India's Buddha diplomacy faces new challenge from Pak

India's Buddha diplomacy faces new challenge from Pak

India's bid to invoke Lord Buddha in its outreach to some of its neighbours now faces a new challenge and it comes from Pakistan.

New Delhi has so far been competing only with Beijing in leveraging the legacy of Buddha in diplomatic outreach in South and South-East Asia. Islamabad, however, joined the race and of late invoked Buddhist legacy of Pakistan in its ties with countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Both New Delhi and Islamabad last week sent sacred relics of Gautama Buddha to Sri Lanka on the occasion of Vesak Festival in the island nation.

The Vesak Day or Buddha Purnima is the holiest day for the Buddhists around the world. It commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha in Theravada Buddhism.

The relics sent from Islamabad to Colombo had been originally discovered during excavation near Dharmarajika Stupa, which had been built at Taxila, now in Punjab province of Pakistan, in the 3rd century BCE. The Dharmarajika Stupa had been excavated by Ghulam Qadir in 1912-16 under the direction of legendary archaeologist John Marshall. The stupa had been built to enshrine Lord Buddha's holy relics which had been redistributed by Mauryan King Asoka, according to a press release issued by the High Commission of Pakistan in Colombo.

India's gesture

New Delhi too sent sacred relics of Lord Buddha to Sri Lanka on the occasion of the Vesak. The relics included one found by John Marshall near Dharmarajika Stupa at Taxila in Pakistan, but had later been brought to India. The other relic sent by New Delhi had been found by A H Longhurst of Archaeological Survey of India in 1929 in Maha Chetiyaor, a large stupa at Nagarjunakonda in Guntur district of the then Madras Presidency. The second relic had been enshrined at Sarnath near Varanasi in India, according to the High Commission of India in Colombo.

The relics sent by India to Sri Lanka is currently on display at Temple Trees in Colombo.