Relics of the Buddha’s chief disciples exhibited in Sanchi
The relics of two chief disciples of the Buddha–Sariputta and Maha Moggallana- are exhibited for public once a year at Sanchi and hundreds of thousands of Buddhist devotees form around the world come to the World Heritage site for a glimpse.
This year, the relics are being exhibited on Saturday and Sunday during the annual International Buddhist festival at Sanchi. The festival is organised on the last Sunday of November at the Chethiyagiri Vihara.
A 35-member delegation of Buddhists from Taiwan has come to have a glimpse of the relics and offer their prayers.
Buddhists from Taiwan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka have already arrived in Sanchi on Saturday and devotees from Japan and Singapore will arrive on Sunday, says Chandri Bodhi Patil, chief of the Buddhist Society of India.
“Few people know that the keys to the highly guarded room where the relics are kept are with two persons– Raisen district collector and office bearer of the Maha Bodhi Society,” he tells Hindustan Times.
“Earlier, the relics were displayed only on Sunday, but now as more devotees are pouring in, it was decided to exhibit the relics on Saturday also,” he says.
In 1851, British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham found two boxes of gray sandstone inside the Stupa at Sanchi, where he was excavating a third- century BC Ashokan Buddhist complex, says archeologist Dr Narayan Vyas.
“The relics from both stupas were removed to England and placed in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Maha Bodhi Society and Jawahar Lal Nehru played a key role in getting the relics back,” he says.
“The society requested the British government to return the relics to India in 1937 and after years of lobbying and struggle the relics were handed over to India in 1947.”
Not many know that the Nawab of Bhopal also played a key role in re-enshrinement of relics at Sanchi.
According to research scholar Torkel Brekke from the University of Oslo, in 1946, the Maha Bodhi Society sent a delegation to the Nawab of Bhopal, seeking his permission to re-enshrine the relics at Sanchi.
Besides granting permission, the Nawab also promised to donate Rs 25 000 for the enshrinement. Finally on November 30, 1952, the remaining relics were enshrined in the newly built Chetiyagiri Vihara, by the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru.