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New Durham-led exhibition opens at Myanmar's most sacred site

(23 October 2019)

A new Durham University exhibition has opened at the most sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar, the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. 

In the Footsteps of the Buddha’ is a collaboration between Durham University’s UNESCO Chair in Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage, the Oriental Museum and the Lumbini Development Trust.

The exhibition was created at the request of the Nepali Embassy in Myanmar to mark the state visit of the President of Nepal, the Right Honourable Bidhya Devi Bhandari. 

It highlights the ongoing work of Durham University archaeologists and museum curators to contribute towards the protection and preservation of the range of important sites in Nepal associated with the birth of the Buddha, promoting sustainable pilgrimage and tourism and supporting local communities living around the sites. 

Professor Robin Coningham, Durham University’s UNESCO Chair in Archaeological Ethics and Practice in Cultural Heritage, led the Durham team. He said: “This exhibition centres on the results of our archaeological excavations at Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. It also highlights our ongoing work in the wider landscape at important sites such as Tilaurakot-Kapilavastu, the childhood home of the Buddha. Central to this is working with local, mainly Hindu and Muslim, communities to ensure their involvement in the long term preservation of these sites for the benefit of all. We are delighted to have the opportunity to showcase this research at such an important Buddhist site.’

The 112 metre high pagoda is considered to be the oldest in Myanmar and contains sacred relics of the Gautama Buddha and his three immediate predecessors. Covered in gold plate and lead worth some USD1.4 million, it is visited by over 600,000 overseas visitors each year.

President Bhandari opened the exhibition on 19 October 2019.  The exhibition will remain on display at the Shwedagon Pagoda until 12th November when it will be transferred to the National Museum in Yangon.