| Monks in a monastery. A Telegraph picture
Guwahati, Sept. 23: Journeying on foot through jungle tracts and waist-deep hill streams, a scholar from Bangalore is charting the history of Buddhist monasteries scattered across Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Seventy-two-year-old C.V. Nageswara is conducting the arduous survey under the aegis of the Vivekananda Kendra Institute of Culture (VKIC), which aims to authentically document the origins of Hinayana Buddhist monasteries, known as Theravadi, in the Northeast.
The centre has long been involved in documentation of the art forms and distinctive cultures of different races of the region.
The director of the research council of VKIC, P.C. Sarma, said recorded information about the locations and condition of monasteries was inadequate. “This is why we decided to undertake a preliminary survey and Nageswara volunteered his services. It is for the first time that such an attempt is being made.”
Sarma said Hinayana Buddhism struck roots in the Northeast in the early part of the 13th century, when the Tai Ahom dynasty ruled Assam. The influence of Buddhism was, however, restricted to people who had migrated from upper Myanmar to parts of eastern Assam.
Hinayana monasteries are scattered across Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Lakhimpur, Sivasagar, Jorhat and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam and Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Nageswara has already documented 19 such sites and plans to cover Lakhimpur and Sivasagar on the second leg of his journey.
Sarma said the south Indian scholar had submitted an interim report on the 19 Buddhist centres in Arunachal Pradesh and notes on 15 monasteries in Assam.
According to the report, the monastic order of the Buddhist set-up in the Northeast is a flexible one. However, valuable manuscripts are not being preserved properly.
The institutions Nageswara visited include the Shyamangaon Bauddha Mandir in Titabar, Dichangpani Vihar and the Lakwa Vauddha Vihar.
The VKIC has moved the Union ministry of human resources for financial support to continue the project.