The project titled 'Waiting For Ananda aims to show case photographs and document role of women who have played important roles in the contemporary spread of Buddha Dharma including strong practitioners, nuns, yogini’s, lay women, patrons and women who have somehow contributed to the development of Buddhism.

1. Exhibition of Photographs on wall panels and horizontal, names and maps of nunneries in India.
2. Film by renowned artist Seema Kohli

The Photography Exhibition will showcase a total selected 108 photographs. These photographs will be a mix of old archival photographic records and recent photographs from India, Tibet, China, Taiwan, Bhutan, Singapore, Thailand, Canada & USA all coming together to create a unique, first of its kind photographic library on the contribution of Women in Buddhism. Excerpts, poems and verses from Therigatha and other texts will also be put on panels interspersed with this photographic melange.

Film waiting For Ananda: Seema Kohli, an artist with a deep spiritual understanding of the universe as reflected in her art, has shot a film in 2013 titled ‘Waiting for Ananda’ with the backdrop of an ordination ceremony held in 2012 of Buddhist nuns and Samaneri’s in Vaishali concept by Rekha Mody and sponsored by Habiart Foundation.

In the 21st Century, where the role of women is seeking to redefine it-self in every country and in each society, it is indeed a paradox that in India, the country of Lord Buddha, the practice of ordaining nuns is absent.

On the death of Suddhona, Mahapajapati Gotami, along with 500 women walked to Vaishali to seek ordination and form a Bhikuni Sanga. This request was refused many times until Ananda sat at the Buddha's side and argued on behalf of the ordination of women. The Buddha continued to refuse the request. Finally, Ananda asked if there was any reason women could not realize enlightenment and enter Nirvana as well as men. Ananda had made his point, and the Buddha relented. Pajapati and her 500 followers became the first group of Buddhist nuns.

At the time of Ashoka, women continued to serve Buddhism. Their Saghamitta went to Anuradhapura with 11 of her followers and the Bo sapling from the Jaya Siri Maha Bodhi in Bodhgaya to establish Bhikkuni Sangha in Sri Lanka. It is recorded that till 1017A.C. the order of nuns flourished in India and in Sri Lanka, it slowly disappeared in this region.

Though even without a Bhikkhuni order there is ample scope for the participation of women in Dhamma work. Both laymen and laywomen have become arahants in the past. Thus the door to the highest goal of Buddhism is not barred to women simply because the Bhikkhuni order has become extinct.

Yet it is interesting to note that while women continued to flourish in Jain religion, Buddhism which propounded the theory of the possibility of ultimate spiritual liberation to a woman, is today at a crossroad with many women within its fold, seeking equity and justice.

The Documentary: Waiting For Ananda

A documentation showcasing patrons and women who have contributed to Buddhism in nunneries, in prayer, in meditation, in working for society. The film documents ordination carried out by nuns from six countries, India, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia.

A large number of Nuns and Bhikunis from different countries gathered for the ordination. Ordination at Maha pajapati Nunnery at Vietnam Temple at Vaishali (Bihar built in memory of Mahaprajapati Gautami). The ceremony was inaugurated by Ven. Prof. Dr. Bhikkhu Satyapalji, Head, Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Delhi, on 28th July, 2012.

Habiart Foundation team Rekha Mody, Bryan Mulvihill and artist Seema Kohli visited Vaishali and made a ten minute documentary with direct interviews and ceremonies. Waiting for Ananda film captures the essence of women’s contribution to Buddhism. It is for the first time since Independence that an ordination program on a large scale was organised in Vaishali.