Stir over shifting of Buddha relics
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.”