Sacred Kapilavastu Relics brought to Sri Lanka by Minister of Culture Kumari Selja on 19 August will be taken back to India on 12 September afternoon after the successful conclusion of the exposition at ten venues in Sri Lanka.
The Kapilavastu Relics had arrived in a special aircraft of the Government of India and will leave for India in a special aircraft organised by the Government of Sri Lanka. All the four Mahanayakas, members of the Mahasangha, Minister of Culture and Arts of Sri Lanka and a number of senior officials would be accompanying the Sacred Kapilavastu Relics on their return journey to India.
In a ceremony at the Colombo International Airport, hundreds of Buddhist monks will chant pirith before the Sacred Kapilavastu Relics leave Sri Lanka for India. The exposition of Sacred Relics, sent to Sri Lanka after a gap of 34 years, was originally planned at seven venues and scheduled to conclude on 5 September. This was extended by one week at the special request of the Government of Sri Lanka and three additional venues were added.
During the 25 days of exposition at 10 venues, approximately three million Sri Lankans (nearly 15 per cent of the total population of Sri Lanka) paid homage to the Sacred Relics. The exposition was organised at: Kapilawasthu Hall, Manel Watta Maha Viharaya, Kelaniya (19-21 August); Rajamaha Viharaya, Pelmadulla (22-23 August); Jayanthi Viharaya, Anuradhapura (24-26 August); Agrabodhi Viharaya, Kantale (27-28 August); Naranvita Temple, Gampola (29-30 August); Sri Sumangala Pirivena, Wariyapola (31 August and 1 September); Matara Bodhiya, Matara (2-4 September); Tissamaharama Viharaya, Tissamaharama (5-7 September); Gangaramaya Viharaya (8-10 September); and Kelaniya Rajamaha Viharaya (11 September).
President along with Leader of Opposition and High Commissioner of India had received the Relics at Gangaramaya Temple on their arrival from Tissamaharamaya. At each venue, the Governor of the concerned Province, the Chief Minister, Members of Parliament from that region and Senior Government Officials were present to receive the Sacred Relics.
People had assembled at all venues in an orderly manner a full day before the inauguration of the exposition and spent the night outside the venue braving the elements. Sri Lankan authorities had made extensive arrangements at all the venues including the provision of water, food and first aid. At some places like Wariyapola, the queue of devotees extended up to 15 kilometres.
The exposition of the Sacred Kapilavastu Relics was the grand finale of a series of initiatives jointly undertaken with the Government of Sri Lanka, over the past several months, to commemorate the 2600th Anniversary of Enlightenment of Lord Buddha. These initiatives included inter-alia, gifting of a 16 ft. high statue of Lord Buddha in the Sarnath style installed at the International Buddhist Museum at Sri Dalada Maligawa complex and the organisation of an International Buddhist Conference titled ‘Cultural Interface between India and Sri Lanka-Based on Buddhist History, Art, Culture and Philosophy’ at Kandy in March 2011, which was inaugurated by President of Sri Lanka.
The proceedings of the Conference were compiled and published in a Volume ‘Journey of the Holy Tree’, launched jointly by Minister of Culture, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja and Minister of External Affairs Prof. G.L. Peiris at a symposium on the theme ‘Relic Worship: History, Religion and Archaeology’ held at Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute auditorium on 20 September. The other initiatives included organisation of dance-dramas based on the life of Gautama Buddha, photo-exhibitions on Buddhism in India, photographic exhibition ‘India through Sri Lankan Eyes – Buddhist Circuit’ and screening of documentaries on Buddhism.
Since Prince Arhat Mahinda’s arrival in Anuradhapura in the 3rd century BC which heralded the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Buddhism continues to be one of the common threads that bind India and Sri Lanka together. The Exposition of the Sacred Kapilavastu Relics in Sri Lanka reinforced the common cultural heritage shared between India and Sri Lanka and further strengthened the multi-faceted relationship that the two countries share.