The Newsletter 66 Winter 2013

Between religion and history: afterlives of Buddhist relics

Sraman Mukherjee

In 1892 Alexander Rea unearthed a small piece of bone in an inscribed stone reliquary at Bhattiprolu (in southern India). The translation of the ancient inscriptions identified the bone as the corporeal remains of the historical Buddha. In 1916 the Government of India proposed to present the Bhattiprolu relic to the Maha Bodhi Society, a prominent neo-Buddhist association. However, during the actual act of relic presentation in 1921, the reliquary itself was retained by the Madras Museum as an object of artistic and antiquarian value. The old bone was put in a new casket and presented to the Society for ritual enshrinement in the new Buddhist temple of Calcutta, the Dharmarajika Vihara.


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