Esha Mahajan TNN
New Delhi: A week-long cultural festival involving 900 delegates from over 46 countries, which was inaugurated at the India Habitat Centre on Thursday, is showcasing India’s Buddhist heritage not as a religion but as part of its tradition.
“India is the home of Buddhism and we felt we needed to do something big to honour the Buddha’s teachings and sa mb o d h i p r a p t i (attaining enlightenment). A global festival like this has not happened in recent past. Heads of various Buddhist federations and organizations, eminent spiritual masters like the s a n g a r aja sof some south Asian countries, and even His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be here for it,” said Ashok Wangdi, trustee, Asoka Mission, which is arranging the festival to commemorate the 2600th year of the Buddha’s enlightenment.
The programmes include a c h h a m dance performance by monks from Spiti in Himachal Pradesh; a book fair that will have spiritual books as well as those on Buddhism; a photo exhibition showcasing Buddhism in everyday life in India; a folk performance by a group from Nepal; music by Dharma Bums, a pop group from Woodstock in the United States; and a display of butter sculptures and sand m a n d ala made by monks from the Sherab Ling monastery in Himachal Pradesh, said Wangdi.
The organizers have also used it as an opportunity to make a tangible contribution, both to society and the Buddhist faith. At a four-day global congregation at the Asoka Mission, to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday, they will hold discussions on issues like environment degradation, science and technology.
“The chief guest at the closing session on the 30th will be the Dalai Lama and after attending a prayer meeting at Gandhi Smriti, he will march to Nehru Park and plant three Bodhi tree saplings — one each from Sri Lanka, Bodh Gaya and Shravasti in UP. The idea is to plant them really close so that when they grow they merge as one, symbolizing the oneness of faith and universal appeal of Buddhism,” said Wangdi.
The congregation will also try to capture the essence of Buddhism and its growth through the years. “The faith is constantly evolving due to which there needs to be a better understanding among the people,” said Wangdi.
UNITY CHANT: A four-day global congregation will be inaugurated by the Prime Minister on Sunday