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President unveils Indian-style Buddhist temple

world Updated: May 29, 2010 15:33 IST
Rahul Karmakar
Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times
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Indian diplomacy with China rode an historic horse with President Pratibha Devising Patil inaugurating an Indian-style Buddhist Temple in the White Horse Temple complex here Saturday morning.

Luoyang, a prefecture-level city in western Henan province, is 668 km southwest of Beijing. This city, named for being sited north (yang) of river Luo, was one of the four great ancient capitals of China.

More importantly for India, Luoyang’s Bai Ma Si or White Horse Temple is considered the cradle of Chinese Buddhism. And it was because of two Indian monks – Kashyapamatanga and Dharmaratna – who made it their base to preach Buddhism from.

Escorted by emissaries of Emperor Mingdi (58-75 AD), the monks had arrived here with a white horse carrying sacred texts in the first century. Some 2,000 years later, President Patil landed in a chartered white China Eastern aircraft – the presidential plane was too big to land at the Luoyang Airport – to add another touch of India.

“The Indian-style Buddhist temple is a gift from the people of India to a sister civilization, one with which we share so many valuable associations and memories of interaction. It is particularly appropriate that this inauguration takes place during the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China,” the President said.

Communist China’s prime Buddhist showpiece outside Tibet, the White Horse Temple received special attention between 1952 and 1973. India, in a bid to put 1962 behind, rediscovered the temple as a potential diplomatic galloper with Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao visiting it in 1993.

On 11 April 2005, New Delhi signed a MoU with Beijing. This allowed India to build an Indian-style Buddhist temple on 6,000 square metres of land in the western part of the complex. Subsequently, the Ministry of External Affairs organized a contest to zero in on the best design from architects.

Delhi-based firm AJRC won the contest to have the temple – it is almost a carbon copy of Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh – constructed by July 2009. The bill came to Rs 18 crore.

“All materials used to build the temple were brought from India in 100 containers. We used red sandstone, kota stone and Udaipur and Jaisalmer green to make the temple,” Akshaya Jain of AJRC told HT.

According to S Jaishankar, India’s ambassador to China, the temple is a reminder that India and China are quite close. “This is expected to erase the perception that India and China are distant in history with little to do with each other,” he said.