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Since Telangana holds unique position in spreading Buddhism, Government wants to develop these places of Heritage Importance

Telangana State Tourism Development Corporation has initiated a tourism project called Sriparvatarama (Buddhavanam) at Nagarjuna Sagar, Telangana.

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Delhi, Dec 14, 2016: The Telangana Government has initiated a project to revive the Buddhist Culture in the state. The project is called the Buddhavanam Project. Buddhism, a contemporary religion, started from a village called Badankurti in Adilabad district in between two Godavari rivulets in the fifth century B.C. Gradually, as Lord Buddha propagated its teachings, it has seeped down in the South regions too. It spread to Kotilingala, Dhulikatta (Karimnagar), Phanigiri, Nelakondapally, Karukonda, Nagarjunakonda (Khammam & Nalgonda in TS) and then on to Andhra and Maharashtra.

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Buddhism also spread to parts of South Asia and South East Asia to countries such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Vietnam, and so on. Tourism Development Corporation chairman P. Ramulu said, “Since Telangana holds a unique position in the spread of Buddhism, the Government wants to develop these places of heritage importance not only for the sake of protection and preservation but also to attract tourists from within the country and outside so that they can explore the roots of Buddhism.”

Special Officer for Buddhavanam Project M. Lakshmaiah said to The Hindu, “Lot of excavations and studies need to be taken up at these historic sites as these have been neglected for ages. Although a lot of priceless material in the form of coins of the bygone era, terracotta figures, remnants of Stupas, figurines of Buddha, etc., there was no proper infrastructure in place for visitors to stay or study.”

The Buddhavanam Project is in process in Nagarjunakonda, the most popular Buddhist site and prominent seat of the Mahayana school of learning at Nagarjunasagar. Under the project, a Buddhist heritage theme park is being built and the 274 acres have been divided into eight segments like Buddha Charitavanam, Jataka Park, Dhyanavanam, Krishna Valley Park, Acharya Nagarjuna International Higher Buddhist Learning Centre, Buddhism in Telugu States, etc. The ‘Maha Stupa’ similar to the one at Amaravati is also being constructed with dome portions etc undergoing work, mentioned The Hindu.

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Dhayanavam work too is pending though it already has a huge 27-foot tall Buddha statue donated by the Sri Lankan Government. The Government has spent close to Rs.35 crore and another Rs.25 crore is required to give the place, the finishing touches to make it the first in the country to have many thematic segments depicting significant events in the life of Buddha and other stories. “Many tourists from the South East Asian countries are very much interested in visiting these sites if they are made aware of,” said TSTDC MD Christina Z. Chongthu.

– prepared by Shambhavi Sinha of NewsGram. Twitter:  @shambhavispeaks

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Buddhist Monk Losang Samten Uses Colors to Spread Message of Peace

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

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Samten
Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten uses colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. VOA

According to one estimate, there are a 5 quintillion, 5 hundred quadrillion grains of sand on earth, a number so large it must be approaching infinity. This makes sand an appropriate medium for the construction of spiritual images of the universe.

Former Buddhist monk and Tibetan scholar Losang Samten does just that, using colored sand to build mandalas, circular images filled with complex iconography, which have great meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Tibetan monks have created mandalas over the centuries from a variety of materials. Before sand, they used crushed colored stone. VOA

Decades of mandalas

Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama.

“When I was a teenager, age of 17,” he told VOA, “I had a privilege to enter His Holiness Dalai Lama’s monastery … in India. I have been studying sand mandalas ever since then. So it’s a long time.”

VOA found Samten painstakingly layering grains of colored sand at the gallery of the Philadelphia Folklore Project. The particular mandala he was working on was the mandala of compassion, or unconditional love.

Far from random designs, mandalas have been perfected over centuries.

“These are uniquely designed many, many, many, many, many years passing to an artist to another artist to another artist to another artist,” Samten said. “The color has a meaning, the shape has different meanings. Not my design; it didn’t come out of my own idea.”

When Samten created a sand mandala at the American Museum of History in New York in 1988 at the request of the Dalai Lama, it was the first time the 2,600-years-old ancient ritual art was seen outside of monasteries. Since then, Samten has made sand mandalas in museums, galleries and universities across the U.S. and many parts of the world.

“They are used to enhance the spiritual practice through image and meditation, to overcome suffering. Mandalas represent enlightened qualities and methods which explain this path, making them very important for the spiritual journey,” Samten wrote on his web site.

Nothing is permanent

Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. They lived in a refugee camp for years.

Now Samten travels around the world to find sand in various colors. He also dyes sand in watercolors.
Samten, in his mid-60s, learned the craft at the feet of the Dalai Lama. VOA

“In the winter of 1959, [we] crossed Mount Everest, it took us two months to cross,” he told VOA. “You cannot travel during the day and so scared and not enough food not enough clothes. I was age of 5. I saw, I mean unbelievable dead bodies, people dying without food. I became a monk at age 11 when I was in school, refugee school.”

Samten left monastic life in 1995 and became the spiritual director at the Tibetan Buddhist Center of Philadelphia. He says the patience of the creative process, can lead observers to find calm determination within themselves.

“When I am doing this mandala at universities and schools, many kids came to me, (saying) ‘when I saw you doing the sand mandala, that help me so much to finish my education, patience …’ I have a lot of stories,” he said.

Monk Samten
Samten was born in Tibet. When he was a young boy, his family escaped to Nepal fleeing Chinese Communist control of his homeland. VOA

Beauty comes and goes

After a sand mandala is completed, it is dismantled ceremoniously.

“Dismantle has many different reasons,” Samten said. “… One thing is, dismantle is a beauty, whatever we see as a beauty on the earth, never be everlasting as a beauty and impermanent, impermanent, comes and goes. It’s like a season.”

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Or like sand, ever changing in the wind.

Samten often invites children to participate in the ceremony.

To gallery visitor Traci Chiodress that was part of the charm of the event.

“I think it’s powerful to see something so beautiful created, and then taken apart, and to be done in a community with a group of people of different ages,” she said. “I just think it’s an important type of practice.” (VOA)