|A Buddha statue, provided to the Tongdo Temple by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, is seen during a handing-over ceremony at the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre of the Embassy of India in Seoul, Friday. Courtesy of the Indian Embassy to Korea|
By Kwon Mee-yoo
The Indian Council for Cultural Relations has provided a bronze Buddha statue to the Tongdo Temple in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province, as a gift to strengthen cultural ties between India and Korea.
A handing-over ceremony of the statue was held at the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre at the Embassy of India in Seoul, Friday.
The ceremony kicked off with rituals and a chanting ceremony for the statue by monks from the Tongdo Temple, followed by a Kathak dance performance by Avijeet Chakravarty and Oh Suk-hee, paying tribute to the Buddha.
In her congratulatory remarks, Ambassador of India to Korea Sripriya Ranganathan first expressed gratitude to the venerable monks who traveled all the way from Yangsan to Seoul to take part in the sacred ceremony.
"I look forward to doing a great deal with the Tongdosa Temple authorities and the people of Yangsan. May will be a special month for us, as we will go to Tongdosa, carrying forward this process that we have begun today; and looking forward to further drawing together the people of India and Korea through this beautiful medium of Buddhism," Ranganathan said.
|Ambassador of India to Korea Sripriya Ranganathan makes a congratulatory speech at the Buddhist statue handing-over ceremony at the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre of the Embassy of India in Seoul, Friday. Courtesy of the Indian Embassy to Korea|
Tongdo Temple has a special connection with India, as it was built by monks who had travelled there and became the Buddha's disciples. The temple is located near Mount Yeongchuk, which resembles the shape of the Rajagriha mountain ranges, where the Buddha imparted his Dhamma to his disciples, suggesting another tie between the temple and India.
Ven. Hyunmoon, head monk of the Tongdo Temple, talked about how the ties between the Indian Embassy to Korea and the temple began.
Ambassador Ranganathan visited the temple with Lee Jae-yeong, the chairman of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea's Yangsan district chapter, in October 2020, and heard of the temple's connection to India.
"We asked the ambassador to bring a statue of the Buddha from India, the birthplace of Buddhism, and the Indian government willingly accepted our request, thanks to the efforts of the ambassador," Ven. Hyunmoon said.
"I sincerely hope that this Buddhist event can boost exchanges between India and Korea when the world is facing hardships due the COVID-19 pandemic."
Yeo Han-gu, secretary to President Moon Jae-in for his New Southern Policy and New Northern Policy, also celebrated the occasion, emphasizing the importance of bilateral relations.
"India is part of Korea's New Southern Policy, a key diplomatic policy of the Moon Jae-in administration. President Moon and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have called each other brother and friend during their talks," Yeo said. "Historically, Queen Heo Hwang-ok of the Gaya Kingdom (A.D. 43-532) is from India, and Buddhism is a major religion of Korea. I am excited to welcome the Buddha statue from India offered to the Tongdo Temple."
After the handing-over ceremony, the statue was transferred to the temple, and the temple authorities will hold another ceremony to install the statue May 16. It will be unveiled to the public May 19 on the occasion of the Buddha's Birthday.
A virtual exhibition titled, "Bodhicitta: Interweaving Buddhist Art Traditions from India across Asia," digitally curated by the National Museum of India, will also be launched at Tongdo Temple, May 16.