Row over Buddhist relics

Newindpress, July 26 2007

SALEPUR/KENDRAPARA, India -- The recent decision of the State Government and the ASI to preserve the sacred relic caskets of Buddha, unearthed at Lalitgiri in 1986, at Ratnagiri has not gone down well with the people of Lalitgiri.

Terming the move as an insult to Lalitgiri, Buddhayan, a leading Buddhist cultural organisation, has threatened to resort to agitation if the Government fails to reconsider its decision.

Even 21 years after their discovery, the ASI never thought of returning the holy caskets to its original ‘birthplace’ and now the State Government has delivered a bigger blow by deciding to preserve them at Ratnagiri, claimed Pradeep Bhuiyan, secretary of Buddhayan, at a meeting on Monday.

The outfit has also sent memoranda to the Chief Minister and the Culture Department. As per reports, during the excavation by ASI at Landa hills of Lalitgiri, these sacred bone relics were found preserved in caskets of gold encapsulated respectively by silver, steatite and khandolite containers.

The discovery was considered rare and unparalleled by historians all over the world. Of the three gold caskets discovered, one possessed a piece of bone fastened by a piece of gold wire. The second had a piece of bone, in fact, a tooth-shaped relic securely fastened by a gold wire together with a gold leaf.

Surprisingly, the relic in the third gold container was found missing. As the caskets were devoid of any inscription, it was difficult to ascertain the exact chronology and names of Buddhist personalities whose sacred mortal remains had been preserved.

However, experts believe that the piece of sacred bone relic foiled by gold wire and gold leaf is the auspicious bone or tooth relic of Lord Buddha and the other piece fastened by only a gold wire is probably the remains of either Sariputta or Mahamogallana, Buddha’s prominent disciples, Contacted, D N Dimiri, Superintendent of Archeological Survey of India (ASI) at Bhubaneswar, told this paper that ASI had decided to keep the relics in the museum at Ratnagiri for safety reasons.

“We have already written a letter to the Director-General of ASI, New Delhi, to grant us permission to shift the relics from the ASI office in Bhubaneswar to Ratnagiri.

The ASI has no plans to keep the relics in Lalitgiri for lack of security measures and absence of a museum there,” he added.