Lalitgiri is a small village under the Mahanga tehsil in Cuttack district of Odisha. It is an important place of Buddhist heritage.
The Lalitgiri Buddhist complex. It was first documented in 1927. Wikimedia Commons
Remains of stupas, viharas, and sculptures, excavated during the British period, dot the landscape.
Remains of a Buddhist vihara at Lalitgiri, Mahanga. Twitter
But despite being an archaeologically important place for Buddhism, there was not a proper museum either at the site or nearby Mahanga. It is only now that the Odisha government has taken the initiative to construct a museum at Lalitgiri.
The under-construction museum at Lalitgiri, Mahanga. Twitter
Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda posted a Tweet informing us that the construction work is progressing well.
Once completed, Panda informs, the museum will house a relic of the Buddha inside a strongroom.
Panda (bottom right) talking with authorities involved in the construction project. Twitter
What is a relic?
A relic of the Buddha is any part of his body – tooth, hair or even bones. After the death of the Buddha, his body parts and ashes were distributed between eight ruling kingdoms. With the passage of time, the places where the relics were kept fell to ruin. Ashoka the Great collected all the relics and redistributed them in 84,000 stupas.
A tooth relic of the Buddha in Thailand.Wikimedia Commons
Transfer through diplomatic or religious channels, invasions and smuggling led to many relics crossing the shores of Indian sub-continent and reach those of at least 20 countries including United States. There are many Buddhist stupas and pagodas in India that contain one or the other relics of the Buddha.
Bone relics of the Buddha are located in the Gopala Vipassana Pagoda in Mumbai and also at the National Museum at Delhi.
A relic of the Buddha at the National Museum in New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons
At Lalitgiri, a casket containing the bones of the Buddha was recovered from a stone stupa on the hill. The same will be placed inside the strongroom.