CUTTACK: A state-of-the-art museum will soon showcase the rare Buddhist relics at Lalitgiri in Cuttack district. While construction of the museum is nearing completion, the relic caskets will be showcased in a bullet-proof case.The museum has come up over an area of 13,000 sq ft land at the pedestal of Landa sandstone hill with an expenditure of `9.41 crore.
Built with pinkish Khandolite stones, it has six galleries to showcase ancient Buddhist images and sculptures discovered from Lalitgiri, an exhibition-cum-conference hall to facilitate tourist and three office rooms of Archeological Survey of India (ASI). The highlight, however, is the bullet-proof glass case where the relic caskets will be kept. The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) is implementing the project, which will be replete with all amenities for visitors including differently-abled persons.
The ASI excavation at Landa hill in 1988 had led to the discovery of sacred bone relics of prominent Buddhist luminaries well preserved in the caskets of gold and encapsulated respectively by silver, steatite and khondolite containers arranged like a Chinese puzzle box.
Of the three gold caskets discovered, one has a piece of bone covered by a gold wire, while the second has a piece of bone or tooth shaped relic fastened by a gold wire and a gold leaf. However, no relic was found in the third gold container.
Though the caskets are devoid of any inscription, experts believe that the piece of relic foiled by a gold wire and gold leaf is the auspicious bone or tooth relic of Lord Buddha(Tathagata) and the other piece of bone relic fastened by gold wire only is probably the remains of Buddha’s prominent disciples - either Sariputta or Mahamogallana.
After the rare discovery which is said to be the first of its kind in eastern India, the ASI had taken away the relic caskets from Lalitgiri and kept those in its strong room at Bhubaneswar on security grounds. Later, following the clamour over bringing the relic caskets back to its original place, the ASI decided to set up a museum in 2013.
Foundation stone for the museum was laid in June 2014 and it was scheduled to be completed by April 2015. However, tardy pace of work delayed the construction.