MARDAN: The Buddhist remains of Takht Bhai, Mardan echoed with prayers and hymns as a delegation of 39 Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka visited the site on Tuesday.
The government had invited the delegation on account of the Vesak festival. This was the second time that an international delegation has visited the site. Last year, a delegation of Korean monks visited Takht Bhai and Peshawar Museum.
After performing prayers in Takht Bhai, the monks went to Hund museum in Swabi – the last capital of Gandhara civilisation. The delegates also visited the Pukhtun cultural stalls at the museums and showed great interest in it.
While speaking to The Express Tribune, University of Peradeniya Professor Emeritus Dr Madduma Bandara said these archaeological sites are considered sacred and important for Buddhists all over the world.
“It is our privilege to have visited these sites,”
Bandara said the preservation of centuries-old Buddhist sites in a “Muslim-majority country” serves as welcome proof of mutual respect and tolerance shown towards other religions.
“It is the spirit of mutual coexistence for others that can preserve these sites,” he added.
Ven Nahalle Wajira Thero, a lecturer, said he always dreamt of visiting the site.
“Buddhism is one of the oldest religions in the world,” he said. “The site in Takht Bhai is well-preserved and is one of the largest ancient monasteries in the world.”
Thero said, “We are one of the oldest and largest religions in the world. It is only because of the efforts of both the governments that we are able to visit this site.”
During the festival, National Heritage Joint Secretary Mashood Ahmad said they were celebrating Vesak for the first time in the country.
“We want to show the world our cultural diversity, heritage and beauty,” he said. “The government had initially invited a delegation of 50 monks. However, only 39 of them could make it.”
He added, “The delegates will stay here for another three days to visit other religious sites in the country.”
Vesak is the most important religious festival in the Buddhist religious calendar. It marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition.
Vesak was also recognised by the United Nations in 1999 as the day of enlightenment to acknowledge the contribution of Buddhism to humanity’s spiritual and intellectual growth. It is usually celebrated in May or early June. The celebrations last for a week.
Takht Bhai was the part of Gandhara Civilization – one of the earliest urban settlements documented in the history of the subcontinent. The heritage site was first excavated in 1836.
Since then, archaeologists have excavated hundreds of relics made of clay, stucco and terracotta. These structures and crafts reflect complex iconography and monumental images.
According to federal government officials, these relics of Buddha were exhibited in different cities of Sri Lanka to attract visitors.
By HIDAYAT KHAN Published in The Express Tribune