The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer, by Charles Allen

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer, by Charles Allen

Postby admin » Fri Feb 12, 2021 4:50 am

The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer: An Archaeological Scandal
by Charles Allen
© Charles Allen, 2008

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Contents:

• Preface : A Winter in Nepal
• Prologue: The Return of the Wanderer, c. 405 BCE
• Chapter 1: The Opening: Piprahwa Kot, 18 January 1898
• Chapter 2: The Reading: Birdpore House, 19 January 1898
• Chapter 3 The Expected Visit: Birdpore House, 27 January 1898
• Chapter 4: The Unannounced Visit: 'Camp Kapilavastu,' 28 January 1898
• Chapter 5: The Return: Birdpore House, 29 January 1898
• Chapter 6: The Drowning: Lake Constance, 8-9 April 1898
• Chapter 7: The Prince-Priest: Gorakhpur Division, 1898
• Chapter 8 The Aftermath: 1900-2008
• Acknowledgements
• Notes on Sources
• Index

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The Middle Tarai Country in 1898
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Re: The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer, by Charles Allen

Postby admin » Sat Feb 13, 2021 4:04 am

Preface: A Winter in Nepal

The bulk of this book was written over a winter in Nepal, a country I came to know and love while as a volunteer teacher in the late 1960s. When I returned to Kathmandu in December 2007 the Nepali people were in the painful process of recovering from a civil war and transforming their country from an autocratic, caste-fixated Hindu monarchy into an egalitarian republic. It was not an easy winter for anyone, what with demonstrations, blockades on the roads and mounting shortages of electricity, diesel, kerosene, water and even food. What made my stay bearable was the good humour and resilience of the citizens of Nepal, who, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, watched the things they gave their life to broken, and stooped and built 'em up with worn out tools.

However, this book is not about Nepal's recent past but about more ancient and not quite so ancient times, which I had touched on in an earlier book, The Buddha and the Sahibs, an account of the discovery of Buddhism's Indian roots by Western Orientalists, antiquarians and archaeologists. I had ended with a chapter on the rediscovery of the last of the lost sacred sites of Buddhism: Kapilavastu, where the man whom his followers called the 'awakened one' or Buddha, spent the early years of his life; and Lumbini, where that same man was born. A fairly minor character in this last phase of rediscovery was a German archaeologist named Anton Alois Fuhrer.

Two years after the book's publication in 2002 a coincidence involving a lecture at the Buddhist Society in London and Buddhist relics found in a cupboard at that same institution set me on my own path of discovery. It became apparent that Dr. Fuhrer had precipitated a major archaeological scandal. So bizarre are some of the details that they would be laughable but for the fact that they most likely led to the death of the most eminent Sanskritist of the age as well as dealing a severe blow to Indian and Buddhist archaeology, the shock waves of which can still be felt today in the cloud of suspicion which continues to hang over the name of Piprahwa. That scandal lies at the heart of this book, recounted here for the first time with as much hard fact as I have been able to track down after more than a century of silence and neglect. At the same time this is a further celebration of Western Orientalism in India, which has had a bad press in recent years as a consequence of a regretably unscholarly book by the late Edward Said, published in 1978, which has done serious damage to cross-cultural studies.

However, this story is also about landscapes: physical and metaphysical, political and sacred. Their one constant is the setting: the borderland between the foothills of the Nepal Himalayas and the Indian Gangetic plains, which today is also the frontier between Nepal and India. Known as the tarai, this was not so long ago a seemingly impenetrable belt of forest fronted by a more open jungle of tall elephant grass and marshland, and riven by scores of rivers and streams running north to south. Today, after its clearance and human settlement, the tarai landscape would be relatively insignificant in the greater scheme of things -- but for the fact that some 2,400 years ago, the Buddha was born and raised here as a real person of flesh and blood.

The tarai provides the geographical template for my story, a firm base upon which other more shifting landscapes have been laid, beginning with that shaped by migrants from the east who coalesced into the Sakyas and Koliyas. These two tribes settled in the tarai more than 3,000 years ago, shaping the fatherland and motherland of their most famous son, Gautama Sakyamuni, 'sage of the Sakyas: After the Sakyamuni expired, in the act known to Buddhists as the Maharaparinirvana, or the 'Great Final Extinguishing; his homeland was reshaped into a sacred landscape, marked by memorials to Buddha Sakyamuni and to other earlier Buddhas. Chief among these memorialists was the emperor Asoka Vardana or Asoka the Great, who came to these parts on what was already a well-beaten pilgrim trail to raise his own bigger and better monuments. Others followed, most notably the Kushans and Guptas, and they further ornamented this sacred landscape, drawing on the many stories or legends that grew with the Buddhist sangha or community as it evolved and diversified.

The next and fourth landscape was essentially a metaphysical one, where the boundaries between fact and legend blurred. This was the country of Buddha Sakyamuni as it appeared to a succession of pilgrims from China and Tibet, two of whom left detailed accounts of their travels round the Buddhist sacred places in India -- accounts in which they tried to reconcile what they saw on the ground with what they had read or been told about the lives of Buddha Sakyamuni and other less tangible Buddhas.

When the last of these Chinese pilgrims entered the tarai in the year 636, that region was already reverting to its original jungle. North of the tarai, in and beyond the Himalayas, and in the countries east and south of the Indian sub-continent, Buddhism continued to flourish. But in the land in which it had first taken shape, Buddhism went into decline in the face of resurgent and sometimes militant Hinduism, a process speeded up by the advance of Islam. After the anti-Buddhist pogroms of the Muslim general Bakhtiar Khilji in 1193, in which thousands of monks were murdered and Asia's first and greatest university at Nalanda put to the torch, Buddhism all but disappeared from the Indian subcontinent, surviving only among isolated communities in the high valleys of the Himalayas: in Kathmandu Valley and in Ladakh.

Six centuries passed before a new spirit of enquiry initiated by the European Enlightenment led to the recovery of the early history and culture of the sub-continent by Orientalists -- a word that has become grossly distorted in recent decades. In that process of recovery both the historical Buddha Sakyamuni and the Indian roots of the religion he founded were rediscovered. The accounts of the Chinese pilgrim-travellers were translated into French and then English and became working tools for a new species of antiquarians called archaeologists who criss-crossed the Gangetic plain in search of the lost sacred sites of Buddhism. These archaeologists created another landscape scarcely less metaphysical than that of the Chinese travellers as they searched through the tarai forests and grasslands for archaeological evidence to match what the Chinese had seen many centuries earlier. These latecomers also had to deal with the realities of a political landscape in which the tarai was in the process of being divided into nation states, leading to a line of concrete posts being hammered into the ground running east and west to form the boundary between the Kingdom of Nepal on one side and the adjacent territories of the Kingdom of Oude and the East India Company's North-Western Provinces on the other. With the annexation of Oude in 1848 and the change from Company to Crown rule in 1858, the two territories south of the Nepal frontier were united to become the North-Western Provinces and Oude (NWP&O), afterwards renamed the United Provinces. The territory east of the NWP&O was at that time part of the large province known as the Bengal Presidency but in 1904 reverted to the name by which that region had been known in earlier times: Bihar, the land of viharas or Buddhist monasteries.

Today, of course, there is a more modern political landscape, with the same border posts running east and west to mark the frontier between the Republic of India and the fledgling Republic of Nepal. Physically, it is being transformed mostly into open farmland, divided into countless small plots still best ploughed by a pair of oxen or buffalo, with scattered villages and hamlets, and the occasional brickworks or sugar-cane factory. Canals and reservoirs have helped to further change the scenery but the tarai's rivers and streams continue to provide a rich habitat both for migratory birds and permanent residents such as the Sarus Cranes, whose habit of pairing for life has made them symbols of good fortune and saved them from being shot to extinction. Swathes of the ancient forest have also survived on both sides of the international border and the largest of these are now national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, the last refuge of the tarai's once abundant big beasts: tigers, rhinos, elephants and wild buffalo.

