India has agreed to temporarily lend fragments of Buddha’s bones, famously known as the Kapilavastu relics, to Sri Lanka for an exposition to celebrate his 2600th year of enlightenment later this year.
It will the be the first time in decades that the fragile bone fragments, kept at the National Museum, will be taken outside India.
Announcing the decision, visiting Lok Sabha Speaker, Meira Kumar, said the exposition should have a "calming and peaceful" effect in the region and spread the word of "non violence".
The Indian government’s decision follows a request by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Prime Manmohan Singh during his India visit in June last year. Meira Kumar conveyed to Rajapaksa during a meeting on Saturday that the parts of the Kapilavastu relics will be send to Sri Lanka for display during the celebrations.
The celebrations, also known as the Sambuddhatva Jayanti, will be carried out on a large scale on the island where Buddhism is the primary religion. Lakhs of devotees are expected to visit the exposition.
The relics were excavated by Alexander Cunningham, the first director of the Archaeological Survey of India, in the late 19th century from ruins in Piprahwa in present day Bihar; Piprahwa was known as Kapilavastu in ancient Indian history.
The logistics of the exposition, including transporting the relics, insurance, security and the period for which the fragile bones will be displayed, will be decided once the two countries sign an agreement.
Besides loaning the relics, India will also organise an international conference on Buddhism in Kandy in March. The upcoming conference and the commissioning of an Indian gallery, including a 16 feet high statue of Lord Buddha, for the International Buddhist Museum in Kandy came up for discussion during the meeting between Meira Kumar and Rajapaksa.
"In this context, she noted the concurrence of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to arrange an exposition later this year of the sacred Kapilvastu relics in Sri Lanka, following a request that had been made personally to him by the President of Sri Lanka," a statement from the High Commission of India said.