A special delegation of 25 Indian dignitaries, led by union minister Kiren Rijiju, arrived in Ulaanbaatar on 13 June bearing four sacred Buddha relics. The relics, which originate from Kapilvastu in modern-day Nepal, where the Buddha entered parinirvana, are part of a goodwill gesture by the Indian government toward Mongolia. They will be exhibited for 11 days to honor the Mongolian celebration of Buddh Purnima, the birth of the Buddha, on 14 June.
The relics were met at Ulaanbaatar International Airport by Mongolia’s culture minister, Nomin Saranchimeg, as well as Khamba Nomun Khan, advisor to the president of Mongolia, and a large number of Buddhist monks, among other dignitaries.
Rijiju told media at the event that the people of both nations had a strong bond. In a press release, he stated that the people of Mongolia “look up to India as [a] source of wisdom. India occupies a special position in the hearts and minds of people of Mongolia.” (Republic World)
The relics were transported aboard an Indian Air Force cargo aircraft, along with Buddhist monks and political dignitaries. En route, the relics were kept in climate-controlled conditions matching those of the National Museum in New Delhi to ensure their preservation.
The relics were taken to Batsagaan Temple in Gandan Monastery in the Mongolian capital, where they will be displayed until 24 June. Speaking prior to embarking on his visit, Rijiju called the gesture a “historic milestone” for the bilateral ties of India and Mongolia. At the monastery, Rijiju added: “The historical relations between India and Mongolia will further strengthen with the coming of relics from India to Mongolia.” (Republic World)
While at Gandan Monastery, Rijiju pointed out that the main Buddha statue in the shrine room was a gift from Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who visited the monastery in 2015. During that visit, Modi also gifted a sapling from the sacred Bodhi tree to Hamba Lama, the monastery’s most senior lama.
Rijiju noted that Modi was the first-ever prime minister of India to visit Mongolia. He added that the relics represented an “extension of the vision of our prime minister to revive our relations with the countries with whom we have had cultural and spiritual ties since centuries ago.” (Republic World)
In a tweet, the office of Kiren Rijiju said: “The teachings of Lord Buddha are relevant even in today’s time and will guide humanity towards greater peace, harmony and prosperity.” (Hindustan Times)
The relics have previously traveled for similar cultural and diplomatic purposes. In 2012, they were taken to Sri Lanka, where they were displayed at various locations across the island nation.
Subsequent to that trip, the relics were placed under guidelines for antiquities and art treasures, which stipulated that they should not leave the country, given their delicate nature. Thus they have remained in India until now. Following the request by the Mongolian government, union minister G. Kishan Reddy made a special exception to the rule to allow them to be sent abroad for 11 days.
According to 2020 census data, 51.7 per cent of Mongolians identified as Buddhist, almost entirely Vajrayana practitioners. About 40.6 per cent of Mongolians identified as religiously unaffiliated, while 3.2 per cent were Muslims, 2.5 per cent follow Mongolian shamanic traditions, 1.3 per cent were Christians, and 0.7 per cent followed other religions.
Kiren Rijiju-led Delegation Carrying Lord Buddha’s Relics From India Arrive In Mongolia (Republic World)
Kiren Rijiju takes holy Buddha relics to Mongolia in ‘message of peace’| Video (Hindustan Times)
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