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Monks Offer Rituals at Dharmarajika Stupa, Taxila Museum

August 8, 2023

ISLAMABAD — A group of monks sung hymns in the ‘Pali’ language while performing rites at one of Buddhism’s holiest monuments, the Dharmarajika Stupa.

The religious academics, archaeologists, and senior monks who attended the second day’s session of the Gandhara Symposium then went on a tour of the Taxila Museum and the Dharmarajika Stupa. They performed rituals in front of Buddha teeth on display at the museum as well.

Earlier in the day, participants at the symposium had urged the government of Pakistan to create conditions favorable to the arrival of large numbers of Buddhist pilgrims.

Professor Hridya Ratna of Nepal emphasized that Gautam Buddha is revered as a “teacher and a guide -but not a God” when discussing the Buddhist faith.

He continued by saying that it was during the Gandhara era that the Buddhists introduced meditation and the Ayurveda medical system. Dr. Ratna even had the audience meditate with her for a minute as she explained her technique.

Participants encourage the government to foster religious tourism.

And, “many things and knowledge are beyond religion as they are all related to humans,” he continued.

University of Leicester archaeology professor Ruth Young noted that over 35,000 people attended the exhibition of Gandhara culture artifacts and relics in Zurich, Switzerland.

According to Professor Young, this demonstrates that curiosity for this ancient civilization was not limited to the Buddhist population.

She went on to say that Pakistan should work with Gandhara’s indigenous people and figure out ways for them to benefit from the region’s booming tourism industry.

“But I want to add that tourism is not always beneficial, they bring in indisciplined people who damage sensitive sites, create pollution, and even overstress the local environment,” Prof. Young said.

The speakers all agreed that Gandhara needed to get its name out there more widely and that logistics and lodging needed to be improved. One of the presenters went so far as to say that “security management in Pakistan has to be camouflaged and not so open as it gives a fearful impression” of the country.

Senior researcher at a South Korean cultural heritage institution Yi Yun Jung emphasized Korea’s responsibility in protecting the Gandhara sites. She emphasized that training on site inspection, analysis, monument condition, master plan study, site organization, structure size, photography, and drone footage was provided to relevant department officials and university students.

She also mentioned that cutting-edge technology was used in the final evaluations to ensure that no antique artifacts were harmed.

Prof. Xiang Debao of Beijing University and Dr. Nishantha Pushpakumara of Sri Lanka were two of the other presenters.

After consulting with the leading monks of various Buddhist countries, Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, chairman of the PM’s Task Force on Gandhara Tourism, told media that the ‘Taxila declaration’ on resurrecting the Gandhara civilisation and Buddhist legacy in Pakistan would be executed.

Thai Ambassador Chakkrid Krachaiwon told reporters that the government views the symposium as a historic first step, and that they hope it would increase religious tourism and attract Buddhist scholars from all over the world.

“As a Buddhist place, we will highly encourage our followers of Buddhism to come to Pakistan and visit Taxila from where they can get vast knowledge about the mix of cultures,” stated Venerable Dr. Kallanchiye Rathanasiri, Department of Buddhist Studies, Bhiksu University of Sri Lanka.

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