What has forced these and other wild creatures to the edge is loss of habitat, now occupied by human migrants in the form of Hindu and Muslim settlers, who in three or four generations have transformed the tarai into the sub-continent's rice-bowl. These same migrants have also reshaped its culture, rejecting the word tarai in favour of madesh, meaning 'plains country,' and referring to themselves as Madeshis. The Madesh has many faces. Go there in the summer and you might as well be baked in an oven, which is why the British in India developed a hat known as the 'double tarai,' with two layers of felt to block the penetration of the sun. But come back in the period that the British in India knew as the 'cold weather,' from October through to mid-March, and you find yourself in a delightfully temperate zone, with misty mornings, sunny afternoons and evenings when a jersey or light jumper needs to be worn. Leave the hard 'pukka' road and follow anyone of the innumerable raised trackways and paths between the fields and you very soon find yourself in a rural setting seemingly at one with nature, where you will be made welcome even in the poorest human habitation.

But there are tensions on both sides of the border. In Nepal the increasingly populous Madeshis have begun to flex their political muscles and are challenging the traditional political supremacy of those they call the Pahadis or hill-dwellers. Yet the Madeshis are only one of many social groups or castes or tribes who believe themselves hard done by and are demanding their slice of the cake. A brutal ten-year insurgency led by self-styled Maoists and stemmed by a brutal soldiery tore the country apart and left its people impoverished, traumatised and justifiably angry at the mess they now find themselves in. On 10 April 2008, on a day when all traffic movement was banned so that everyone could come out and vote, I had the enormous pleasure of witnessing Nepal's citizens vote for a constituent assembly. The outcome was the coming to power of an all-party government with a mandate to bring about reforms which may in time allow all the people to share equally in the development process. At its first session on 28 May 2008 the Constituent Assembly voted by 564 votes to 4 to declare Nepal a federal democratic republic, giving the hated king a fortnight to clear out of his palace -- a king whose late brother and forebears had been revered as living gods and avatars of Lord Vishnu. No one imagines that this is an end to the vested interests and corrupt practices that have frustrated Nepal's development, but it is surely a beginning of the end.

South of the border the situation is more complex. Here two Indian states are involved: the Bihar of British days is still Bihar but when India became independent in 1947 the United Provinces was renamed Uttar Pradesh. Bihar, to put it bluntly, is in a mess. The last national census showed that state to have India's highest birth rate, highest infant mortality figures, lowest literacy rates and lowest per capita income. In December 2007 Bihar's Chief Minister appealed to Central Government for help in combating the growing threat from home-grown Maoists, declaring that 'What used to be a minor problem in the state has now taken the shape of full-blown terrorism.' Although mild by comparison with what Nepalis suffered when their insurgency was at its height, Bihar's experience of Maoist violence has the same root causes, identified in a recent report as 'the sheer and endemic lack of human development, and crumbling administration and decaying infrastructure; all stemming from 'political lethargy: The word that was not mentioned in this report was caste, the great unmentionable which has been the curse of the Indian sub-continent in the form of caste oppression and inter-caste rivalry.

The situation is rather better next door in the UP, India's most populous state, with a population close to 170 million. The UP also comes close to bottom in India's league table of states, but is currently undergoing a dramatic political change which may be as momentous in its own way as that taking place across the border in Nepal. In May 2007 a new government was voted into power in which a relatively new political party, the Bhahujan Samaj Party (BSP), formed the majority. What marks out the BSP as different from the others is that it was formed to give a voice to those at the bottom of the Hindu caste structure, formerly known as 'untouchables' and now more often referred to as Dalits or the Scheduled Castes. The BSP chose the elephant as its party symbol, a creature dear to both Buddhists and Hindus, and took its inspiration from the Dalit reformer Dr. Ambedkar, a close political ally of Mahatma Gandhi, who dedicated much of his life to trying to improve the lot of his fellow-Dalits. In 1956, frustrated by the failure of his fellow politicians to follow their words with deeds, Dr. Ambedkar staged a mass rally at which several hundred thousand low caste Hindus converted to Buddhism. Since then, for all the efforts of the Hindu extremists or ultra-nationalist parties to have religious conversion declared unlawful, more mass conversions have followed, the most recent in Mumbai in May 2007. Buddhism -- or rather, neo- or Dalit Buddhism -- is returning to the land of its birth.

When the UP's new government took office its cabinet consisted of five Muslims, thirteen high-caste Brahmins and Kshatriyas and no less than thirty-one Dalits. And presiding over the cabinet as Chief Minster was another Dalit: a diminutive, dumpy, but charismatic 51-year-old former teacher known either as Mayawati or as the 'Dalit Queen.' Mayawati courts controversy and as many charges of corruption surround her as any other state politician but she is now serving her fourth term as the state's Chief Minister. Despite amassing a considerable personal fortune from the donations of the faithful and despite indulging herself with jewellery, bronze statues of herself and lavish birthday parties, Mayawati has the support of the masses, not so much because of the many development projects she has so ostentatiously inaugurated but because she is one of them. The Dalit Queen may scandalise the Indian middle classes but the fact is that one-fifth of the population of the UP think of themselves as outcaste if not actually Dalit, and that figure is reflected right across the country. She and her party have learned from their mistakes, including the necessity to make alliances with former enemies and to tread lightly when it comes to religious sensibilities. The Buddhist card is in the pack but never played. It is not impossible that the next decade may see Mayawati and the BSP governing India -- if she and they can look beyond petty caste loyalties. Some Hindus may see this as a threat but the wiser among them will welcome the return of the Dharma, to which Hinduism has equal claim.

But already I have taken my story too far forward. Like the best stories, this one must begin at the beginning.

Charles Allen, Somerset, England
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Re: The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer, by Charles Allen

Postby admin » Sat Feb 13, 2021 4:05 am

Prologue: The Return of the Wanderer
c. 405 BCE

The old man had been going home, following the highway that ran northwards across the plains towards the Himavant mountain ranges and to Kapilavastu, the fatherland on which he had turned his back almost half a century earlier. He had been born a prince of the house of Gautama and named Siddhartha, 'he whose object has been attained'; his father the tribal chieftain Suddhodana -- 'pure in conduct and beloved of the Sakya like the autumn moon' -- chosen by popular acclamation to rule over the Sakyas; his mother a princess of the neighbouring Koliya tribe of Koligrama and named Maya from her resemblance to the Mother Goddess.

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Queen Mayadevi's dream in which she conceives the Buddha-to-be in the form of a white elephant. A stone medallion on the carved railings of the Barhut stupa, uncovered by General Cunningham in 1874.

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Scene from a relief on the eastern gateway of the Great Stupa at Sanchi, drawn by the amateur archaeologist Lieut. Frederick Maisey in about 1850 (India Office Library, British Library). The Sakyas and Koliyas would have lived in very much the same bucolic mode.

