TAXILA: For the first time, the Vesak festival was observed at Dharmarajika stupa and monastery in Taxila by Sri Lankan monks on Monday.
The Dharmarajika stupa was established by the Maurya emperor Ashoka and destroyed in the 5th CE by the White Huns.
The Vesak day is celebrated to commemorate events of significance to the Buddhist of all traditions: the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Buddha. According to the Buddhist religion, 2016 is marked as the 2,560th year of the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha.
The festival is being observed across the globe by the followers of Buddhism. The Vesak festival, also known as Buddha Purnima (full moon) and Buddha Day, is a holiday observed traditionally on different days in all Buddhist countries of Asia and other parts of the world.
A 48-member delegation from Sri Lanka took part in the Buddhist religious event
A 48-member delegation from Sri Lanka, including 25 monks, led by minister of primary industry Daya Gamage along with deputy minister for petroleum resources Development Anoma Gamage, visited the stupa, Sirkap site and the Taxila Museum and offered religious rituals in connection with the festival.
Daya Gamage told newsmen that the visit of the Sri Lankan monks and the exhibition of sacred relics, including two bone relics of the Buddha, a golden casket containing the relics and a stone reliquary in stupa shape from Pakistan in Sri Lanka, would open new prospects of relations in the field of culture. He lauded the role of the government of Pakistan for enhancing cultural relations and taking initiatives for the promotion of religious tourism.
Senior religious scholar Prof S.B. Hettiarachchi added that despite being a Muslim country Pakistan had done a lot for the preservation and restoration of centuries-old Buddhist sites. He said such a rich archeological treasure should be showcased for the followers of Buddhism across the globe.
Senior Monk Ven Nahalle Wajiragana Thero said as home to Buddhist civilisation Pakistan was deeply revered by the Sri Lankans. He said the visit of the monks would help fetch more religious tourists to Pakistan.
Secretary National History and Literary Division Mohsin S. Haqqani said Pakistan was taking steps to attract Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka and other parts of Asia. He said Pakistan was a signatory to Unesco’s declaration on cultural diversity and committed to promoting “fruitful diversity of cultures.”
Director General federal department of archeology and museums Mashood Ahmed Mirza said Pakistan and Sri Lanka had decades-old diplomatic relations and now they wanted to extend it to cultures and religious tourism.
Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2016