For the second time in 113 years, the sacred Kapilavastu relics (fragments of Buddha's bones) are to travel from India to Sri Lanka.
The relics are among the most protected and revered artefacts in the world. They are now at the National Museum in New Delhi. The relics will be on display across Sri Lanka from August 20 to September 5. The relics will have the status of a head of state in Sri Lanka.
An agreement to make this happen was signed in Colombo on Friday by H.P. Cashian Herath, Secretary, Ministry of Buddhasasana and Religious Affairs, Sri Lanka, and Pravin Srivastava, Director General, National Museum, India.
It is being organised following a request made by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to provide an opportunity to the followers of Buddhism in Sri Lanka to pay homage to the Kapilavastu relics.
The relics were excavated by Alexander Cunningham, the first director of the Archaeological Survey of India, in the late 19th century from ruins in Piprahwa, in present day Bihar. Piprahwa was known as Kapilavastu in ancient India. Historical chronicles record that after the Buddha's “Parinibbana” (passing away), the holy relics taken from the cremation site were divided into eight portions and handed over to separate groups for preservation. According to Mahaparinibbana Sutta , penned in the fifth century BC, one portion of the relics was handed to the Sakyas of Kapilavastu. These came to be known as the Kapilavastu relics.