In later years these two linked tribes would be written into the Brahminical caste system and provided with royal lineages that could be traced back to the sun. It would be written of the Sakyas that their exiled Aryan ancestors had settled yattha Himavantapasse pokharaniya tire maha sakasando, or 'where there was a forest of saka trees on the bank of a lake in the slopes of the Himalaya.' But both the Sakyas and the Koliyas were more Mongoloid than Aryan, jungle-dwellers of the Gangetic plains driven back towards the Himalayan foothills by the advancing Aryavanshi. The Sakyas took their tribal name from the saku or sal forests (Shorea robusta) in which they lived, the seeds of which were a staple food for jungle dwellers, just as the Koliyas took their name either from the koila tree (Bauhinia purpurria, known variously as the Mountain Ebony, Orchid or Camel's Foot) or the kolan tree (Nauclea cordifolia), the bark of which was used for treating fevers. The Sakyas of Kapilavastu occupied the western side of the Rohini river where it debouched onto the plains, with their capital at Mahanagara (more usually known as Kapilavastu), the Koliyas the eastern side with their capital at Devadaha -- and for all the subsequent talk of palaces and marbled halls, and rajas and ranis, both tribes lived off the land. They used the timber of the forest to build their homes and the stockades that protected their settlements, and they harnessed the rivers to water the rich alluvial soil for the paddy-fields in which they grew the rice which provided their staple diet and their wealth. They grazed their water-buffalo along the edges of the forest and in the wetlands. They also hunted in the forest and tamed its elephants, and the best of their hunters served as warriors, a role which over time became hereditary and conferred the privilege of tribal leadership.

The warrior clans of the two tribes intermarried but, in the interests of maintaining clan purity, they also practised endogamy -- a custom abhorred by all good Hindus. Thus it was that Siddhartha's mother Maya and her younger sister Prajapati were both married to his father, whose mother was their aunt. Siddhartha in his turn married his cousin Yasodhara, the daughter of his mother's brother. The Sakya prince and the Koliya princess duly produced a son, Rahula, but on the evening after his birth Siddhartha, then aged twenty-nine, slipped away from his father's mote hall at Kapilavastu, abandoning wife and son to become a paribbajaka or wandering ascetic: a seemingly reprehensible act that afterwards became known as the Great Renunciation.

When Siddhartha had next returned to Kapilavastu he had been welcomed by his father not as his heir but as Gautama Sakyamuni, the Sage of the Sakyas, also known to his many followers as Tathagata, the 'One Who Has Arrived; or as Buddha, the 'Awakened One.' Both his wife and son, as well the aunt who had brought him up as his step-mother, had then followed him loyally into the ascetic life he had chosen for himself.

Now after fifty-one years of teaching the philosophy of the Middle Path the Sakyamuni knew that he would not live to see his homeland again. Two days earlier while he and his party were encamped in a mango grove a blacksmith's boy had slipped some pork into his begging bowl and, not wishing to reject the boy's offering, he had eaten.

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The Sakyamuni accepts his alms bowl. A Victorian engraving of a Gandharan sculpture.

The meat was bad and caused internal bleeding, and by the morning of the second day the Sakyamuni had become too weak to go on. His always faithful cousin Ananda had suggested they should take him back across the River Ganga to Rajgir, the centre of his teaching, but he had refused. His only son was now dead, his Sakya clansmen slaughtered, their sisters enslaved, his father's city sacked, its people scattered. Yet it was the human condition to be born into suffering, and it had been his life's purpose to understand the causes of that suffering and to find the means to end it -- a philosophy encapsulated in the two phrases Cattari Ariyasaccani, or the 'Four Noble Truths,' and Ariyo Atthangiko Maggo, the 'Noble Eightfold Path.' For half a century he had trod that path and here at Kushinagara he knew he had come to the end of his journey.

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The Maharaparinirvana. An engraving based on a fresco from the Ajanta caves.

Beside the banks of the Hiranyavati River was a grove of sal trees. Here the old man asked to be made comfortable, saying to Ananda, 'Spread me a bed on the ground between two sal trees, with the head to the north. I am tired and will lie down on my side: A fold of his much patched cloak was gathered up to make a pillow for his head. When his disciples began to weep he comforted them, reminding them that 'all that lives will perish' and it was not his self that mattered but his teaching. Three times he asked those gathered about him if anyone had any doubts about that teaching, and to speak up before it was too late. When no one answered the old man uttered two final sentences: 'Impermanence is in everything. Work tirelessly to achieve enlightenment: In the last watch of the night, lying on his right side with his face turned northwards towards the hills where he had been born and raised, Gautama Sakyamuni entered that state which his followers came to know as the Maharaparinirvana, the 'Great Final Extinguishing,' sometimes translated as the 'Great Final Deliverance.'

According to the ancient Pali chronicle compiled on the island of Ceylon known as the Dipavamsa, the great Mauryan emperor Asoka was anointed ruler of the kingdom of Magadha 'two hundred and eighteen years after the beatitude of Buddha: From details of diplomatic missions overseas carved on an Asokan edict rock it can be deduced that Asoka was anointed ruler within two or three years of 269 BCE [Before the Christian Era], which would mean that Gautama Sakyamuni died within a few years of 487 BCE. This is the dating of the Theravada Buddhist 'southern' tradition followed in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand and Cambodia. However, Sanskrit texts of the Mahayana tradition which made their way along the Silk Route to China and Japan date the gap between the Maharaparinirvana and the inauguration of Asoka to a round century, which would place the demise of Gautama Sakyamuni to around 370 BCE. Modern scholarship tends to fall between these two stools, but there is a growing consensus, based on careful analysis of the tables of succession given in the Dipavamsa, that the historical Buddha most probably died about 136 years before Asoka's anointing -- that is to say, about the year 405 BCE.

What followed thereafter was recorded in the text known as the Maharaparinirvana suttanta. The earthly remains of the Sakyamuni were wrapped in cloth and covered in flowers and incense.

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The cremation of the Buddha Sakyamuni, as depicted on a stone relief from the San chi stupa, carved in the second century BCE. The coffin bears the symbols of the wheel of the Dharma and the trident-like triratna, representing the 'three jewels' of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The trees at Kushinagara were said to have flowered out of season and the gods to have showered garlands of flowers.

On the seventh day after his demise his body was placed in a coffin and cremated on a pyre of fragrant wood.

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Drona distributes the ashes after Buddha Sakyamuni's cremation, as portrayed in an eighteenth-century Chinese history of Buddhism (From James Legge's A Record of Chinese Kingdoms, 1886).

The ashes and bones were subsequently gathered up by a Brahmin named Drona. A fierce argument then broke out over who should receive these relics, which was resolved by their division by Drona into eight portions, each large enough to fill a small pot. The first share went to the powerful King Ajatashatru of Magadha whose kingdom lay south of the Ganga; the second to the Licchavi rulers of Vaisali, on the northern bank of the Ganga; the third to the Bulis of Allakappa, to the west; the fourth to an influential Brahmin of Vethadipa; the fifth and sixth shares to the Mallas of Kusinagara and Pava; and the seventh to the Koliyas of Koligrama, the little kingdom east of the Rohini River from which Gautama Sakyamuni's mother had come -- better known in later years as Ramagrama. The last portion went to the Awakened One's own people, the Sakyas of Kapilavastu. Soon after the division of the relics an embassy arrived from the Moriyas of Pipphalivana, lying between Koligrama and Kusinagara. They too demanded a share but had to settle for the ashes of the funeral pyre.

When asked by Ananda how he should be remembered the Sakyamuni had suggested that his followers should honour four sites associated with his life and teaching; the Lumbini garden where he had been born; Bodhgaya, where he had achieved enlightenment seated under a pipal tree; the deer-park of Nalanda, on the outskirts of Varanasi (Benares), where he had delivered his first sermon to his first five disciples -- an act known to Buddhists as the First Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma or Moral Order; and Kushinagara, where he had attained Maharaparinirvana. When further asked by Ananda how his ashes should be commemorated the Sakyamuni had replied that they should be buried under earth that was thuipikata or 'heaped up as rice is heaped in an alms bowl: The tradition of placing the bones and ashes of a revered person under a thupa or mound of earth was already the established funerary practice among the peoples settled on the northern banks of the Ganges. However, the Sakyamuni further requested that this thupa should be sited beside a cross-roads so that passers-by might pause to pay their respects and by their veneration gain in understanding and merit.

