Photo exhibition at National Museum celebrates exposition of Buddha holy relics in Thailand

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New Delhi, Jun 11 (PTI) An exhibition of photographs capturing the emotional outpouring and deep-rooted reverence of Thai people towards Lord Buddha displayed during a recent 26-day exposition of his holy relics in Thailand opened at the National Museum here to celebrate the event.

Union Culture Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Maris Sangiampongsa, inaugurated the exhibition titled 'Thailand-India Interwoven Legacies: Stream of Faith in Buddhism'.

The exposition was held across four different sites in Thailand from February 23 and March 18.

During the exposition, "more than four million devotees from different parts of Thailand and its neighbouring countries paid tribute to the holy relics", Shekhawat said in his address.

"Elaborate and colourful ceremonial processions and chanting ceremonies were organised by Thai communities and the Indian diaspora. At all four venues in Thailand, miles-long queue of devotees, disciples could be seen waiting for their turn to catch a glimpse of the holy relics," he said.

The royal family of Thailand had also paid obeisance to the holy relics in Bangkok.

"The overwhelming response by devotees exceeded the expectations, reaffirming the civilisational, traditional, and cultural relations between India and Thailand," Shekhawat said.

The four holy Piparahwa relics of Buddha and his two disciples Arahata Sariputra, and Arahata Maudgalyayana were enshrined on February 23 for public veneration at the specially-built mandapam at Sanam Luang pavilion in Bangkok.

The relics were then displayed at Ho Kum Luang, Royal Rujapruek, Chiang Mai, from March 4 to 8; Wat Maha Wanaram, Ubon Ratchathani, from March 9 to 13; and Wat MahaThat, Aoluek, Krabi, from March 14 to 18.

After that, the relics were escorted back to India on March 19 from Thailand to their respective homes, concluding a historic and spiritually enriching exposition in Thailand.

These relics were ferried to Thailand in a special Indian Air Force aircraft, befitting the status of a 'State Guest' on February 22.

The four relics are preserved in India. While the relics of Buddha are in the custody of the National Museum, those of his disciples were sent to Delhi by Madhya Pradesh for the journey to Thailand.

The exposition was jointly organised by the kingdom of Thailand and the Ministry of Culture of the government of India with active support from the Ministry of External Affairs, the Indian Embassy in Thailand, National Museum and International Buddhist Confederation, and the Mahabodhi Society, the minister said.

Shekhawat in his address also recalled the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the exposition. The ideals of Buddha serve as a spiritual bridge between India and Thailand, fostering a deep-rooted connection, Modi had said.

"The exhibition captures the emotional outpouring, and the deep-rooted devotion and reverence of the Thai people towards Lord Buddha and his message of peace and compassion," Shekhawat said.

"I am extremely grateful to the Kingdom of Thailand for hosting this exposition which enabled million of devotees to pay obeisance to the holy relics of Lord Buddha and his disciples," he said.

B R Mani, Director General of the National Museum which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Culture, said this exhibition celebrates the exposition held earlier this year.

"About 44 lakh people altogether visited and paid obeisance. People were so excited and full of reverence for the holy relics that they even sat on roadsides with lotus flower in their hands," he told PTI.

Mani said Buddha's teachings are very relevant today because he never preached for any war or violence within communities and between nations.

"He preached for betterment of lives and for achieving Nirvana... On that path, the whole of South East Asia is proceeding and they don't have any problems. And, people in these Buddhist countries adopt the teachings of Lord Buddha," he said.

Mani said a total of 58 photographs and some videos showing glimpses of the expositions are part of the exhibition which will be on till August 4.

Pictures showing some of the ceremonies held in New Delhi before the holy relics were sent to Thailand, have also been exhibited.

Mani said in Thailand, the royal families also gifted some ceremonial ornamental objects such as a gold-plated casket that was presented to him at Krabi. PTI KND ZMN