Rijiju-led delegation to carry Buddhist relics to Mongolia

The relics will be received in Mongolia by their culture minister; advisor to the President of Mongolia and a large number of monks among other dignitaries
Last Updated 11 June 2022, 14:11 IST

In a move of cultural diplomacy with Mongolia, India is sending a delegation of 25 headed by law minister Kiren Rijiju, with sacred Buddhist relics. The delegation will head to China’s neighbouring country on June 12 ahead of Mongolia’s Buddha Purnima on June 14.

The delegation will be in Mongolia on a 11-day exposition, and the four relics will be displayed at the Batsagaan Temple at the Gandan Monastery situated in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.

The relics are currently kept at the National Museum, and were first discovered in 1898 from the ancient city of Kapilavastu in Bihar. Rijiju said that the relics, known as the ‘Kapilvastu Relics’, have never been moved out since.

“The relics had been granted ‘AA stature’ and have not been moved out of the National Museum. But, at the special request of the Mongolian government, we have decided to send them for the exposition,” Rijiju said. Initially, they were to be displayed for a week, but on request of the Mongolian government, the display time has been extended to 11 days.

A released by the culture ministry stated that the last time these relics were taken out of the country was in 2012, when they were taken to Sri Lanka and were on display at several locations across the island nation. “However, later guidelines were issued and the Holy Relics were placed under the ‘AA’ category of those Antiquities and Art Treasures which should not be ordinarily taken out of the country for exhibition, considering their delicate nature,” the release said.

Rijiju added that PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Mongolia in 2015 was the first an Indian prime minister visited Mongolia, and taking the relics to Mongolia will help revive diplomatic ties with Mongolia, which he termed as a cultural neighbour. In his 2015 visit, Modi had visited Gandan Monastery and also presented a Bodhi Tree Sapling to Hamba Lama.

An advance team from the Centre has been sent to Mongolia to look at the arrangements there, and the relics will be taken in the same climate control case as it has been kept presently at the National Museum. They will also be accorded the status of a state guest and the Indian Air force has sent the C-17 Globe Master to carry them, the culture ministry said. “Two Bullet Proof casings as well as two ceremonial caskets are being carried by the Indian Delegation for both the relics,” the ministry said.

The relics will be received in Mongolia by their culture minister; advisor to the President of Mongolia and a large number of monks among other dignitaries.

Apart from the exposition, to strengthen diplomatic ties, the government has pursued cultural activities in Mongolia, in the face of geopolitical rivalry with China. The culture ministry said that India has printed 75 copies of 108 volumes of Mongolian Kanjur for the Mongolian government, and that it is currently digitising the Kanjur manuscripts. In addition to that, 500 Mongolian monks are studying in different monasteries and institutions here, and India has facilitated their travel and visas.

(Published 11 June 2022, 14:11 IST)

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