Accordingly, each of the eight portions of relics recovered from the funeral pyre, as well as the Moriyas' ashes from the pyre and Drona's pot, were buried at prominent public places under what are better known today as stupas (from the Sanskrit form of the original Pali thupa).

As embodiments of the essence of the Buddha and his teaching, these ten stupas immediately became objects of veneration. Devotees garlanded them with flowers, lit lamps and came to pray beside them. Such important religious memorials had to be protected from the elements, so the original heaped mud mounds were strengthened with layers of crushed stone rubble. When this proved insufficiently durable the relic stupas were given an outer casing in the form of a surrounding wall and a hemispherical dome of fired bricks.

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• Ancient KALAMA - Ancient
o Modern NEPAL - Modern


At the time of Sakyamuni Buddha the Sakya kingdom of Kapilavastu was just one of a number of minor vassal states that came within the mahajanapada or 'great footprint' of Kosala. With its capital at Sravasti, some three days' march west of Kapilavastu, Kosala was one of the eighteen long-established mahajanapadas of ancient India, covering much the same area as the Kingdom of Oude in the eighteenth century, the North-Western Provinces in the late nineteenth century and Uttar Pradesh in modern India. Kosala's ruler King Prasenajit became a supporter of Gautama Sakyamuni and it was through his patronage that the great monastery erected in the Jetavana garden, just north of his capital of Sravasti, became the Great Teacher's retreat during the summer rains for more than twenty years.

But even more closely associated with the Sage of the Sakyas was the rival mahajanapada of Magadha, a country roughly corresponding in its territory to the southern half of the modern state of Bihar, which owes it name from the many Buddhist viharas or monastic centres that for centuries dominated the landscape. Magadha's capital was Rajagriha (today Rajgir), nestling in a ring of hills two days' march south of the River Ganga and seven days' west of the ancient city of Varanasi, capital of the mahajanapada of Kasia. Here in Rajagriha the Sakyamuni and his followers enjoyed the royal patronage of King Bimbisara for more than forty years -- until the king, who was five years younger than the sage, made the fatal error of abdicating in favour of his son Ajatashatru, who had him imprisoned and starved to death. This unhappy event probably took place during the last five years of the Sakyamuni's life.

Ajatashatru's cruelty led his mother, the sister of King Prasenajit of Kosala, to die of grief, which provoked Prasenajit into declaring war on Magadha. King Ajatashatru and his army were caught in an ambush and forced to surrender, but after negotiations in which the aged Gautama Sakyamuni may well have been involved as peace-maker King Prasenajit not only restored Ajatashatru's kingdom but also gave him his daughter in marriage. Soon after this act of magnanimity King Prasenajit's son Vidudhaba seized power and Prasenajit was forced to flee south to Magadha to ask for refuge from his new son-in-law -- only for Ajatashatru to close the gates of his city on him, leaving Prasenajit to die of exposure outside its walls.

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King Ajatashatru leaves his palace at Rajgir to pay his respects to Gautama Sakyamuni, here represented by an empty dais and royal umbrella, since at this early period the Buddha was always represented by symbols. From the Bharhut stupa, which General Cunningham assigned to the Mauryan era 'or somewhere between 250 and 200 B. C: but is now thought to have been built in the second century BCE under Sunga patronage.

With the death of King Prasenajit his son Vidudhaba secured his hold on the throne of Kosala and then set out to exact revenge on the Sakyas of Kapilavastu for an ancient slight. According to the Agganna Sutta and the Mahavamsa, King Prasenajit had asked for the daughter of a Sakya to cement the alliance between their two houses but the Sakyans, who prided themselves on their racial exclusiveness, had fooled him by sending the daughter of their clan chief by a slave girl named Naga-Mtinda (perhaps from the subordinated aboriginal tribe of the snake-worshipping Nagas). Only after she had given birth to Vidudhaba did Prasenajit discover that he had been tricked by the Sakyas, leading him to deprive his son of all rights and privileges as his heir. Vidudhaba had never forgiven his father or the Sakyas, and after Prasenajit's death at Rajagriha he at once set out to avenge himself on the Sakyas. Three times he sent an army eastwards from Sravasti to destroy Kapilavastu and three times, it is said, his troops were obliged to turn back after meeting Gautama Sakyamuni seated by the roadside. On the fourth occasion, however, Gautama Sakyamuni was either too far away or too close to death to hold the army back and it overwhelmed the city of Kapilavastu. The surrendered Sakyan army was destroyed in a notorious massacre that left their bodies 'scattered like straws,' after which their womenfolk were carried off to Sravasti as slaves.

This slaughter ended Sakya rule over Kapilavastu, but a few Sakyas survived by fleeing into the Himalayan foothills and the jungles. Some evidently made their way to Kusinagara to claim a share of their revered kinsman's remains, which they afterwards interred in Sakya country according to his instructions. The rest never returned. Of these, some went north, including, it is said, members of the family of Gautama Sakyamuni's cousin Ananda, who crossed the mountains to reach the Nivala or Nepal Valley.

Some crossed the Rohini River into Koligrama or Ramagrama, the country of the Koliyas, while others continued further east to find sanctuary among the Moriyas of Pipphalivana. A more fanciful claim is that some of the Sakyas settled in a wild place (afterwards Champaran), which they called Moriyanage, or the 'place of peacocks,' because it resounded to the cries of peacocks.

Meanwhile in Magadha King Ajatashatru resumed a programme of military expansion initiated by his late father Bimbisara. After building a great fortress of wooden walls beside the River Ganga, which he (or his successor Udayin) named Pataliputra, he crossed the great river to conquer Vaisali, the southernmost of the Licchavi states, before moving west to claim Kosala and Kashi, after which he returned to initiate a war against a confederacy of the remaining Licchavi and Malla states that continued for many years.

The Sakyamuni had warned that after his departure the country through which he had preached peace, compassion and universal brotherhood would be torn by war and suffering, and this prophecy now came about. Yet despite his cruel disposition King Ajatashatru had the highest regard for Gautama Sakyamuni and after his Maharaparinirvana, he was the first to claim a portion of the ashes, which he venerated in the stupa he raised over them at Rajagriha. Three months after the Maharaparinirvana Ajatashatru sponsored a meeting known initially as the Pancasatika because of the 500 enlightened monks that took part, better known today as the First Buddhist Council. Held outside a cave on the hillside just north of Rajagriha, the council formalised the moral law taught by the Buddha, the Dharma, and the rules by which his followers should live, the Vinaya. By virtue of his close links with the Buddha and his extraordinary memory, Gautama Sakyamuni's cousin Ananda was able to provide what was agreed to be the most perfect account of the Dharma. Those monks with the best memories then set to work to learn the whole of the Vinaya and the Dharma by heart through repeated recitation - a process that extended over six months and which became the standard means by which Sakyamuni Buddha's teaching was handed down by oral transmission generation to generation.

According to the Hindu genealogical charts King Ajatashatru, regicide and patricide, was followed by another eight descendants of his line, each son succeeding by killing his father until finally the throne of Magadha was seized by a chief minister who established the Nanda dynasty, which in turn went through nine rulers and lasted for more than a century before the arrival of a usurper named Chandragupta Mauriya. By this chronology, Gautama Sakyamuni would have had to have died well before the start of the fifth century BCE. However, the Ceylon chronicles are less fanciful: the entire Nanda dynasty turns out to have ruled for no more than twenty-two years, and the period between the death of King Ajatashatru and the arrival of Chandragupta Mauriya on the royal scene lasted little more than three-quarters of a century. In that brief span of a century the Dharma took root within the geographical bounds trodden by Gautama Sakyamuni across the Gangetic plains, but as little more than one of several competing challenges to the orthodoxy of Vedic Brahmanism that included the teaching of Gautama Sakyamuni's contemporary and sometime neighbour Mahavira, the founder of Jainism.

