Gandhara Buddhist heritage in Pakistan is the ideal destination for Sri Lankans for their religious tourism, Most venerable Muruththettuwe Ananda Thero, Chief Incumbent Abayaramaya Temple and Chancellor of Colombo University told a media conference held at his temple on Monday,Jan 24. The Most venerable Muruththettuwe Ananda Thero and Venerable Gavaragiriye Premarathana Thero, Chief Advisor of Royal College Buddhist Brotherhood addressed newsmen in the forenoon on Monday.
Reflecting upon his memorable visit in April this year as part of the high-level Buddhist Monks delegation from Sri Lanka to Pakistan, Venerable Anand Thero highlighted the efforts of the Government of Pakistan in preserving the Buddhist heritage, he emphasized Pakistan as a new and unique destination for Buddhist travellers from Sri Lanka. Thero said that his visit to Pakistan had completely changed his concept on Pakistan which he earlier thought that there was no place for other religions in that country. “Pakistan people are very hospitable and they respect other religions and they also freely allow people of other faiths to practice their respective religions,” he said recalling the welcome his delegation got from each Muslim village he passed through in Pakistan. He said that the Buddhist members of the clergy were taken to meet the top officials of the government including the country’s president.
In his speech, Venerable Gavaragiriye Premarathana Thero, Chief Advisor of Royal College Buddhist Brotherhood said : “ It is a known fact that from time immemorial, Pakistan and our country Sri Lanka have been enjoying an amicable relationship. Both being Asian countries, we are bound by rich traditions and culture. Accordingly, Buddhism and Islam have done a great service to the humanity.” He pointed out that the glorious Gandhara heritage of Pakistan and being a proud custodian of some of the most sacred relics of Lord Buddha, offering great potential for promoting religious pilgrimages from Sri Lanka to Pakistan. “ One of the Tooth Relics of Lord Buddha, discovered from the Gandhara region is preserved at Taxila Museum in Pakistan. It is the region where the Gandhara Buddhist civilization reached its pinnacle of glory from 1st century AD to the 7th century AD. Besides, the world’s oldest Buddhist University, Thakshashila, Taxila which is in Pakistan, is home for some of the most sacred Buddhist artifacts found during archeological excavations around the 12th century.”
Apart from that,Venerable Thero said the sapling from the scared Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura was gifted by the government of Sri Lanka to the government of Pakistan, also grows in the gardens of Taxila Museum. Taxila, being the only unique site is known as the ‘City of Stone Carvers’.
“ I personally feel Pakistan is a safe and open country for all pilgrims from all over the world. I am also aware that Pakistan and Sri Lanka have agreed to form a working group to develop and promote religious sites related to Buddhism in Pakistan which is a home for one of the most exotic Buddhist civilizations of the past, would explore the prolific religious heritage. In conclusion, he said: “ I need to mention that Sri Lanka always stood for the real Islam preached by Prophet Muhammad. The present Prime Minister of Pakistan is an ardent follower of Islam and loves Prophet Muhammad adorably.
His vision as well as the vision of our leaders go hand in hand to make these countries as better places to live. I urge our people to visit Pakistan and see for themselves how peace and harmony prevail there and more importantly the place given to Buddhism.” Recently, a documentary on the Gandhara civilization in Pakistan, jointly produced by Pakistan and Sri Lanka, was launched by the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Titled “Gandhara” the documentary is jointly produced by the High Commission of Pakistan in Sri Lanka and Siddhivinayak Cine Arts (Private) Limited of Sri Lanka with the support of and in coordination with, the Sri Lankan Ministry of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs.It takes viewers on a visual journey of the Gandhara Buddhist heritage sites of Pakistan.
Disclaimer: “Gandhara Buddhist heritage in Pakistan is the ideal destination for Sri Lankans for their religious tourism” – Most venerable Muruththettuwe Ananda Thero - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view