Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Kushinagar International Airport in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday and participate in an event marking ‘Abhidhamma Day’ at Mahaparinirvana Temple.
Eminent monks from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea, Nepal, Bhutan, Cambodia and ambassadors of various countries will take part in the Abhidhamma Day event
A Sri Lankan delegation consisting of 123 delegates including a 12-member Holy Relic entourage led by current Mahanayaka of Waskaduwa Temple is attending the event with Holy Relics. These relics are accepted as real relics (bone fragments, ashes, pieces of Jewels of the Buddha).
Paintings of Ajanta frescos, Buddhist Sutra calligraphy, and Buddhist artefacts excavated from Vadnagar and other sites in Gujarat will also be exhibited.
The Union Ministry of Culture and International Buddhist Confederation in association with the Government of Uttar Pradesh is organising the ‘Abhidhamma Day’ on the auspicious occasion of Ashwin Poornima.
The day marks the end of three-month rainy retreat – Varshavaas or Vassa – for the Buddhist monks and nuns during which they stay at one place in vihara and monastery, and pray.
The Sri Lankan delegation also comprises of Anunayakas (deputy heads) of all four Nikatas (orders) of Buddhism in the country – Asgiriya, Amarapura, Ramanya, Malwatta. It also includes five cabinet ministers of Sri Lanka led by Namal Rajapakshe.
According to a Culture Ministry release, the highlight of the event is the exposition of Holy Buddha Relic being brought from Waskaduwa Sri Subuddhi Rajvihara Temple, Sri Lanka by the Mahanayaka of the temple.
In 1898, archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India excavated a large mound in the estate of British landowner, William Claxton Peppe in Piprahwa, Sidharthnagar district of Uttar Pradesh, about 160 km from Kushinagar. They found a big stone box and inside this box there were some caskets. On one casket, these words were inscribed: ”IyangsaleelanidhaneBudhasabhagawathesakiyanansukithibahathanansabhaginikathansasunadalatha”.
Sri Subhuthi Mahanayake Thero of Waskaduwa Temple, Sri Lanka, who was helping the archaeological team and WC Peppe, translated the text which means “this noble deed of depositing of Buddha’s relics were carried out by the brothers, the sisters and the children of Sakyas”.
“Thus, these relics are accepted as real relics (bone fragments, ashes, pieces of jewels of the Buddha). A part of the Buddha relics obtained from this stupa was sent to the King of Thailand and another part was sent to the King of Burma,” the release said.
WC Peppe handed another part of relics, as a token of gratitude, to Sri Subhuthi Mahanayake Thero.
“A part of the same relics embedded in three small lotuses, which are further encased in a crystal ball, kept in a casket measuring 30cm * 26.5 cm which is fixed on a wooden stand, are being brought to Kushinagar for public exposition,” the release said.
PM Modi will offer prayers to the Holy Relic and also visit the Mahaparinirvana temple to offer flowers and chivar to the reclining statue of Buddha.
The ancient city of Kushinagar is the final resting place of Gautama Buddha, where he attained Mahaparinirvana after his death.
It is among the most important pilgrim spots for Buddhists since ancient times. The inauguration by PM Modi of Kushinagar International Airport is an important landmark connecting the Buddhist pilgrimage site for Buddhists around the world.
The prime minister will also do “Chivar Dana” to monks from Sri Lanka and other countries attending the event.
Chivar refers to a “monk’s robe”. The period after three month-long Varshavas, observed as a retreat by monks and nuns by staying in vihara during rainy season, is a time of giving, for the laity to express gratitude to Sangha.
“Lay Buddhists bring donations to temples, especially new robes for the monks and nuns. Also the gift of the atthaparikara (in Sri Lanka it is known as Atapirikara) – the Eight Requisites – is part of the offerings. However, dana of Chivara can also be given on other occasions,” the release said.
The prime minister has offered Chivar and Sangha Dana on several occasions both in India and abroad. He had offered it at Mahabodhi Society of Sri Lanka temple, Colombo in 2014, sacred Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, to senior monks from various countries in October 2015 and Vesak Buddha Poornima Diwas event in 2018 at New Delhi to senior monks and nuns from various countries.
PM Modi will also view an exhibition of recreation paintings of Ajanta cave frescos by late MR Pimpare of Aurangabad. The exhibition also comprises Buddhist calligraphy of Sutras by noted calligrapher Jamyang Dorjee of Sikkim.
“These invaluable works of arts are testimony of the rich and diverse Buddhist art heritage of India,” the release said.
The works of Buddhist art and artefacts excavated from various sites of Gujarat showcases the span of Buddhism in India and the various sources of origins from where it travelled and spread to different directions in the world.
“Vadnagar once thrived with a large Buddhist Vihara where ancient travellers described seeing a congregation of 10,000 Buddhist monks. The exhibition is curated by Ms Kshipra,” the release said.