During that same early period the Sangha, or Buddhist community, initially exclusive and made up very largely of Brahmins of the priestly caste, began to evolve as the original teachings of the Sakyamuni were re-examined, re-interpreted and disputed over. Thanks to the missionary work of one of his chief disciples, Mahakatyayana of Ujjain, the Sakyamuni's teachings also began to spread into western India, and subsequently it was in the Pali dialect of western India that the sutras were preserved to become the holy texts of Buddhism.

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Stupa worship portrayed on a panel of the Bharhut stupa.

Within the lifetimes of Mahakatyayana and his fellow disciples divisions began to appear, leading to the Second Buddhist Council held at Vaisali a century after the Maharaparinirvana. The outcome was secession by a breakaway group who rejected the strict and, as they saw it, narrow reading of Buddhism followed by their elders, the Theras, in favour of a more adaptable, more accessible interpretation that could also appeal to lay people -- so opening the way for the development of the Mahayana or 'Greater Vehicle' school of Buddhism. These schismatics would eventually move away from the Magadha region to northern India, leaving behind those whose more conservative beliefs became known as Theravada, or 'Teaching of the Elders,' which can also be translated as 'Teaching of Those Left Behind.'

One early success of the reformers was the acceptance of the belief that Gautama Sakyamuni was but one of a number of emanations of Buddhahood. It was established that in the present age of humans three such manifestations of Buddhahood had preceded the Sakyamuni -- Krakuchanda Buddha, Kanakamuni Buddha and Kasyapa Buddha -- and one who would come after: the future Buddha Maitreya. The three predecessors of Sakyamuni Buddha, most probably renowned sages whose reputations as saints had long outlived them, were now brought into the Buddhist mainstream. Having lived and died in the same country as Gautama Sakyamuni, they too were now accorded their own memorial stupas, commemorating where they had been born, where they had died, and where their remains had been cremated and buried.

Stupa veneration now became a central element of Buddhism and as Buddhism itself evolved so too did these memorials, so that within two to three centuries of the Maharaparinirvana the original simple burial mounds of heaped-up earth had grown into magnificent monuments many times greater in height and circumference, covered in dressed and carved stone, and with additional features such as umbrellas and processional paths with railings and gates that allowed pilgrims to circumambulate the edifice.

The Buddhist stupa was a still relatively modest structure when Chandragupta Maurya, known to the Greeks as Sandracottos, seized the throne of Magadha as a teenager in or about the year 320 BCE. One account has it that Chandragupta was an illegitimate son of a Nanda prince by a concubine or slave-girl named Mura, another that he was a mercenary cavalryman from the Ashvaka tribe, known to the Greeks as the Assakenoi, who lived beyond the Indus. But there are also competing Buddhist and Jain literary traditions which claim that Chandragupta was either raised among peacocks or came from the Moriya tribe of Pipphalivana, situated in the much ravaged country between Koligrama and the Malla country of Kusinagara, within whose borders Gautama Buddha expired, so making a genealogical link between the scattered Sakyas of Kapilavastu and the new ruler of Magadha. What is indisputable is that Chandragupta was of humble stock and that he brought with him such an appetite for conquest that before he had reached his mid-twenties he had transformed the eighteen mahajanapadas of old into one mighty super-state extending from the eastern to the western seas and as far into the north-west as the country where the River Sindu or Indus debouched from the mountains onto the plains.

After two decades of conquest Chandragupta handed over power to his son Bindusara and moved to south India to become an ascetic under a Jain saint, ending his life through self-starvation in a cave. Bindusara extended his father's empire deeper into southern India, leaving untouched only the friendly Dravidian states in the far south and the unfriendly kingdom of Kalinga, in the south east. In or about the year 270 BCE Bindusara was succeeded by a son named Asoka or 'Without Sorrow,' who killed his brothers and embarked on a savage campaign to subdue Kalinga. According to Buddhist history, the day after the final sack of the Kalingan capital Asoka toured the ruins and was appalled by what he saw, crying out 'What have I done?' Asoka's first wife Queen Devi was a Buddhist, and when she saw the consequences of her husband's actions she reportedly left him in disgust. Asoka returned to his capital at Pataliputra haunted by nightmares but was comforted by one of his nephews, whose father he had killed. The boy showed him the path towards Buddhism, to which he converted in the seventh year of his reign under the guidance of the fifth great elder of the Buddhist Church, 'the ancient and venerable Upagupta, recipient of all the knowledge and tradition of the faith: The emperor then ceased to be Chandashoka or 'Asoka the Merciless' and became Dharmashoka, or 'Asoka of the Law,' while on his imperial edicts he proclaimed himself to be Devanamapriya priyadasi, or 'Beloved of the Gods who loves all.'

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Veneration of the Bodhi tree of Buddha Sakyamuni at Bodhgaya, his particular tree being the pippala or pipal (Ficus religiosa). From the Bharhut stupa.

Asoka now began to govern his empire on the basis of the Dharma, setting in motion what became known among Buddhists as the Second Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma. The Divyavadana relates how Asoka sent for Upagupta and having received him with due honour as the 'chief interpreter of the Dharma' asked him what he should do, to which Upagupta replied: '0 great king, the Lord, the Blessed Tathagata [Buddha Sakyamuni] has entrusted to me as well as to you the depository of the Law. Let us make every effort to preserve that which the Leader of the World has transmitted to us, when he was in the midst of his disciples: Whereupon Asoka answered that it was his desire to 'visit, honour, and mark with a sign for the benefit of remote posterity all the places where the Blessed Buddha has sojourned: The first of these sites was the birthplace of Prince Siddhartha at Lumbini, which was visited by the emperor in the twentieth year after his anointing and in great state:

With him went four battalions of troops, and the perfumes, flowers, and garlands of due worship were not forgotten. Arriving at the garden Upagupta extended his right hand, and said to Asoka, 'Here, o great King, the Venerable One was born; adding, 'At this site, excellent to behold, should be the first monument consecrated in honour of the Buddha: The King, after giving 100,000golden coins to the people of the country, raised a stupa pillar and retired.


Besides making a personal pilgrimage to the thirty-two sites associated with the life and teaching of Buddha Sakyamuni and other sites associated with the earlier Buddhas, Asoka decided that the best way to spread the Dharma was to distribute the relics of the Sakyamuni throughout his empire -- by opening up the eight original Maharaparinirvana stupas and reburying their sacred contents in tiny portions within thousands of new stupas built right across the land - the texts speak hyperbolically of 84,000 such stupas, representing the 84,000 sections of the Dharma and the 84,000 particles of the Buddha. According to the Asokavadana, there was initial resistance from the local Buddhists and when the emperor came to open up the first relic stupa, King Ajatashatru's stupa at Rajgir, he had to use force: 'Then the King, saying, "I will distribute the relics of the Exalted One," marched with an armed force in fourfold array, opened the stupa put up by Ajatashatru, and took the relics: The text goes on to say that here and at the other original relic stupas he opened up, Asoka repaired the damaged structure: 'Having given back the relics, putting them distributively in the place whence they had been taken, he restored the stupa. He did the same to the second, and so on until he had taken the seventh bushel; and restoring the stupas, he then went on to Ramagrama: Although unclear, the text can only mean that after removing the relic remains from each stupa Asoka returned some small part of the relics as part of his redistribution scheme.

