Last Saturday we were delighted to host the annual Buddha Day event here in Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. The Museum has hosted Buddha Day for around 15 years and it is always an incredibly special day for us and for the Faith Gallery.
The day is timed to coincide with the birthday of Siddhartha Gautama, who would one day become known as Buddha, which this year was around 22nd May (the date varies depending on the denomination of Buddhism).
For the celebration, Buddhists from across Birmingham and the region gathered in the Faith Gallery to bless and venerate the Sultanganj Buddha,famously one of the first objects to come into Birmingham Museum’s collections, in 1864, when a former Lord Mayor, Samuel Thornton, had it shipped to Birmingham from India. The Buddha as an object is a testament to the skill of the metalworkers of India in the 7th century - Thornton in fact felt it would inspire Birmingham metal workers - but it is still also a symbol of the Buddhist faith and an object alive with agency and spiritual energy. This is never more the case than on Buddha Day.
This year saw a multitude of blessings including chanting by Theravada Monks, beautiful songs by the Triratna Choir from Birmingham Buddhist Centre, incredible Sokka Gakai mantra chanting and a reading of the Heart Sutra from the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, led by Rev. Saido with Birmingham Serene Meditation Group, to name just a few! The diversity of language and practice demonstrates the wide range of Buddhist communities in the city.
The Faith Gallery is now in its 3rd year and it is always special when the gallery comes alive with faith practice. The purpose of the gallery is to tell the story of faith through objects; but we also want to show how the objects are used, what they represent, and the people who use them. The gallery is constantly evolving. Recent additions include the art work ‘Dance’ by Jake Lever, produced as part of the ‘Birmingham Faith Conversations’ and a photograph and pendant from the Baha’i community representing their dedication to community life. We have also added books, toys and games for families to enjoy during their visit.