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The sacred Piprahwa relics

  • Category
    History
  • Published
    2nd Nov, 2021

Context

After 141 years, Buddha’s relics excavated in India have been returned from Sri Lanka.

About the Piprahwa Relics

  • In 1898, archaeologists from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) excavated a large mound in the estate of British landowner, William Claxton Peppe in Piprahwa, in Uttar Pradesh’s Siddharthnagar district.
  • The site is 160 km from Kushinagar, the final resting place of Buddha, where he attained Mahaparinirvana after his death.
  • A part of these Buddha relics were sent to the King of Thailand and another part was sent to the King of Burma.
  • Peppe handed another part of the relics, as a token of gratitude, to the then Subhuthi Mahanayake Thero of Waskaduwa Temple.
  • The only documented authentic relics of the Buddha in Sri Lanka, the sacred Piprahwa relics are kept at Waskaduwa Viharaya in Sri Lanka’s Kalutara.
  • The relic got the status of state guest by the Ministry of Culture.
  • The relics were kept on a casket and were covered with white cloth and were kept on an elevated platform as per the travel rules for relics.

Importance with respect to International Relations

  • Exposition of The Buddha’s relics in each other’s countries is an important component of Buddhist ties.
  • The Kapilvastu relics in India have been taken out of India only six times in the past, were sent to Sri Lanka on two occasions – in 1978 and in 2012.

What are Buddha’s Relics?

  • Shakyamuni Buddha’s ashes are said to have been divided into eight portions and enshrined in eight countries in stupas built for them.
  • In 1898 relics were discovered at Piprahwa (also spelled Piprava), on the northern border of India, and inscriptions on their receptacle identified them as those of Shakyamuni Buddha.
  • Scholars today believe them to be one of the original eight divisions of Shakyamuni’s remains, the portion that had been enshrined in Kapilavastu (present-day Piprahwa).
  • According to tradition, King Ashoka erected eighty-four thousand stupas to house the Buddha’s relics.
  • In China, the first stupa dedicated to the Buddha’s relics is believed to have been erected in the third century, and, from the fourth century on, stupas came to be erected at various locations.
  • Veneration of the Buddha’s relics flourished particularly during the T’ang (618–907) and the Sung (960–1279) dynasties.
  • From a doctrinal viewpoint, two kinds of relics are set forth: the Buddha’s physical remains and the teachings that he expounded. The former are called the relics of the physical body, while the latter are called the relics of the Dharma body.
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