An Indian-style Buddhist temple gifted to ‘sister civilisation’ China

Luoyang, May 29 (IANS) Wearing yellow robes and chanting mantras, dozens of Buddhist monks received President Pratibha Patil who dedicated a grand Indian-style temple to China as a ‘gift from the people of India to a sister civilisation’.

As rows of monks in brown and yellow gathered at the courtyard of the temple, which adjoins the famous White Horse Temple (Baima Si), Patil could not but feel proud on the historic occasion, saying it will be ‘perceived by generations to come as a testimony of our friendship.’

As the huge gates were closed to the public due to the visit of Patil – who is on a six-day trip to China – hundreds of people gathered outside, waving at the delegates and clamouring to see the complex that took five years to complete and was constructed at the cost of Rs.18 crore ($4 million).

‘It gives me great pleasure to be here in Luoyang to dedicate the Indian-style Buddhist temple in the White Horse Temple complex, to friendship between the people of India and the people of China,’ she said.

‘Historically, it has the unique distinction of symbolizing an inter-mingling of Indian and Chinese cultures,’ said Patil, who chose to wear a mustard coloured sari to mark the auspicious occasion as yellow stands for piousness.

The White Horse Temple itself was built in the first century A.D. in honour of two Indian monks who travelled on white steeds, carrying with them religious texts and an image of the Buddha.

The two monks, Kashyapamatanga and Dharmaratna, Patil said, had contributed significantly to the birth of Buddhism in China and lauded the role of Chinese travellers and scholars.

Led by Ying Le, chief abbot of the Buddhist temple, which is modelled on the Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh, Patil prayed at the feet of the 16-feet tall statue of Buddha in a preaching position.

‘Its construction is the outcome of the dedicated work of countless individuals and organisations in the two countries. It has been a labour of love for the Indian craftsmen who worked painstakingly on the beautiful carvings and artistic decorations that adorn it,’ said Patil, who came from Beijing to Luoyang on her way to Shanghai.

‘I hope that this shrine will further enhance people-to-people contact between India and China by encouraging greater exchange in the current age and in times to come,’ Patil said, who also laid wreaths at the graves of the two Indian monks.

Over 600 km from Beijing, the temple has a dome that is 63 feet in height and 80 feet in diameter and is Indian not only in concept and design but also the material that has gone into its construction. A variety of stones in many textures from Kota and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan as well as marbles and granite were carried in 200 containers to China, Akshaya Jain, one of the architects of the complex, who was present on the ocassion, told IANS.

‘Fusing ancient principles of design with modern technological skill and architectural inspiration, the project bridges 2,000 years of history to add a significant chapter to India-China cultural relations,’ said his partner Raka Chakravarty.

The idea of the temple was proposed by China in 2003 when then Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Luoyang. He promptly accepted the idea, realising the importance of a Buddhist shrine as a means for people-to-people contact. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in 2005.

India has provided technical, financial and other support for the temple that stands on a 6,000 square metre plot provided by the Chinese government.

Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh is known for its stupas, monasteries, temples and pillars dating from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century A.D. The most famous of these monuments, the Sanchi Stupa, was originally built by emperor Asoka.