| Chief minister Nitish Kumar gifts a bouquet to Bhutan’s princess Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck at Buddha Smriti Park in Patna on Friday. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
Patna, Sept. 13: The city turned into a seat of Buddhist pilgrimage with the arrival of at least 200 monks and followers from around 39 countries as a part of the ongoing “Global Buddhist Congregation”.
The air at the city’s Buddha Smriti Park was filled with chants of “Buddham Sharanam Gachami” in the presence of eminent invitees like Her Royal Highness Princess of Bhutan and Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuk. The entire shrine was adorned with marigold flowers for a grand conclave of the Buddhist confederation.
Monks from the three main Buddhist traditions — Theravada (Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, India), Bodhisattvayana (China, Tibet, Mongolia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan) and Vajrayana (India, Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan) orated hymns and conducted prayers at both the Bodhi plants, Buddha statue and near the relics of Lord Buddha kept inside the Patliputra Karuna stupa (central stupa). Relics of Lord Buddha brought from six countries are enshrined in the 200 feet high stupa.
The delegates held prayer sessions at the main pandal near a 12ft statue of Lord Buddha in the Bhoomisparsh Mudra (posture) in the presence of chief minister Nitish Kumar.
“We are taking all possible steps for the promotion of Buddhism in Bihar. Since Buddhist followers from across the globe come to Bodhgaya, we are taking all possible steps to increase connectivity to the holy place. The Patna-Gaya road is being converted into a four-lane expressway and the state government has given land to the Airports Authority of India for expansion of the runway at Gaya International airport,” said Nitish.
After Nitish’s address, Lama Lobzang, the founder of International Buddhist Confederation, made an appeal to the chief minister for declaring Bodhgaya as a sacred city. “Buddhist countries recognise Bihar and Bodhgaya as the centre of Buddhism. Thus, we appeal to chief minister Nitish Kumar to declare Bodhgaya as sacred city. Patna is also quite significant for us. Asoka propagated his nine missions across the globe from erstwhile Patliputra (Patna was known as Patliputra, which was the capital of emperor Asoka). The third Buddhist council was also held here,” said Lobzang.
Global Buddhist Congregation, one of the largest international gatherings of Buddhists on Indian soil, is being organised by the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) — an international Buddhist body. The IBC was founded in 2010 with the vision to create a role for Buddhism on the global stage and represent a united front for Buddhism.
The conclave was primarily held at Hotel Hyatt Regency in New Delhi from September 9 to 12, where detailed deliberations were held on various topics, including “Future of Buddhism in India”, “Bodhgaya — Revival and Management” and “China’s Buddhist Heritage”.
After prayers and speeches, the chief minister and the Buddhist congregation went to the newly developed Buddha museum for its inauguration.
Carola Roloff (Bhikshuni Jampa Tsedroen), a postdoctoral research fellow at University Hamburg, Germany, said: “Gender equality seems to be more in theory than in practice even in the 21st century. Things are gradually improving in Buddhism as women are included in the discussions.”
After lunch at the state guesthouse, the delegates left for Bodhgaya. They reached Bodhgaya around 7pm and offered prayers at Mahabodhi Mahavihara.