Stir over shifting of Buddha relics

Lanka Daily News, Aug 11, 2007

Bhubaneswar, INDIA -- Discontent is brewing in Orissa over the proposed transfer of the relics of the Buddha to Ratnagiri for public display.

The relics, which were found in four caskets during excavation at Lalitgiri in Jajpur district in 1982, are now kept at the Bhubaneswar office of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

There is a plan to shift them to Ratnagiri, which is another Buddhist site in the same district, Jajpur.

The people of Lalitgiri, however, want these relics to be kept at their village since they were found there. “Knowing the importance of the place, the disciples of the Buddha had brought the relics to Lalitgiri in the 2nd and 3rd century B.C.

Will it not be a dishonour to the Buddha if the relics are shifted to some other place or places?” said Pradipta Bhuiyan, president of Buddhayana, a socio-cultural organisation fighting for the conservation of Buddhist relics and monuments in the state.

Bhuiyan said if the ASI was not interested in building a strong room at Lalitgiri for the safe keeping of these relics, the villagers were ready to build such a facility with their own money.

Historian Karuna Sagar Behera says that the four caskets carrying the holy relics of the Buddha were recovered from a stone stupa at Lalitgiri during excavations by the ASI in 1982. “This was the rarest of rare discoveries,” he said.

Lalitgiri is the only Buddhist site in eastern India where such relic caskets were recovered. This has helped establish the status of Lalitgiri as one of the foremost centres of Buddhism.

Paresh Nayak, chairman of Odisha International Centre, a cultural forum, said if the ASI did not withdraw its decision to shift the relics, Buddhists and cultural activists in the state would hold a demonstration at Raj Bhavan here on August 18.

Orissa tourism and culture minister Suryanarayan Patro told this newspaper on Thursday that since Lalitgiri had no museum at present, the ASI had decided to shift the relics to Ratnagiri. “I have assured the cultural activists that I will talk to the ASI authorities and discuss their demand. I am hopeful that something positive will emerge.”

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