Bangladesh Gives Holy Relic to Sri Lanka

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh – Bangladesh presented Sri Lanka on Wednesday with a few strands of hair said to have belonged to Buddha, in a sign of friendship and goodwill.

A pagoda-shaped metal urn containing the hair was given to a Sri Lankan delegation by custodians of an ancient Buddhist monastery as monks in saffron robes chanted religious texts.

“Bangladesh is truly honored to be able to present this relic,” Foreign Affairs adviser Iftekhar A. Chowdhury said at the ceremony. “This gift would not only improve our bilateral relations, but also strengthen interfaith bonds between Muslims and Buddhists.”

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“This is a sacred relic of Lord Buddha. We will carry it with high veneration,” Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama replied, adding the relic will be kept at a monastery in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo, for Buddhist pilgrims to pay homage.

In return for the relic, Sri Lanka presented a stone slab imprinted with Buddha’s footprint and a statue to Chittagong Buddhist Monastery.

The Sri Lankan delegation, including three Cabinet ministers and the president’s son, were to fly back to Colombo on Thursday.

Ajit Ranjan Barua, chairman of the Bangladesh Buddhist Association, said a Tibetan monk brought the hair to Chittagong in 1930.

The relic, called Kesho Dhatu, was preserved in a glass box at the monastery, about 135 miles southeast of the capital, Dhaka. The barely visible strands of hair can be viewed by devotees only once a year, during a festival commemorating Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.

In the past, parts of the relic have been given to Buddhist monasteries in Japan, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Buddha, born as a Hindu prince named Siddhartha Gautama, founded the Buddhist religion more than 2,500 years ago in what is now parts of Nepal and India.

Buddhists now make up less than 2 percent of Muslim-majority Bangladesh’s 145 million people.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)