Seven of the eight original stupas were successfully broken into, but not the eighth -- the stupa of the Koliyas of Koligrama at Ramagrama. Here when Asoka arrived to open the stupa he found it guarded by the Nagas or serpent kings, who refused to allow him to remove the relics, which suggests that at Koligrama, too, the emperor's authority was challenged by the local people, probably followers of a snake-worship cult in which the sacred cobra Naag was revered as a guardian of the Buddha.

Some indication as to how the Sakyamuni Buddha relics were re-interred by Emperor Asoka can be gained from an account in the Mahavamsa chronicle of Ceylon of the building of a relic-chamber within the Mahathupa or Great Stupa at Anuradhapura to house some bone relics of Sakyamuni Buddha obtained from the Himalayas by Emperor Asoka's missionary son Mahinda. These relics were placed at the base of the stupa within a stone box made up of six flat stones, which stood on a 'flower-offering ledge' in the centre of the stupa. As well as the relics themselves, the coffer contained various precious things including jewels, garlands and a representation of the Bodhi-tree in symbolic form.
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Re: The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer, by Charles Allen

Postby admin » Sat Feb 13, 2021 4:08 am

Chapter 1: The Opening

Piprahwa Kot, 18 January 1898


It was mid-January, most likely one of those days when the sun takes all morning to burn off the mists which cloak the Gangetic plains at that time of year. Logic suggests therefore that it was probably just after lunch when William ('Willie') Claxton Peppe marshalled his party and led them on horseback and in pony traps northwards towards the border. After five and a half miles -- and just half a mile short of the Nepalese frontier -- the party, consisting of perhaps half a dozen Europeans of both sexes, turned off the track and dismounted. Before them rose the largest of a number of knolls known locally as kots, a word derived for the Sanskrit term for a ruler's palace or fortress but which had come to be used locally to describe any unnatural mound. This particular mound Willie Peppe had named the Piprahwa Kot, after the name of the nearest village, which itself took its name from an extensive grove of pipal (ficus religiosa) trees, long regarded as sacred. The kot now swarmed with coolies -- workmen drawn from Peppe's own Birdpore Estate supplemented by Tharus from across the border. Before the forty-five square mile Birdpore Estate had been laid out in the 1840s and 1850s this had all been jungle and swamp, inhabited only by wild animals -- and by the Tharu forest-dwellers, whose immunity from the virulent local form of malaria now made them a valuable asset, even if they disliked manual labour.

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William Claxton Peppe of Birdpore Estate, probably photographed in the year of his first marriage in 1884, when he was aged 32. (Courtesy of Neil Peppe)

Three generations of settlers, British and Indian, had worked on this land and many had died of fever in the process. Willie's maternal grandfather had been part of the first generation, his father William Peppe senior among the second, joining the Birdpore Estate in 1849 as a manager and marrying Willie's mother a year later. It was William Peppe the elder who had had built Birdpore House, a palatial bungalow with a magnificent covered veranda at the front and a broad sweep of steps that led down to a garden complete with lawns, herbaceous borders and an ornamental fountain. Willie himself belonged to the third generation. He had been born in Birdpore House in 1852 but sent home at six to be educated in Scotland. At twenty-one he had returned to India, taking over the management of the estate sixteen years later when the old man had become too infirm to carryon. He was now forty-five years of age and in his prime, and there was no one within miles who would have dared dispute his authority as the raja or zamindar of Birdpore Estate and all its people, for he was ruler in all but name. It was, after all, the Peppes who had transformed a wilderness into a going concern and in the process given employment, security and a modicum of prosperity to a large labour force and their families. A stern man and a hard task-master Peppe-Sahib might be but he was also a just man who knew the ways of his people and who listened to their concerns.

Work had started on the Piprahwa Kot ten months earlier. Three weeks' of clearing away soil and loose piles of bricks had revealed a massive hemispherical dome some 120 feet in diameter. It appeared to be built entirely of large rectangular slabs of fired bricks, reddish in colour, the accumulated weight of which had caused the entire structure to settle and spread, so that what must originally have stood some fifty feet high or more at the centre was now half that height.

At that point Willie Peppe had suspended all work, partly because the hot season was by then too advanced to think of going on and partly because he needed expert advice.

That advice had been readily available for, by happy coincidence, two leading authorities on Indian archaeology were senior civil servants attached to the provincial division of Gorakhpur within which the Birdpore Estate lay, and a third was actively engaged in an archaeological excavation just a matter of miles away across the border in Nepal. Willie Peppe had chosen to consult the man he knew best: Vincent Arthur Smith of the Indian Civil Service (ICS), then serving as District Judge in the divisional headquarters at Gorakhpur town -- sixty miles by road from Birdpore but brought closer thanks to the new branch line running north to Uska Bazaar.

Smith was the son of the well-known Irish antiquarian and numismatist Dr. Aquilla Smith and had come out to India twenty-six years earlier after graduating from Trinity College, Dublin. Having topped the final examination list for the ICS in 1871, he had been marked out as a man who would go far. He could have had the pick of the provinces but had plumped for service in the North- Western Provinces and Oude, usually referred to as the NWP&O. His first posting as Assistant Commissioner had been to the Basti District, within which lay the Birdpore Grant, and there a year later in 1873 he had met Willie Peppe, newly graduated from Edinburgh University. At that time Smith had been twenty-five years old and Peppe twenty-one.

In the years that followed the two had become good acquaintances rather than close friends. The ICS was an elite service and its members did not fraternise with those they governed. Furthermore, the mercantile and planter community to which the Peppes belonged came low in the caste system that the British in India followed, and whether gentlemen or not, those like William Peppe who were 'country born' of India-domiciled parents came lower still, however grand their estates. It would have helped if the two had shared interests outside their work, but the one was interested only in the 30,000 acres of the Birdpore Estate that he managed as his own fiefdom while the other spent his leisure-time digging into India's past in an almost literal sense.

Early on in his career Smith had made his professional mark with the publication of The Settlement Officer's Manual for the North- Western Provinces, and in the normal course of events would have expected to be running his own Division as a Commissioner by the time he was forty-five and a senior figure within the NWP&O Secretariat by fifty -- instead of which he was now fifty-one and still stuck in the middle ranks.

The reasons for this lack of success were not easy to discern, since Smith was a most able and conscientious servant of the Raj and would afterwards be described by a friend as 'thoroughly Irish, genial, hospitable, and outspoken.' Indeed, it may have been a case of being too outspoken for his own good, to say nothing of spending too much time following his shauq, by which was meant a hobby that grows into an all-consuming passion. Like his father before him, Smith was fascinated by the past, and in India that fascination developed into an all-absorbing interest in every aspect of Indian history. One of the earliest of his predecessors in that same part of India had been Sir William Henry Sleeman, who had achieved fame as the official who had uncovered the murderous cult of thugee and had then gone on to play the leading role in its suppression. Smith now had the opportunity to go over the ground covered by Sleeman half a century earlier, an experience that led to his publishing an edited version of Sleeman's Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official. But this interest in India's more recent past soon led to look deeper into India's 'lost' early history prior to the arrival of Islam. 'He early formed the resolution of writing the ancient history of Northern India; declared an Indian contemporary. 'In the midst of heavy official duties, Dr. Smith persisted in his resolution of devoting all his spare hours to his favourite studies.'

At the time of Willie Peppe's initial clearing of the Piprahwa Kot in the spring of 1897 Vincent Smith had been too busy to spare a visit but in October of that same year, while on the way to undertake some archaeological explorations of his own, he had called in at Birdpore to examine the partly exposed knoll. He had without hesitation declared it to be a Buddhist stupa or relic mound, the bricks pointing to an unusually early date, their large size being 'specially characteristic of the Asoka period: He had recommended further excavation and had instructed Peppe on how he should proceed, and when he had got back to his bungalow in Gorakhpur he had written him a letter explaining who Asoka was and why he was so important: 'Asoka of the Ceylonese books, who calls himself Piyadasi in his inscriptions was Emperor of India, with his capital at Patna (Pataliputra) from about BC 259-222. He visited the traditional birthplace of Gautama Buddha in the 21st year of his reign in BC 239.'

