Coming back to life: Buddhist songs resound in Jaulian monastery after 1,500 years

The ritual started at sunset and monks from South Korea made offerings of incense, light, water, flowers, fruit and rice.PHOTO: NNI

The ritual started at sunset and monks from South Korea made offerings of incense, light, water, flowers, fruit and rice.PHOTO: NNI

The Express Tribune
By Manzoor AliPublished: October 23, 2014

HARIPUR:

For 1,500 years the place was almost silent, with only the occasional sounds of visitors’ footsteps and rustling leaves filling the air. Earlier this week, however, Jaulian monastery came alive with the songs of Buddhist monks for the first time since it was destroyed in the 5CE by the White Huns.

A prayer ceremony for peace was arranged by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Directorate of Archeology at one of the most prominent Buddhist sites in the country. The ritual started at sunset and monks from South Korea made offerings of incense, light, water, flowers, fruit and rice.

The incense symbolises the pure and moral Buddha, light denotes wisdom and drives away the darkness, water results in clarity and leads to purity, while flowers not only bring freshness and fragrance but also reflect the ephemeral nature of all things, including humans. Fruits signify enlightenment, while rice or food offerings symbolise freedom from hunger so that mind, body and spirit can function to achieve the perfect state. Following the offerings, monks circumambulated the main monastery and the subsidiary stupa.

Jaulian monastery is among the prominent heritage sites of the province and located close to Taxila. Sir John Marshall, director of the Archaeological Survey of India (1902-28), in his book Guide to Taxila noted the monastery is at the top of a hill close to the village of Jaulian. Marshall said there was reason to believe that the destruction of the Buddhist settlement took place in 5CE at the hands of the invading Huns.

There were a total of eight visiting monks, including two women. After the prayers, chief monk Han Soon Ae told reporters he was most content after visiting and praying at the monastery. “It was an enlightening experience,” he added.

K-P Director Archaeology and Museums Dr Abdul Samad told The Express Tribune the aim of the event was to portray a soft image of K-P and promote the region through religious tourism, which authorities had been striving to achieve.

He said the directorate sponsored the visit and the monks would also go see the Peshawar Museum and Buddhist sites in Takhta Bhai and Swat. He highlighted this was the first religious service held at Jaulian since its destruction.

Samad added one of the objectives of the visit was to reestablish ancient links between the regions as Buddhism spread to Korea from ancient Ghandhara.

Among those attending the ceremony were Opposition Leader in the Senate Chaudhry Aitezaz Ahsan, senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Salim Saifullah Khan, former foreign minister Gohar Ayub Khan and others.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2014.

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