Nepal – the country of Mt. Everest and Buddha

Nepal – the country of Mt. Everest and Buddha

THE BUDDHA BIRTHPLACE LUMBINI IN CONTROVERSY AGAIN

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 23, 2013


[A recent Hindi language television serial, Buddha[1] launched by Zee Network, from September the 8th has added, already frustrated people by Indian over interference, both frustration and anger in Kathmandu. In reaction, on September 13, students staged demonstrations in the streets of Kathmandu against the serial and which prompted the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu to post hastily the next day, September 14th, on its Facebook wall, “The question of where Lord Buddha was born was settled over 2000 years ago when Emperor Ashoka installed the pillar with his inscription in Lumbini. Buddha was born in Lumbini, which is in Nepal.”(2)]
By B. K. Rana
Buddha born in Nepal rally
The Buddha was born in Lumbini, which now is in western Nepal Tarai. The 249 BC inscription on the Lumbini Ashokan pillar reading, “the Buddha was born here in Luminigame” is the evidence, which cannot be contravened otherwise. There are other historical and archaeological evidence that prove the Buddha being Lumbini born and now Lumbini, the Buddhist holy land, is in Nepal. The people of Nepal and others of Nepalese origin elsewhere in the world, regardless of their academic achievements, socio-economic standings and political orientations, believe the Buddha was born in Nepal but feel very offended outright when media publicize otherwise. The Buddha is considered one of the greatest historical personages or Bibhutis – so to say, one of the national heroes of Nepal.
A recent Hindi language television serial, Buddha[1] launched by Zee Network, from September the 8th has added, already frustrated people by Indian over interference, both frustration and anger in Kathmandu. In reaction, on September 13, students staged demonstrations in the streets of Kathmandu against the serial and which prompted the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu to post hastily the next day, September 14th, on its Facebook wall, “The question of where Lord Buddha was born was settled over 2000 years ago when Emperor Ashoka installed the pillar with his inscription in Lumbini. Buddha was born in Lumbini, which is in Nepal.”[2]
Few days later, on September 19 from Gorkha, a hilly township in west Nepal, the Indian envoy to Nepal, Ranjit Ray told that there was no controversy on the Buddha birthplace. He said, “Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini and Lumbini is in Nepal.” Expressing his discontent over the Kathmandu-media-hyped controversy, the ambassador is also reported to have further told that not all Indians may know his being born in Nepal’s Lumbini but ‘children in Indian schools are taught the Buddha was born in Lumbini which is in Nepal.’[3]
The ambassador seems to be saying very correct, in a sense, that ‘not all Indians know where the Buddha was born’ because India happens to be a large south Asian country of billion plus population. In contrast, Nepal is a small country of some 30 million people and which, after a 10 year or so people’s war or ‘bloodbath’ currently is in an unpleasantly difficult situation, kind of a quagmire of political uncertainty. This has become the first time ever an Indian Government representative publicly admitting the fact about the Buddha birthplace Lumbini. This may be viewed as the envoy’s wise move to lessening Nepalese people’s strong resentment or managing anger against India.  The people of Nepal, those of Kathmandu mostly and other major cities also, harbour strong resentment and dislike against Indian interference on Nepal’s internal affair.
But on the other hand,however, whatever the envoy Ranjit Roy might have told, some Indians or scholars of Indian origin still hold the Buddha either ‘being born to India’ or his ‘being an Indian’ which is not correct at all.
Why is this controversy?
There is a conspiracy theory that Dr. Anton Fuhrer, who discovered Lumbini Ashokan pillar on December 1, 1896 was a fraud for which he later got sacked from job. There was – “some sort of conspiracy involving the removal of objects from one excavation site to another and the forging of an inscription” (Allen 2008:107). Since, Prof. Vincent A. Smith, was a senior government official, he would require permission from Nepal Government to visit those archaeological sites. He had once already intruded Nepal archaeological sites, of which Nepal Government was well informed. So, he failed to secure goodwill from then Nepal Government. At that time, Dr. Furher was digging Lumbini pillar and General Khadga Shumsher Rana had deputed Captain Bir Jung to “superintend the excavations on behalf of his Government” – that is to say, Nepal Government. Dr. Anton Fuhrer  was dismissed later for forgery. These may seem to be the reasons for the Buddha’s birth place controversy.

So, the Buddha birthplace controversy first began in 1928 with a forged Lumbini Ashokan inscription discovered in Kapileswara of Orissa. A local newspaper ‘Daily Asha’ on August 24, 1928 published a news report of such a discovery in Oriya Language. Supporting the claim so far made, another article appeared in ‘Prabashi’ in July 1928. Casting doubt over the new find, another article came out in the same magazine in October 1928. The view was discredited again in 1929. But, the controversy  did not cease as anticipated. And followed Chakradhar Mahapatra, an Orrisan author,  who in 1977  published a book – ‘The Real Birth Place of Buddha – for which Prof. John C. Huntington has offered a side-note as “of little scholarly value, if the writer has a fairly thorough knowledge of the archaeology of the pilgrimage route, it is fun to read” [4]

