Procession and prayer opener to exposition

Early on Friday morning, the relics of Sakyamuni Buddha and his chief disciples, Sariputta and Maha Moggallana, left for Mahabodhi Mahavihara in a procession from Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Vihara in Bodhgaya.

The relics were taken to the sanctum sanctorum of the world heritage temple for prayers before being brought to the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Vihara, around 100m away, on the campus of the Mahabodhi Society of India (MSI), Bodhgaya branch.

Once over, the relics were back to the MSI campus for the inauguration of the three-day annual public exposition of the relics.

The society organises the annual exposition every year in February. Throughout the year, the relics are kept in the sanctum sanctorum of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Vihara and brought out only during the annual exposition.

Till Sunday, devotees can visit the temple to offer their prayers to the relics between 8am and 10am.

Governor Devanand Konwar was expected to inaugurate the exposition but he could not turn up. He is now expected to attend the closing day of the event, sources said. The monk in-charge of MSI, Bodhgaya branch, H. Saddhathissa Thero, who led the procession to the Mahabodhi Mahavihara said devotees from Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Tibet, Canada, Myanmar, Cambodia and other Buddhist countries were part of the procession.

Every year, scores of Buddhist devotees visit Bodhgaya to attend the exposition for a glimpse of the sacred relics. This year, too, more than 5,000 devotees are expected in the town over the three days.

On Friday evening, cultural programmes were presented by different troupes. Artistes from Odisha and Sarnath, besides Sri Lanka and Vietnam, performed.

A 40-member group from Vietnam performed an act on the life of Buddha. The Sri Lanka artistes presented six acts to display the country's culture, including group and folk dances. Artistes from Sarnath near Varanasi performed two plays ' Dhammachak Paravartan and Angulimaal.

On Sunday, a procession with the relics will be taken around Bodhgaya. The governor is expected to be the chief guest. Several Buddhist monks, nuns, schoolchildren and other devotees will also be a part of Sunday's procession.

Apart from the procession, MSI will also distribute foodgrain among 130 financially backward people in the Mastipur area of Bodhgaya.