Buddhist Relics from Bhilsa Topes

Valerie J Roebuck vjroebuck at MACUNLIMITED.NET
Sat Jan 11 14:21:24 UTC 2003

Nyanaponika Thera, The Life of SAriputta, Wheel Publication 90-92,
Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, 1966, pp. 103-7, has a "Note on
the Relics of Sariputta and Maha-Moggallana" from the stUpas at Sanci
and SatadhAra.  The following is an extract from pp. 105-7:

"The Sacred Relics [of the bodies of the two great Arahats] were
preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum until 1939, when the MahA
Bodhi Society approached the British government with a request that
they be returned to India.  The request was at once granted, but
owing to the outbreak of the Second World War in that year, the
actual transfer was delayed for reasons of safety until Feb. 24th
1947.  On that date they were handed over to the representatives of
the MahA Bodhi Society at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and so
began their journey back to the land of their origin.

"Before being restored to India, however, the relics were taken to
Ceylon, where they were received with great honour amid general
rejoicing.  For two and a half months in 1947, they were displayed
for public worship at the Colombo Museum, where it has been estimated
that well over two million people paid homage to them.  It is said
that not only Buddhists but Hindus, Christians and Muslims joined in
paying reverence to them.

"The next stage of their journey to the new VihAra that was being
erected for their re-enshrinement at SAnchi, was Calcutta [where
their were similar scenes of devotion, mainly by Hindus, but also by
Muslims]... Many had come from distant parts to pay their respects to
the remains of these great sons of India...  [The relics were then
taken, at the request of their respective governments, to Burma,
Nepal and Ladakh, again drawing vast crowds.]

"After they were returned to India the Burmese government asked that
a portion of the Sacred Relics should be given to Burma... They were
ceremonially transferred... on the 20th October, 1950.  The portion
allotted to Burma was afterwards enshrined in the Kaba Aye Zedi
(World Peace Pagoda), built on the site of the Sixth Great Buddhist
Council, close to Rangoon...

"Another portion was given to Ceylon, to be enshrined in a new stupa
built by the Maha Bodhi Society of Ceylon...

"On the 30th November 1952 the remaining Relics were duly enshrined
at Sanchi on completion of the new Chetiyagiri Vihara built to
receive them.  There they remain, objects of the deepest veneration
to pilgrims from every Buddhist country, and a lasting reminder of
the lives of those in whom the Buddha's Teaching bore its finest

Valerie J Roebuck
Manchester, UK

At 7:40 am +0000 11/1/03, Valerie J Roebuck wrote:
>The reliquaries, artefacts etc are indeed in the British Museum.  But
>the bodily relics (of the two chief Arahats, SAriputta and
>MoggallAna) were given into the keeping of the Bhikkhu-saGgha in Sri
>This is from memory, so I can't at present provide a reference.
>Dr Valerie J Roebuck
>Manchester, UK
>>The relics from Sanci are in the British Museum. In Michael Willis,
>>Buddhist Reliquaries from Ancient India (London: British Museum
>>Press, 2000), Cunningham's finds are cataloged and illustrated.
>>On Sat, 11 Jan 2003, Artur Karp wrote:
>>>  Dear List-members,
>>>  Does anyone know what is the fate of relics excavated by Cunningham from
>>>  the stupas he opened in the early fifties of the 19th century?
>>>  Regards,
>>>  Artur Karp
>>>  University of Warsaw
>>>  Poland
>>Jason Neelis
>>University of Washington
>>Seattle, WA 98195   USA
>>neelisja at u.washington.edu

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