President Patil dedicates Indian-style Buddhist temple to China

Luoyang (China), May 29 (IANS) Visiting Indian President Pratibha Patil Saturday dedicated a Buddhist temple, built with Indian assistance, to the Chinese people.

The structure is adjacent to the White Horse Temple (Baima Si) built in the first century A.D. in honour of two Indian monks who travelled on horseback, carrying with them religious texts and an image of the Buddha.

As she entered its premises in this city in Henan province, she was welcomed by Buddhist monks in yellow robes.

The temple has a dome that 63 feet high and 80 feet in diameter and has a 16-feet tall statue of Buddha in a preaching position. Indian officials say it is modelled on lines of the Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh.

The temple 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.

The glass roof of the temple allows in a swathe of sunlight that falls on the Buddha statue. The statue is made of Chunar sandstone, the same that was used to make the Buddha idol at Sarnath near Varanasi, a major Buddhist pilgrim centre.

At the entrance to the shrine is the ‘toran’ or the ‘welcome gate’ along with two ‘dwarapals’ (gatekeepers). There is a separate shrine for the ‘paduka’, the Buddha’s feet that are traditionally worshipped. Water bodies and lawns outside complete the exteriors.

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 was signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in 2008.

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.

Patil is on a six-day visit to China. The visit ends May 31.