| Health minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey at the foundation stone laying ceremony of the monastery at Malakhpur on Saturday. Picture by Amit Kumar |
An effort by a Buddhist organisation to construct a 40-room monastery at Malakhpur could give a much-needed boost to tourism at the ancient seat of learning — Vikramshila Mahavihara.
On Saturday, the foundation stone of the monastery, Bodhipath Paradipam Vihara, was laid around half-a-kilometre from the Vikramshila Mahavihara, which for decades has remained out of focus of the Union and the state governments. The apathy is such that the site was never included in the Buddhist circuit.
However, Atish Dipankar Welfare Foundation (ADWF), an organisation working under the international Rabten Institute, and state health minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey’s effort to construct the monastery near the half-excavated site of the ancient world university has come as a sweet surprise for many.
During the foundation stone-laying ceremony, more than 80 monks from eight countries visited Malakhpur, around 166km east of Patna. The sight of so many foreigners gave the locals a hope that the site would be developed on a par with other Buddhist sites in the state.
Gonsar Tulku Rinpoche, the director of the Rabten Institute, said the followers of Buddha across the world considered Vikramshila more sacred than the Nalanda seat.
At Vikramshila, Atish Dipankar had spent most of his time and managed to spread the legacy of Buddha to the other parts of the world. Dipankar was a Buddhist teacher from the Pala Empire who was one of the major figures in the establishment of the Sarma lineages in Tibet after the repression of Buddhism by King Langdarma.
“Vikramshila remains sacred for us because it was the place where Tantrajan, Sarboghyan and Bodhisathoghyan — the three important faculties — were taught simultaneously,” Rinpoche added.
Choubey, who participated in the bhumi pujan (rituals to purify the land where the proposed monastery would be built) said the monastery would revive and enrich the Indian culture. “It would create a wholesome influence on peace,” added the minister.
He, however, lambasted the Union government for not taking care of the ancient university and said no one can prevent Vikramshila from being enlisted on the Buddha circuit. Without naming anyone, Choubey alleged that the huge turnout of monks and tourists regularly from abroad here, is a lesson for those who “deliberately did not include Vikramshila in the Buddhist circuit”.
The minister admitted that there were lapses on the part of the state government for not paying attention to the infrastructure surrounding the ancient seat of learning. Choubey, however, assured the monks of initiating better facilities at the Vikramshila belt.
The monks, however, expressed discontent over the attitude of the state government for not including the site in the Buddha circuit. “The Archaeological Survey of India has taken up the renovation work at the ruins of the university. Yet, this site is way out of the pilgrimage route of the Buddhists,” he said.