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  Life   Travel  27 Feb 2024  Buddha relics travel from India to Thailand

Buddha relics travel from India to Thailand

Published : Feb 27, 2024, 1:54 pm IST
Updated : Feb 29, 2024, 12:29 am IST

26-day rare and special Ganga-Mekong Dhammayatra in Bangkok expected to draw phenomenal crowd

The Buddhist relics were transported from India in a bullet-proof box on a special IAF aircraft.
 The Buddhist relics were transported from India in a bullet-proof box on a special IAF aircraft.

The year has started on a historic note for Indo-Thai relations with India sending out four precious relics of Buddha from the National Museum, together with the relics of two of his chief disciples Arahata Sariputra and Arahata Maudgalayana housed in a monastery in Sanchi, for a 26-day exposition in Thailand from February 21 to March 18.

The event has been named as “the rare and special Ganga-Mekong holy dhammayatra”.

It took more than a year to plan this Buddhist mega-event which is being held to celebrate the 72nd birthday of Thai King Mahavajiralongkorn (Rama 10).

The Buddhist relics were transported from India in a bullet-proof box on a special IAF aircraft. They were accompanied by a high-level Indian delegation, which included the minister for social justice and empowerment, Virendra Kumar, director general of the International Buddhist Confederation Abhijit Halder, deputy director-general of the National Museum Ashish Goyal, ministry of culture joint secretary Amita Prasad-Sarabhai and others. The 22-strong delegation also included monks, scholars, artists and curators.

The relics were first housed in Bangkok’s National Museum where they were welcomed by the Thai culture minister Sermsak Pongpanit and other dignitaries at a grand ceremony.

 

Both the Indian and Thai ministers commented on the unprecedented and historical nature of the “Threesome” of relics coming together to Thailand.

Indian Ambassador to Thailand Nagesh Singh called it a landmark event that further strengthened the strong bond between the two countries.

The Buddhist relics were carried in a gorgeously decorated carriage, accompanied by soldiers in traditional attire, officials and musicians, on a three-kilometre route to the famed open air Sanam Luang grounds. A red-and-gold pagoda has been erected there which will house them during their 11-day stay in the capital.

At the pagoda, the relics were received by Thai Prime Minster Srettha Thavisin and his council of ministers, the Indian delegation of ministers and bureaucrats, and finally the much-revered supreme patriarch who heads the Thai Buddhist Dhammayut order. There were ceremonies and chants from a huge collection of monks at the magnificent event, ending with a candle-lit procession.

The second part of the event was the inauguration of the Buddhabhoomi Bharat Exhibition Pavilion, a joint project of the Indian Embassy in Thailand and the UP government. This has digital, immersive exhibitions of the Buddhist sites in India, and also info on travel packages to the sites. The exhibition hall will hold daily talks and panel discussions on different aspects of Buddhism by noted speakers from both countries.

The inauguration of the pavilion was presided over by the governor of Bihar Rajendra Arlekar, director general of UP Tourism Mukesh Kumar Meshram and Thai culture minister Sermsak Pongpanit. Also attending was the Thai vice-minister of culture, Dr Lalivan Karnchanachari.

A special guest who created a stir was the Indian actor Gagan Malik, who played the role of Buddha in an acclaimed film, converted to Buddhism and then undertook a few months of monkhood at a Bangkok monastery in 2022. The actor said he was totally overwhelmed by this magnificent exposition of Buddha relics.

The Bihar governor spoke of the relevance of Buddha’s message of karuna and ahimsa, compassion and non-violence, in today’s strife-ridden world. The DG of UP Tourism gave an informative presentation on the Buddhist sites in the state, and the opportunities for investment there.

Meanwhile, the public had started queueing up in huge numbers to pay homage to the Buddhist relics. There were also beautiful Buddhist chanting and ceremonies. This will continue every day, till Sunday.

The pagoda containing the Buddhist relics will be heavily guarded. It will also follow the same temperature and humidity control conditions under which they are preserved in India. In fact, three curators from the National Museum will do eight-hour shifts, and maintain a 24-hour vigil over the relics which have been heavily insured as well. Thousands of Buddhist followers from the neighboring countries of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, are also expected to pay homage to the relics, according to Dr Supachai Verapuchong, a well-known businessman and devout Buddhist, who’s actively involved with this event.

Supachai founded the Bodhigayavijjalaya 980 Institute at Kushinagar, India, in 2016, the year the previous Thai King Rama 9 died, at the age of 80 (hence the 980 figure in the title of the institute). He has been so involved with the many religious and charitable projects of the institute that he has visited India at least 40 times in the last 20 years! “India is my homeland,” he said with feeling.

According to Dr Supachai, the Thai monastery at Bodhgaya, created in 1957, was the first-ever one built by the Thai government in any part of the world. He said that it was done at the invitation of the then Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Supachai is a great admirer of the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after the latter’s statement in 2014: “This is the century of Asia.” “He is the captain who can lead the boat, and I will be happy to jump into the boat with him,” he exclaimed.

From Bangkok, the relics will go to Chiangmai in northern Thailand (March 5-8), Ubon Ratchathani in northeastern Thailand (March 10-13) and the beach-town of Krabi in southern Thailand (March 15-18).

These are all tourist destinations, and for Indian tourists visiting Thailand this month, the exposition of the Buddha relics will be a great introduction to the grandeur and splendour of Thai cultural and religious traditions.

According to National Museum’s assistant director-general Ashish Goyal, who took up this post only six months back, it was “a blessing and such a big moment” for him to carry the Buddha relics during the spectacular opening event in Bangkok. He now understood why the Buddhist section of the National Museum was so popular and attracted tourists from so many diverse countries such as China, Korea, Japan and Mongolia.

Till now, the Buddha relics have travelled to Sri Lanka, Singapore, South Korea and Mongolia, and attracted phenomenal crowds.

The same is expected in Thailand.

For more details, check www.Dra.go.th.

 

Tags: thailand buddhist festival, thailand, budhha relics
Location: Thailand, Bangkok