Monks lift siege at shrine where they believe the Buddha attained enlightenment

Posted: Friday, March 29, 2002

GAYA, India (AP) -- Nearly 250 Buddhist monks ended a two-day siege of a shrine in India after the local government pledged to consider their demand for Buddhist control of the site.

The Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya, Bihar state, is where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. It is managed by a nine-member panel of five Hindus and four Buddhists under a 1949 state law that says a Hindu must chair the panel.

Many Hindus believe Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation, and Hindus also worship there. Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the hard-line group widely blamed for recent Hindu-Muslim riots in western India, demands a stake in the shrine.

But the Buddhist protesters say their religion has no links with Hinduism.

''When the Hindus manage their temples, Muslims manage their mosques, Christians manage the churches, then why are the Buddhists not allowed to manage their own shrine?'' asked Anand, general secretary of the Buddhist Shrine Liberation Action committee. Anand uses only one name.

Buddhists comprise less than 1 percent of India's 1 billion-plus people.

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