TAXILA, June 2: Two Buddhist relics were handed over to Sri Lanka on Thursday for an exhibition in Colombo to mark the 2600th anniversary of Buddha.

In a simple ceremony at Taxila Museum on Thursday, officials of the Department of Archeology and Museum handed over the relics to officials from Sri Lankan embassy. Sri Lanka is organising one-month long exhibition of relics of Buddha taken from two museums of Pakistan.

Advisor to Prime Minister on Minorities Affairs Dr Paul Bhatti, Capital Administrative and Development Division Secretary Junaid Iqbal, Director General Department of Archaeology and Museum Dr Fazal Dad Kakar and Deputy Director Bahadur Khan and curator Taxila Museum Abdul Nasir Khan were present at the handover ceremony.

In his address, Sri Lankan High Commissioner Air Chief Marshal (retd) Jayalath Weerakkody termed Gandhara a binding bond between Pakistan and Buddhist world. He said the exhibition was the first step for cementing cultural relations between the two friendly countries, which would not only promote soft image of Pakistan but help bring religious tourists.

He said every year thousands of Sri Lankan people visit India on pilgrimage, adding that if Pakistan promotes its culture, improve tourist facilities and guarantee security, it could become destination of religious tourism from Buddhist countries.

Sri Lankan Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs MKADS Gunawardene noted that the Buddha’s teachings were more relevant than ever to address the current troubled times. He said at a time when the world was marking the 2600th anniversary of the attainment of the enlightenment, the Buddha’s teachings could illuminate the world.

Advisor to Sri Lankan Ministry of Education Ven Nedagamuwe Thero appreciated the efforts of Pakistan for preserving Buddhist places of religious worship. On his first visit to Pakistan, he said he was impressed with the archaeological treasures and excellent preservation of the Buddhist artifacts. But he regretted that Sri Lankan people were unaware about Pakistan’s rich Buddhist culture. He said exhibition of Buddhist antiquities selected from Pakistan would play a key role in promoting cultural relations. “Buddhist people of Sri Lanka will greatly cherish the exhibition of Ghandara Relic.”

He said Pakistan has well preserved sites of Gandhara civilisation and a tremendous collection of antiquities. “But there is a need of aggressive tourism policy on informing world about Buddhist remains in Pakistan, especially in Taxila and Swat valley.”

Earlier the Sri Lankan delegation visited archaeological Museum Taxila and ancient site of Julian ancient Taxila University and Dharmarajika stupa.