Marking a historic moment of sharing an invaluable possession as a token of fraternity between the two countries, Bangladesh on Wednesday presented Sri Lanka with a few strands of hair said to have belonged to Buddha.
A pagoda-shaped metal urn containing Guatam Buddha's hair was given to a Sri Lankan delegation by custodians of an ancient Buddhist monastery at a festive ceremony at Chittagong Buddhist Monastery as monks in saffron robes chanted religious texts.
"This is a sacred relic of Lord Buddha. We will carry it with high veneration," Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said after receiving the invaluable relic Bangladesh Foreign Affairs adviser Iftekhar A. Chowdhury.
In return for the relic, called Kesho Dhatu -- which will be kept at a monastery in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, for Buddhist pilgrims to pay homage -- Sri Lanka presented a stone slab imprinted with Buddha's footprint and a statue to the monastery.
Ajit Ranjan Barua, chairman of the Bangladesh Buddhist Association, said a Tibetan monk brought the hair to Chittagong in 1930. The relic was preserved in a glass box at the monastery, about 135 miles southeast of the capital, Dhaka.
The barely visible strands of hair can be viewed by devotees only once a year, during a festival commemorating Buddha's birth, enlightenment and death. In the past, parts of the relic have been given to Buddhist monasteries in Japan, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
Buddha, born as a Hindu prince named Siddhartha Gautama, founded the Buddhist religion more than 2,500 years ago in what is now parts of Nepal and India.
Buddhists now make up less than 2 percent of Muslim-majority Bangladesh's 145 million people.