Smith's letter had contained much more besides, including references to a Chinese traveller named Huien Tsang and to various stone pillars recently uncovered close by on the Nepali side of the border. However, Willie Peppe had never had much time for history and, besides, he had far more important things to think about: his second wife, Caroline Ella, had just given birth to their third son Lionel at Birdpore.

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The Piprahwa stupa after excavation. A photograph from William Peppe's album shows the Piprahwa complex from the south after excavation, with the remains of a small monastic building exposed in the foreground. (Courtesy of Neil Peppe)

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The Piprahwa stupa after excavation. The better photo was taken in late February 1898, and shows Willie Peppe (in white solar topee and ducks) talking to Dr. Anton Fuhrer, while a surveyor takes measurements. (India Office Library, British Library)

It was not until after the Christmas festivities, with a large party of relatives staying over at Birdpore House, that Willie Peppe's thoughts had returned to the uncovered mound at Piprahwa. Excavation recommenced in the New Year of 1898 with the digging of a trench some ten feet wide into and across the mound from north to south. Then a square well had been sunk down into the centre of the kot to a depth of almost twenty feet, cutting through alternating layers of brick and clay mortar. At a depth of ten feet a small soapstone vase had been uncovered, badly smashed and full of clay but also containing 'some beads, crystals, gold ornaments, cut stars etc: The vase and its contents had been put to one side and the digging had gone on -- to uncover the top of 'a circular pipe, filled with clay, and encircled with brickwork: This pipe appeared to mark the central axis of the stupa. At its head it was about two feet in diameter but as they continued to dig down so it began to shrink until finally it was no more than four inches in diameter, by which time they had descended through another eighteen feet of 'solid brickwork set in clay: At this point the central 'pipe' widened to form a small rectangle, which the diggers took to mean they had arrived at the base of the stupa.

On the afternoon of 15 January Peppe had been called from his estate work to be shown the latest discovery: a hole in the brickwork at the bottom of the well scarcely larger than a badger's set. It was cleared to reveal a recess, inside which sat a rectangular stone chest or coffer 'of a very superior hard sandstone ... cut out of one solid piece of rock in a perfect state of preservation with its sides very smoothly cut all but polished: The coffer was about two and a half feet wide and about two feet high.

Peppe had then called for a lamp and by crouching down beside the hole had made out that the coffer extended more than four feet into the darkness. What he also saw was that the lid was cracked into four sections but had not collapsed. 'The chest was perfectly closed: he recorded afterwards. 'Fortunately the deep groove in the lid fitting so perfectly on the flange of the chest prevented the lid from falling in when it was first broken and also when we were removing it.'

Peppe's training as an engineer told him that the coffer and lid together must weigh at least three-quarters of a ton. In fact, the lid alone was afterward found to weigh 408 pounds. He called a halt to the excavation, placed guards over the dig and went home to plan how the coffer might best be removed from its niche and brought to the surface without damaging whatever contents it held.

In the meantime, the coolie force was put to work clearing the surrounding area, revealing brick-built buildings on three sides of the stupa. The largest was laid out beside the stupa's north-east corner: a rectangular building 120 feet by 100, with a central courtyard surrounded by a series of small rooms or cells each ten foot square. 'I have had the walls laid bare but have not dug to any depth; wrote Peppe of the uncovering of what seemed to be a monastery. 'At different parts of this building I have found long nails, some with broad beads, and also bits of earthen pots ... The wood of the lower portion of the [door] frame was found in several of the door ways, looking black and charred and readily crumbling away,' This appeared to suggest that the monastery had been destroyed by fire.

Three days passed before all was ready for the raising of the giant stone coffer and its opening, so that it was on 18 January 1898 that Willie Peppe, manager and senior shareholder of the Birdpore Estate, brought his guests to the Piprahwa Kot to witness the event. Four adults would afterwards put their names to a deposition describing what transpired: two of Willie's cousins -- Allen B. Peppe, manager of the estate of the Maharaja of Chota Nagpur, and George Tosco Peppe, who managed a tea estate in Ranchi -- Mr Judson, assistant manager of the bordering Newra Estate, lying to the east of Birdpore, and a 'Madame' whose name is indecipherable but was probably Alice, wife of George Tosco Peppe. Also present was George Tosco's seventeen-year-old daughter Elfie. Missing from the scene was Willie Peppe's wife Ella; it was now three months since the birth of their son Lionel, but the boy was not doing well and she had felt unable to leave him.

A pulley and hoist had been set up and a wheeled trolley lowered into the well. The lid of the coffer was then carefully removed in its four sections and the coffer itself drawn out to rest on the trolley. The lid was then replaced and both sections winched up to the surface and set down on firm ground. The lid was then again removed.

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The stone coffer in situ in the Piprahwa stupa, with its lid off, prior to being lifted out of the shaft. (Courtesy of Neil Peppe)

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The coffer on its trolley after removal from the stupa. (Courtesy of Neil Peppe)

'It so happened that we delayed opening this casket three days after we had unearthed it,' wrote Peppe, 'and our curiosity was raised to the utmost. Our surprise can be imagined when on removing the lid we found an empty chest save for these few miniature vases standing up as they had been placed probably two thousand years ago: With the younger members of the family crowding at his shoulders Willie Peppe reached into the coffer. The reason for his disappoint was that the five little receptacles in the coffer were scarcely larger than jam-jars. But then he must have caught the glint of crystal and gold, for not only was the floor of the coffer strewn with tiny, sparkling objects but the lid of one of the containers had come off and had turned the far corner of the coffer into a mass of twinkling points of light.

Reaching down into the stone chest Willie Peppe closed his fingers round the largest of the receptacles. It was smooth and almost waxy to the touch, and when he lifted it into the light of day he and the others saw that it was made of soapstone and shaped very like a iota, the bulbous-shaped waterpot found in households throughout the Indian sub-continent. There was a murmur of disappointment, as much from the workmen lining both sides of the cut as from the circle of Europeans crowded round the pit.

Peppe dipped into the coffer for a second time and emerged holding another soapstone container. But this was quite different in shape from the first and altogether finer: a perfect sphere divided horizontally across the middle to form a receptacle and a cover, the former set on a disc-shaped base, the latter capped by a slightly smaller disc which provided the base for a second sphere and a third even smaller disc topped by a spike. From top to bottom the object stood no more than seven inches high, a delicate piece of turned steatite stoneware almost the colour of ivory. 'Beautifully turned; was Peppe's first observation, 'and the chisel marks seem quite as fresh as if it had been made a few days ago.'

One of the watching Europeans called for the receptacle to be opened but Willie Peppe shook his head. He was a man used to having his way and no-one challenged him. He turned his attention back to the coffer and this time brought out a third soapstone container, much smaller than the first two and shaped somewhat like a circular pill-box. It was passed without ceremony to Peppe's foreman, who wrapped it in newspaper and placed it beside the two other containers in a box lined with wood-shavings.

'This one's has some damage,' Willie Peppe declared to no one in particular and it was some moments before he straightened up, this time holding a spherical container and lid very similar in shape to the first, but smaller and slightly darker. It had evidently suffered at some time in the past, for it bore a hole the size of a new-born child's fist near the base. Again Peppe made no effort to prise top and base apart and the vessel was packed away with the rest.

'Just one more, at the far end, and it's come apart.'

