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Hefty fee for seeing Buddha's ashes draws flak TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ SATURDAY, JANUARY 11, 2003 01:14:01 AM ] Patna: The state government's decision to introduce an entrance fee of Rs 100 from January 11 for having a glimpse of the holy ashes of Lord Buddha at present kept in the Patna museum has evoked sharp reactions from the people.

A large number of the people have criticised the government's decision.

"Many of us will never be able to see the holy ashes," said Om Prakash Sinha of Srikrishnapuri.

"If my family consisting of five members wishes to have a darshan of the holy ashes of Lord Buddha, we will have to pay a big sum of Rs 500," said Sudha Sinha.

Earlier, a proposal had been sent for keeping the entrance ticket price at Rs 10, but it was rejected by the government.

The government decision to keep the entrance ticket price at Rs 100 is aimed at getting more revenue from the visiting Buddhist pilgrims of Asian countries.

The state government has decided to put the holy ashes on the first floor of the Patna museum from January 11 for public viewing.

Finishing touches are being given to convert the seminar hall into the Buddha gallery where the casket containing Lord Buddha's ashes mixed with clay, a copper punch-marked coin and a tiny leaf made of gold will be kept.

According to official sources, the casket will be placed at the centre of the hall.

Besides, at least half a dozen large pictures of events and sites associated with Lord Buddha's life will be put on display on the walls of the gallery.

Armed guards will be posted there to provide security to the priceless articles in the gallery.

Till Friday the holy ashes of Lord Buddha were kept in the strong room of the Patna museum, away from public view.

VIPs were allowed to have a darshan of the holy ashes only after obtaining permission from the culture department.

Way back in 1998-99, the holy ashes were taken to Bodh Gaya during the first Bauddha Mahotsava for public viewing, particularly for Buddhist pilgrims.

In view of the risk involved in transportation, the state government has now decided not to send them anywhere else, the sources said.

Noted archaeologist A S Altekar had discovered the casket containing the holy ashes of Lord Buddha in 1958 during the excavation at Raja Vishal Ka Garh now in Vaishali district.

The excavation was conducted by the Kashi Prasad Jayaswal Research Institute.

The state government expects that at least 1.

50 lakh Buddhist pilgrims will attend the ensuing Kalchakra ceremony at Bodh Gaya.

Chief minister Rabri Devi will inaugurate the meet on January 11.

Several well-known artists, including Anuradha Paudwal, are expected to participate in the cultural programmes to be held in connection with the Kalchakra ceremony.

The Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation has decided to introduce a special bus service from Bodh Gaya to Patna to help the pilgrims have a glimpse of the holy ashes of Lord Buddha on January 11.

Minister for tourism Ashok K Singh said elaborate arrangements have been made at Bodh Gaya for the visiting Buddhist pilgrims.

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Texts and Translations © Peter G. Friedlander unless otherwise indicated.