Exhibition of Buddhist relics soon in Darjeeling

The Hindu, May 16, 2009

Bones of Buddha and his disciples are now preserved in Bodh Gaya. Darjeeling has a sizeable Buddhist population

KOLKATA, India -- Plans are on to display in Darjeeling the relics of Gautama Buddha and two of his principal disciples housed at the Jaya Shri Mahabodhi Vihara at Bodh Gaya.

The relics include the bones of Lord Buddha and his disciples Sariputra and Mahamoggallana, which are preserved under the supervision of the Maha Bodhi Society of India.

“The Darjeeling-based Dharma Chakra Committee has approached our society for an exposition of the relics in Darjeeling. We will finalise the programme after reviewing security arrangements, since the relics are priceless and a national treasure,” D. Rewatha Thera, general secretary of the Maha Bodhi Society of India, told The Hindu. Darjeeling has a sizeable Buddhist population.

The remains of Sariputra and Mahamoggallana were found by British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham in 1851, while he was excavating the third Stupa at the Asokan Buddhist complex at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh.

The complex dates back to the third century B.C. More remains of the disciples were found at Satadhara, 10 km from Sanchi, at about the same time.

The relics were taken to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where they were preserved until 1939, when the Maha Bodhi Society of India requested the British government to return them to India. They were returned on January 24, 1947. The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru officially handed them over to the Society in 1949.
Tentative dates

Mr. Thera said two dates (July 25 and 26) were tentatively fixed by the Society and the Dharma Chakra Committee for the exposition, and the dates would be finalised after a meeting scheduled for June 30.