CUTTACK: Thousands of people including Buddhist monks from foreign countries made a beeline for Lalitgiri here on Monday to catch a glimpse of the sacred relic caskets enshrined inside a bullet proof case at the state-of-the-art museum of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).The museum at the Buddhist site was dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the day. Tourists also went around different Buddhist sculptures and images of Manjushree, Tara, Jambhala, Dhyani, Prajnaparamita, Vasudhana and Aparajita that have been showcased at the galleries of the museum.
The sculptures and images belonging to the period from 5th to 11th century were unearthed from Lalitgiri during excavation by ASI. The excavation at Landa hill atop Lalitgiri in 1988 had led to discovery of the sacred bone and tooth relics of prominent Buddhist luminaries that were well preserved in caskets of gold encapsulated by silver, steatite and khondolite containers arranged like a Chinese puzzle box.
Of the three gold caskets discovered, one has a piece of bone or tooth covered by a gold wire while the second contains a bone or tooth-shaped relic securely fastened by a gold wire together with a gold leaf. No relic was found in the third container.
Though the caskets are devoid of any inscription, experts believe that the piece of relic covered with a gold wire and gold leaf is the auspicious bone or tooth relic of Lord Buddha (Tathagata). The other piece of bone relic fastened by gold wire is probably the remains of Buddha’s prominent disciples, either Sariputta or Mahamogallana.
After the rare discovery, believed to be the first-of-its-kind in Eastern India, the authorities had taken the relic caskets from Lalitgiri and kept those in the ASI strong room at Bhubaneswar over security reasons. Later, following clamour for bringing back the caskets to their original place, a modern museum having six galleries to display the unearthed structures was built over 13,000 sq ft of land at a cost of `9.5 crore at Lalitgiri. “This is the 46th museum of ASI. Besides wooing research scholars, it will enhance the tourist potential of Lalitgiri,” said ASI Superintendent Arun Mallik.