| Vishwa Shanti Stupa in Vaishali. Telegraph picture |
Patna, Aug. 27: Lord Buddha appears to have united the two warring rivals — Lalu Prasad’s RJD and Nitish Kumar’s JD(U).
The ruling party in Bihar has indicated it could back RJD MP Raghuvansh Prasad Singh’s demand to bring Buddha’s bhikshapatra (begging bowl) back to Vaishali from Afghanistan. The artefact is said to be housed at the National Museum in Kabul.
“The government will be a happy beneficiary if it gets back the ancient artefact for Buddha’s life and philosophy was rooted to the soil of Bihar,” cultural adviser to the chief minister Pavan K. Varma told The Telegraph. He, however, clarified that there should be a “proper way” to pursue the issue.
“It is the Union ministry of culture which should gather historical facts to prove that the bhikshapatra in question actually belonging to Gautama Buddha is lying in the Kabul museum. Then it should approach the ministry of external affairs to get in touch with their Afghanistan counterparts and place a demand for getting the artefact back to India,” Varma, a former Indian Foreign Service officer, said.
Raghuvansh, who represents Vaishali in the Lok Sabha, raised the issue in the House on Monday, drawing the attention of the external affairs ministry and demanding the restoration of Buddha’s bhikshapatra to its original place at Vaishali. The MP argued that Buddha had gifted his begging bowl to his disciples in Vaishali on way to attaining nirvana (salvation) at Kushinagar.
The invaders later took away the begging bowl to Kushan king Kanishka’s capital of Purushpur (now Peshawar) and later to Gandhar (now Kandahar). Over a period of time, the begging bowl was shifted to the museum at Kabul.
Enquired about the historicity of the artefact, ancient Indian historian and director of K.P. Jaiswal Research Institute, Vijay Choudhary, said: “Raghuvansh’s claim regarding Buddha’s bhikshapatra is not without basis. British archaeologist and engineer, Alexander Cunningham (1824-93), wrote an article asserting that Buddha’s begging bowl was taken away by Kanishka to Peshawar. Cunningham’s assertion is the primary basis for the movement to bring Buddha’s begging bowl back to its original place.”
Asked about the approach of the state government on the issue raised by an RJD MP, secretary, art and culture, Chanchal Kumar said: “We will readily provide all the facts related to the artefact if we are approached.”
A former bureaucrat, who did not wish to be named, said the time had not yet come for approaching the state government. “First, the Union ministry of art and culture, which is supposed to take care of museums, has to make out the case of Buddha’s begging bowl and take the initiative of getting it back to India. Then it can take the state government in the loop,” he said.
Raghuvansh has been a bitter critic of the Nitish government from the very outset. Be it the issue of the implementation of the MGNREGS or law and order or development, the Vaishali MP has steadfastly attacked Nitish on these issues.
However, sources close to the chief minister revealed that Nitish was set to back the rival party MP on the subject.
“Nitish is fond of developing the sites associated with Lord Buddha. Bodhgaya, Vaishali, Nalanda have been the CM’s favourite destinations,” said an aide of Nitish.
“He (Nitish) will strongly back Raghuvansh’s demand for restoring Buddha’s begging bowl in Bihar.”