In response to the proposed plans for establishment of an International Buddhist Museum, the Government and people of Pakistan established the historic Pakistan Pavilion at the Sri Dalada International Museum of World Buddhism Kandy.
The Pakistan Pavilion was opened by President Mahinda Rajapaksha in May this year. This pavilion offers an excellent opportunity for the visitors to access religious information about the Buddhist sacred places in Pakistan.
Despite being a predominantly Muslim country, the people and the government of Pakistan have preserved the heritage sites and the places of worship belonging to other religious communities.
Normally with Pakistan the only faith that comes to mind is Islam. But the white portion of the Pakistani flag signifies that other religions are equally rich and gifted.
Birth and final resting place of Baba Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion, a land where Buddhism flourished, home of Shiva and Kali and a mesmerizing gallery of Islamic sites make Pakistan a dream come true for any soul in search of peace.
Buddhism left a monumental and rich legacy of art and architecture in Pakistan. Despite the vagaries of centuries, the Gandhara region preserved a lot of the heritage in craft and art. Much of this legacy is visible even today in Pakistan.
Today the Gandhara sculptures occupy a prominent place in the museums of England, France, Germany, USA, Japan, Korea, China, India and Afghanistan, together with many private collections world over, as well as a vast collection in the museums of Pakistan.
With this background and the eternal bond of friendship between the two brotherly countries of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the Pakistan Pavilion at the International Buddhist Museum was established. It aims to showcase the historic legacy of Gandhara region of Pakistan, which is preserved in a highly respectable manner in Pakistan.
The Pakistan pavilion is composed of two chambers, namely Gandhara and Taxilla, and it contains replica of historic Buddhist monuments from these respective regions. Following is the description of some of the famous replicas at the Pakistan pavilion:
The Fasting Siddhartha - Fasting for salvation
The statue of Fasting Buddha has become an icon of the rich Gandhara heritage of Pakistan. It has unique characteristics, depicting the hardships that Siddharata endured to attain the enlightenment.
This statue ranks not only as the finest specimen of Gandhara Art, but also as one of the rarest antiquities of the world. The original statue from the second century A.D. is available in Lahore Museum, Pakistan. It is 84 cm high and is made out of gray schist. It depicts Siddharata in ‘dhyana mudra’ or the meditation gesture.
Visit of Buddha to a Brahman’s hermitage
Siddhartha was facing some problems in attaining the enlightenment. He, therefore, decided to take advice of the Brahmans. He consulted the first one, but was not satisfied. He then consulted the second one who also could not solve his problem. He realized that the best way to find the solution was in his own way, without getting into consultation with anyone.
The Miracle of Sarasvati
The Lord Buddha displayed his miraculous powers at Sarasvati before King Prasenajit in a specially built pavilion to convert six heretical teachers of Rajgir.
The Lord Buddha was challenged by them, who themselves had the claim to having miraculous powers. According to the Buddhist texts, the Buddha walked into the air while emitting, alternately, flames and streams of water from the upper and lower parts of his body.
Then he showed himself also transforming into many images, which floated in the air into many directions which reached up to heaven while he preached law. In still another, two ‘naga’ kings – Nanda and Upananda – created a beautiful lotus before the king.
The Buddha made himself seated over it and preached the law. In Sanskrit, this attitude of the hands is known as the ‘Dharmachakramudra.’
Death of the Buddha (Mahaparinirvana)
The Buddha was traveling with his followers and Ananda, the foremost of his disciples, to teach law to the people. He fell ill and became weaker day by day.
After crossing the Hirannavati River, he came to Kusinara Bend in Kusinagara, now in Uttar Pradesh, India. When he came to the sal-tree Grove, he asked Ananda to prepare a platform for him as he was tired and would lie down.
He then attained the first trance. Emerging from it, he went into the perpetual ones, till after the fourth trance, the Blessed One died. In Sanskrit, this is called ‘Mahaparinirvana.’
Pyre of Buddha - The Cremation
In accordance with the wish of the Buddha, the matter of the way of disposal for his bodily remains was left to the locals. Thus the Malla chiefs made the arrangements. Buddha’s body was placed on the perfumed wood and the four ‘Malla’ nobles tried to set it on fire, but failed.
Then arrived Mahakasyapa, who saluted the feet of the Buddha, walked thrice around it and bowed in reverence. All the monks present there repeated the ritual after him and the funeral pyre itself caught fire. When the body was fully consumed by the fire, streams of water fell from the sky and rose up from the ground to extinguish it. The Malla nobles also did the same with vessels of scented water and kept the bones in the Council Hall for seven days for the people to pay their homage.
Life in the Palace
King Suddhodhana was concerned about his son, Siddharata, for his extraordinary habits. The young prince preferred solitude and pensive moods to the youthful merriment and worldly enjoyment. The king felt alarmed as he had already been warned by the great Rishi Asita about Siddharata’s becoming a Universal Monarch or a Buddha. As such, to turn him to sensual pleasures he arranged sweet and beautiful girls who always surrounded him. After his marriage with Yosadhara, Prince Siddharata was given three palaces to suit each season. Dancing and singing girls entertained him with their soft voices, charming dances, playful intoxication, laughter, and side long glances.
Since its inauguration the Pakistan Pavilion has been visited by a large number of local and foreign visitors from all walks of life.