| Members of Bhagwan Buddha Gram Vikas Samiti, Jethian, with the award. Picture by Suman |
A village-level committee in Gaya district has been awarded for its work in protecting and preserving remains from the time of Buddha.
On September 27, Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee secretary Nangzey Dorjee handed the award to the members of Bhagwan Buddha Gram Vikas Samiti, Jethian. The honour — Sanghassa Patitthapako Mahakassapa Yavajivam Sammanopadhi — was started in 2011 by Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, a deemed university in Nalanda, under its revival of the ancient Buddhist pilgrimage project.
The awards are given out to groups working to preserve ancient sculptures and artefacts with the consent of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the art, culture and youth affairs department.
Chechar village in Vaishali district and Parwati village in Nawada district received the award in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
The award was started in honour of Mahakassapa, a disciple of Buddha who became patron of the Sangha (a group of devotees) after the mahaparinirvana (enlightenment) of Buddha.
In Jethian village, around 50km east of Gaya and around 130km south of Patna, the committee has found several ancient statues, pots and other remains from Buddha’s times at Yashodhara Asthan, on the high school campus and around the Jethian valley. The artefacts are protected and safeguarded by the villagers.
The committee was formed in 2011. Rajkumar Raju, a member of Bhagwan Buddha Gram Vikas Samiti, Jethian, told The Telegraph: “There is a treasure of remains in and around the village (in Gaya’s Mohra block). We have the Raja Pinda cave, said to be prison of Jarasandh, the king of Magadha in the ancient period. It is an ASI-protected site.
“There is a plan to develop the village and its surrounding areas into a tourist spot. For this, a team from World Bank has conducted a survey of the area,” Raju added.
Heritage consultant, Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, Deepak Anand told The Telegraph: “The revival process is aimed at protecting, preserving, documenting and showcasing the remains in the villages. The university started a photo documentation, capturing how a community lives alongside the heritage, making it a part of their rituals, and why it needs to be respected, safeguarded and restored. The university’s documentation team, in this connection, had the opportunity to meet several people working towards generating awareness about the preservation and appropriate use of the ancient heritage sites. Village committees or residents are working towards it in several villages in districts such as Jehanabad, Nawada and Gaya.”