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Buddha relics enshrined at Chinese temple

world Updated: Jun 12, 2010 15:26 IST

PTI
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Precious relics believed to be part of the skull of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, found three years ago, were enshrined on Saturday at Qixia Temple in Jiangsu province in China.

The relics were sent to the country by the great Indian Emperor Ashoka and buried beneath a Chinese temple over 1000 years ago.

The significance of the enshrining ceremony, attended by scores of Buddhist monks from across China including Tibet, Macau, Hong Kong as well as Taiwan, was that for the first time after the Communist takeover of the country the event was allowed to beamed live by television channels.

The casket, in which the relics known as "sarirars" (parts of the body of Buddha) were preserved in two different boxes, was opened amid chanting of hymns by the monks.

CTV which commissioned Indian and Buddhist scholars to elucidate on the history and importance of Buddhism announced that the relics represented the evidence of "Buddha's enlightenment and spiritual purity".

The casket, containing small size stupa of Emperor Ashoka in which the relics were preserved, is the largest and finest ever found in China.

"Its complicated techniques are rarely seen as it was made 1000 years ago" and it was discovered during excavations of the temple three years ago, according to one Buddhist scholar.

The casket made of gold, silver and sandalwood was found among scattered objects in an underground chamber. The relics were kept carefully in a small box made of gold, which also contained a bottle of perfume. Its objects which displayed to the public were closely scrutinised by magnifying cameras.

According to Buddhist scriptures, Emperor Ashoka collected all of Sakyamuni's sarira, stored them in pagoda-shaped shrines, before sending them to different parts of the world.

China is believed to have received 19 of them. Search is on for the rest. These caskets were not opened fearing bad luck.

Buddhism came to China in 68 AD when first Buddhist temple called White Horse temple was built in Luoyang by Chinese Monk Xuanzang after a 17-year-long voyage to India.

Luoyang was in news recently when President Pratibha Patil inaugurated an Indian style Buddhist temple which was built in association with India to revive the age old spiritual links between the two countries.

Buddhism flourished in China with patronage from successive ruling dynasties and dominant spiritual forces until the Communist take over in 1949 after which it was brought under state control.

During the cultural revolution in 1960s and 70s some its temples were destroyed and vandalised. In recent years, however, Buddhism steadily staged a come back as more and more Chinese beginning to rediscover their religious roots.

Officially, China has over 10 million Buddhists.