

Impressed by the devotion of the then principal of the monastery Ven Dharma Bangsha Mohasthabir, founder president of Chittagong Buddhist Association, Shakya gave him the relics as gift.

Dharma Bangsha handed over the relics to his disciple Ven Dipankar Srigyan Mahasthabir and after that the monastery committee have been preserving them.