Buddha’s Holy Relics at Patna Museum

“The Heart-mantra of Dependent Origination (rten-‘brel snying-po [རྟེན་འབྲེལ་སྙིང་པོ]), which liberates the enduring continuum of phenomena and induces the appearance of multiplying relics (‘phel-gdung [འཕེལ་གདུང་] and rainbow lights’’, is:
(‘Whatever events arise from a cause, the Tathagāta [Buddha, “Thus-gone”] has told the cause thereof, and the great virtuous ascetic has taught their cessation as well [so be it]’).” ―Graham Coleman, The Tibetan Book of the Dead

The sacred relics (holy ashes of Lord Buddha) were found in the centre of the lowest mud layer of the stupa at Raja Vishal Ka Garh* (Baniya village in Vaishali district) during an extensive excavation carried out by noted archaeologist A.S. Altekar from 1958 to 1961 under the aegis of the Kashi Prasad Jayaswal Research Institute, Patna. Buddhists consider the ashes as one of the most important relics of Buddhism.
The, tiny, white-colored casket is one-third filled with the ashes of Buddha along with one stone bead, one broken glass bead, copper punch mark coin, conch and a small leaf of gold. The casket is placed in a special glass compartment with sealed locks in a special temperature and humidity controlled room in first floor of Patna Museum.

The tiny casket with the holy relics are preserved in a special room of Patna Museum

The bead, that represent the holy relics is known as ‘Śarīra’. Śarīra originally meant ‘body’ in Sankrit, but when used in Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit texts to mean ‘relics’, it is always used in the plural: śarīrāḥ. These are pearl or crystal-like bead-shaped objects which are usually found among the cremated ashes of Buddhist spiritual masters. Relics of the Buddha after cremation are termed ‘dhātu’ in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta. The Mahaparinibbana-sutta, written in Pali means ‘Discourse on the Final Nirvana’. The holy book describes the Buddha’s last days, his passage into nirvana, his funeral, and the and the subsequent distribution of his ashes.
The appearance of Stupa and the use of mud lumps denote that it is one of the eight original stupas housing the Buddha’s relics. The authenticity of the relics has been proved archaeologically, scientifically and on the basis of the literary sources. The partially-empty casket at the times of excavation also proved Chinese pilgrim Yuan-Chwang’s statement right that Ashoka the great broke open all eight stupas, except one, and took the relics away and divided them into 84,000 parts to be placed in equally number of stupas that he built during his reign in all parts of his empire.
Visitors need a special ticket of Rs. 100/- to see the relics.
According to ‘Mahaparinibbana Sutta’**, Buddha underwent ‘Maha Parinirvana’ in Kushinagar in 483 BC. After his body was cremated, differences arose among groups over the division of his remains. ‘Mahaparinibbana Sutta’ explains that originally his ashes were to go only to the Shakya clan, to which Buddha belonged; but, six clans (powerful kingdoms and republics) and a king, demanded the body relics. To avoid fighting, a Brahmin Drona divided the holy remains into ten portions, eight from the body relics, one from the ashes of Buddha’s cremation pyre and one from the pot used to divide the relics, which he kept for himself.
All of them buried their share of relics in stupas specially built to serve as markers of the physical presence of the Buddha and his teachings. Holy relics were enshrined and worshipped in stupas by the royals of eight clans. These were king Ajatasattu of Magadha, the Licchavis of Vaishali, the Sakyas of Kapilavastu, the Bulis of Allakappa, the Koliyas of Ramagrama, the brahmin of Vethadipa, the Mallas of Pava and the Mallas of Kushinagar. Often the relics were enclosed in specially made caskets.
The relics were later dug up by Ashoka, and used the relics (said to have been divided into 84,000 portions) and had stupas built over them throughout the region he rules. The ‘Ashokavadana’ tells us that many of the remains were taken to other countries too. The book narrates how Ashoka redistributed Buddhas relics across 84,000 mud stupas.
The urn containing the Buddha’s ashes was recovered during an excavation at Vaishali and housed in a small museum there. Later it was taken to the Patna Museum for security reasons. Vaishalidespite being an important Buddhist heritage sitereceives fewer international tourists as compared to Bodh Gaya and Nalanda.
Buddha was a great philosopher, an eternal guide. Buddha taught, “As you walk, eat, and travel, be where you are. Otherwise, you will miss most of your life.” Is not that quite true in all aspects of our life? Be it something that we are doing, eating or are present somewhere, or we are travelling to some place; we can never experience life to its best if we are not completely present
there, fully associated with, at that particular moment. We need to be mentally and physically present to see life unfolding. Only then we will be able not to miss a single bit of our life. And his wonderful words, “In the end, only three things matter: How much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

The magnificent building of the century old Patna Museum

*Raja Vishal Ka Garh is a huge mound of with a circumference about one kilometre and walls nearly 2m high with a 43m wide moat around them. It is believed as the ancient parliament house.
**The Nirvana Sutra, or Mahāparinirvāa Sūtra (Chinese: Nièpán Jīng (涅槃經); Japanese: Nehankyō (涅槃経); Tibetan: myang ‘das kyi mdo) is a major Mahayana sutra, generally referred to by its full Sanskrit title, Mahāyāna Mahāparinirvāa Mahā-sūtra (or simply ‘Nirvana Sutra’).

Read: http://www.btrts.org.sg/sacred-relics-of-the-buddha/

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1 Comment Buddha’s Holy Relics at Patna Museum

  1. Yogesh April 22, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    Very informative. Thanks.


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