A former forest officer’s collection of stamps on the Buddha and socio-religious and cultural aspects Buddhism has been selected ahead of Buddha Jayanti for a philatelic and numismatic exhibition in Sydney, Australia, in June.
M. Lokeswara Rao, Nagaland’s former Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, has been collecting stamps with the focus on nature. This made him a collector of Buddha-themed stamps from across the world.
Mr. Rao, now based in Bengaluru, would be sending more than 1,000 stamps pasted on 16 sheets in five frames. Among his collection is the 25,000-Afghani symbolic postage stamp the UNESCO issued a year after the Taliban had destroyed the two colossal Bamiyan Buddha statues in 2001.
“There is a deep connection between the Buddha’s philosophy of ahimsa and nature. As a philatelist, I have been collecting stamps on Buddha to create awareness about the protection of floral and faunal species on earth,” he told The Hindu.
Mr. Rao’s collection is a virtual tour of the world of Buddhism practised by an estimated 1.6 billion people representing about 10% of the world’s total population.
The former forest officer began collecting stamps on four phases of the Buddha’s life – birth, enlightenment, first sermon, and death – besides his various forms 40 years ago. “The first stamp I collected was the 1-anna set of stamps on Bodhisattva, India’s first on the Buddha, in 1949. One stamp has the left hand extended and the other has the right hand extended,” he said.
His stamps headed for Sydney include the ten incarnations of Vishnu – the Buddha being the ninth – India released in 2009, the first stamp on Buddhism that China released in 1893, the world’s largest Buddha stamp issued by Mongolia, and the monochromatic stamp on Bamiyan Buddha that Afghanistan issued in 1932.
“The Afghan government had in 1951 withdrawn this stamp after widespread protest from the conservative Ulama there,” Mr. Rao said.
His collection also includes stamps on the 12 deeds of the Buddha that Bhutan issued in 2014 and 20 postage stamps that Sri Lanka issued in 2017 depicting 20 major Buddhist places of worship in as many countries.