President Obama holds 'The Post_American World' while in campaign trail in 2008
President Obama holds ‘The Post_American World’ while in campaign trail in 2008
And not very long, however, a bestseller book named, The Post-American World, by a promising India born US writer Dr. Fareed Zakaria,got burned down on January 11, 2010 by some activists associated with Sindhu Sahitya Samaj, in Chautara, Sindhupalchowk district of Nepal, some 4 hours drive east of Kathmandu. The burning of the book was not a good job one would highly appreciate. The book, debated in the disbanded Nepalese Parliament also, was published in 2008 from USA and in its page 154, the author has written:

“The most striking example of Hinduism’s absorptive powers is the way it incorporated Buddhism. Buddha was Indian, and Buddhism was founded in India, but there are virtually no Buddhists in the country today.”

But actually, I had not read the book myself. So the very day on January 11, 2010 I sent an email enquiring the author whether he had written the Buddha being born in India ? And through his secretary – I believe, in reply on January 14, 2010 the author wrote to me:

“Please know that I meant no disrespect to Nepal, a country that I love. The Buddha was born and lived 2,500 years ago, in an age before modern-day boundaries were drawn and before the idea of a nation-state even existed. When I referred to the Buddha as “Indian” I meant it only in the geographic sense of the word, as a person hailing from the Indian subcontinent — not as a citizen of a particular state.”
He had also written, “You rightly point out that the Buddha was born in Lumbini, in modern-day Nepal—not in India”.
He seemed right in a broader sense but I wrote to him again on Jan 16, 2010 –

“ I sincerely differ here. I am indifferent actually on Buddha’s birth place whether it was Lumbini of Nepal or Kapileshowr in Orissa, India. I sometime think was Buddha a real human or a mythical person ? But there are also some who believe Buddha was born in Orissa.  As of nation-state sort of thing – was there any India some 2500 years ago ? I hope you have pretty fair knowledge of Ashokan inscription ‘Hida Bhagavam jateti Lumminigame’ also.  It even doesn’t say Lumbini was in India and “Buddha was an Indian.”

Later in February the same year – that is to say February 2010, I began blogging in The Himalayan Voice,  on South Asian issues and opened a Facebook account as well. In the fantastic Facebook world of its own, I found many Nepalese people from around the world having discussion, sometime in harsh tone also,  on the  Buddha birthplace and of course on the book -The Post-American World – itself.   In the beginning I was not very much interested in the topic as it was on just three words: Buddha was Indian, only. I found The Lumbini Kapilvastu Day Blogging Group, coordinated  by Ram Kumar Shrestha taking the lead role and organizing committees worldwide to tell all what the truth really is. This is how the Buddha birthing issue got prominence among Nepalese communities elsewhere in the world, I believe.
Few days ago, I just happened to read the third edition of  Dr. Zakaria’s book The Post-American World, published in 2012. However, he had written in his email reply:  “Buddha was born in Lumbini, in modern-day Nepal—not in India”  to me in 2010, he has now made it even more  broader than it was; in the  new edition page 171 as :
“The most striking example of Hinduism’s absorptive powers is the way it incorporated Buddhism. Buddha was born on the Indian subcontinent, and Buddhism was founded in India, but there are virtually no Buddhists in the country today.” To me it is even more unconvincing, saying as the Buddha – born in Asia – but not in what part of the earth exactly. Can scholars write the Buddha or Jesus or even others being  born in the  world or earth ?
There are many authors who have written volumes of books on the Buddha and his birthplace also. Dr. Wayne W. Dyer http://www.drwaynedyer.com/, acclaimed  as one of the internationally best selling authors, a motivational speaker and named also as “Modern Master”, has written,  in the book “Wisdom of the Ages: 60 Days to Enlightenment”,  that the “Founder of Buddhism, one of the world’s major religions, the Buddha was born Prince Siddhartha Gautama in northeast India, near the border of Nepal” He has also otherwise written and therefore I emailed him or possibly to his people to no avail. The book was published longtime ago in 1998.

Conclusion:

The Buddha is drawn to controversy over and over again; sometimes by the authors or scholars and now by film industrialists also. In  the aftermath of Zee tele-serial and protests in Kathmandu and elsewhere in Nepal, the serial is heard to have been edited while on the other hand, Kabir Bedi, one of the lead role actors, has also apologized. Now, the people of Nepal and India should think of developing trans-national Buddhist circuit to benefit the people of both countries. It is possible  only when there is mutual respect and understanding, rather than hostility and overhyping. As the Indian envoy has already spoken out, now is the time for Nepal government to do something about it. Nepal can make another ‘Buddha documentary’ and distribute through its embassies and missions in different countries in the world as well.


[1] Which may also seem to have been inspired by – The Buddha – a 2010 US public broadcasting services documentary
[4] [Showing the Seeds of the Lotus: A Journey to the Great Pilgrimage Site of Buddhism Part V’ – Orientations – September, 1986]
[5] Allen, Charles 2008: The Buddha And Dr Fuhrer: An Archaeological Scandal  – Haus Publishing, London.
@The Himalayan Voice
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