Peppe now had to reach deep into the coffer. When he straightened up he held in the palm of one hand a shining object quite different from the others. It was a hemispherical lid made entirely of crystal, topped by a delicate handle in the shape of a fish. He held it up to murmurs of admiration and now for the first time his sun-tanned features softened into a smile. 'That's the cover,' he said. 'Now let us see what it covers.'

He ducked back into the coffer and there was a great deal of scrabbling and wriggling before he stood up. Now there was a broad grin on his face and he kept one hand cupped over whatever was in the other until he had straightened himself. He waited until he had the full attention of the entire assembly of Europeans, estate workers and Tharu villagers. 'Dekko!' he exclaimed as he took away his right hand. 'Look at that!'

Cupped in the palm of Willie Peppe's left hand was the base of the crystal container, circular and some two to three inches deep. It was filled to the brim with hundreds of jewels of every shape and hue, many of them beads cut to resemble tiny flowers -- and not only jewels but quantities of gold and silver flowers, each with six or eight petals. So close-heaped was this cache that it was impossible to make out any detail, but it was enough to silence those who were closest to hand and to cause those who stood at the back to shout out that Peppe Sahib had found treasure.

'Will you dig any deeper, Willie?' called out his seventeen-year-old niece Elfie. 'Oh, do go on digging.' But no one took any notice of her.

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The five reliquary urns from the Piprahwa stone coffer, as photographed by Dr. Fuhrer in late February 1898. (IOL, BL)

Willie Claxton Peppe was viewed by Elfie Peppe as 'rather overbearing' and 'something of a domestic tyrant' but the fact was he liked to do things by the book. He now stayed behind to organise the operation that saw the stone coffer safely hoisted onto a bullock cart and he only left the scene after he was certain that no one would touch the coffer until it had been brought to Birdpore House, the reason being that there were still numerous beads and what looked like fragments of wood scattered about inside. That same evening, after the five urns and their contents had been locked away in a storeroom at Birdpore House, he sat down to write two letters. One was addressed to Vincent Smith at Gorakhpur. The other went to the Archaeological Surveyor to the Government of the NWP&O and Curator of Lucknow Museum, who was at this time conducting his own archaeological excavation inside Nepalese territory no more than fifteen miles away. His name was the Reverend and Doctor of Philosophy Anton Alois Fuhrer.

Fuhrer was a year younger than Willie Peppe, having been born in Germany in 1853. As a student he had studied theology at the University of Wurzburg and after completing his doctorate had been ordained into the Roman Catholic priesthood. In about 1878 he was sent out to Bombay as Father Fuhrer to join the teaching staff at St Xavier's College. However, while still in Germany Fuhrer had developed an interest in Oriental studies which had led him to study Sanskrit under a group of leading Orientalists that included Dr. Julius Jolly. In Bombay he found a flourishing circle of Sanskritists that included his former mentor Dr. Jolly but was dominated by another German, the already eminent Professor Johann Georg Buhler, who had been appointed Professor of Sanskrit at the University of Bombay in 1863 at the age of twenty-six and had since then led the way in Sanskrit studies throughout the sub-continent. German scholars had already established themselves as leaders in the field of Indology and many at this time had found employment in various posts in India. Anton Fuhrer now began to take his Sanskrit more seriously and when Professor Buhler left Bombay in 1880 to take up the chair of Sanskrit at the University of Vienna he continued his studies under Buhler's successor Professor Peter Peterson. In 1882 Anton Fuhrer published the first of a number of seemingly learned articles in the Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. A year later he was credited as the editor of a Sanskrit shastra published in the Bombay Sanskrit Series, initiated by the man whom he always regarded as his prime mentor, Prof. Georg Buhler, with whom Fuhrer remained in close contact throughout his career in India.

However, it seems that Fuhrer and his employers at St Xavier's College were not in accord on matters of theology, and in about 1884 he either resigned or was dismissed and returned to Germany. Then in 1885 had come the Lucknow appointment, apparently as a result of the intervention of the then Lieutenant-Governor of the NWP&O, Sir Alfred Lyall, but almost certainly on the recommendation of Professor Buhler. So Fuhrer had returned to India, no longer as Father Fuhrer but as the Reverend Fuhrer -- and with a wife at his side. He was initially appointed assistant to a Major J. B. Keith, whose only qualification for the post of Archaeological Surveyor to the Government of the NWP&O was an undistinguished career as an artillery officer. However, two years later the Major retired and Fuhrer became not only the province's new Archaeological Surveyor but also Curator of Lucknow Museum, housed in one of a complex of magnificent if decaying palace buildings in the centre of the city known collectively as the Chhutter Manzil. Although the museum was afterwards relocated in a larger building nearby known as the Lal Baradari, or 'Red Pavilion,' in Fuhrer's time it was housed in Gulistan-i-Iram, the 'Rose Garden of Heaven' (today an empty ruin), in the extensive cellars of which it was said that the dissolute King Nassir-ud-Din of Oude was poisoned by his nobles in 1837. Following the uprising of 1857 the entire complex had for months been the scene of the most desperate fighting as the British sought to hold the nearby Residency and then retake Lucknow.

Willie Peppe was just old enough to remember that hot summer of 1857, the year of the Mutiny. He had been five years old when he and his mother, elder sister and infant brother had become refugees, sailing downriver in a hired country-boat through a hostile countryside for a week before joining other fleeing Europeans at Patna and continuing on down the Ganges in a steamer to Calcutta. His father, William Peppe senior, had stayed behind to protect his estate and it had been almost a year before they saw him again. He had lost a finger in one of his numerous skirmishes with the rebels and at one point had been forced to flee his home in his pyjamas and then watch Birdpore House go up in flames. But he had survived and Birdpore House had been rebuilt.

The three children were then taken by their mother to Aberdeenshire, where the Peppes had their roots (although there were those in the family who believed that their unusual surname came from French Huguenot ancestors). Sixteen years passed before the younger Peppes saw their childhood home again. After schooling in Aberdeen Willie took a civil engineering degree at the University of Edinburgh. Then in 1873 he and his younger brother Georgie returned to Birdpore Estate to work for a father they had not seen for more than a decade.

The Birdpore Estate or Grant had been part of a curious experiment begun by the East India Company in the 1830S. Back in 1801 Nawab Saadat Ali Khan of Oude had been forced to cede a large slice of his kingdom to the East India Company to pay off his kingdom's debts. It included a block of land known as the Gorakhpur Tarai.

The word tarai means 'damp country' but it came to be used to describe the territory bordering the foothills of Nepal adjacent to and merging into the great Gangetic plain, a strip of land laced with scores of rivers debouching from the hills onto the plains and all running north to south. The more northerly section of the strip, which the British knew as the Upper or Nepal Tarai, was spoken of by the Nepalis as the char khose jhaari, meaning the forest that was four khos wide, a khos being the furthest distance a cow's mooing might be heard, so thus about two or three miles. This eight- to twelve-mile-wide forest section was largely made up of magnificent sal trees, known locally as sak, and it marked the physical boundary where the foothills of the Himalayas ended and the central Gangetic plain began. According to one of the first Britons to travel through this forest belt, it was the haunt of 'wild beasts, especially elephants and rhinoceroses ... Tigers are not so numerous as might have been expected in a country so uncultivated. Black bears of a great size are more numerous, and are very troublesome. Wild hogs, hog-deer, hares, foxes and jackals, are to be found in abundance.'

As far as the Nawabs of Oude were concerned the Upper Tarai was of little value other than for its timber and they had been content to allow it to be taken over by the hillmen of Gorkha, who after conquering Kathmandu Valley in the late eighteenth century had begun to encroach upon the Indian plains.

South of the great forest of the Upper or Nepal Tarai was the Lower Tarai, a much broader strip of more open country: 'a wasteland covered with long grass or reeds ... intersected by numerous small rivers: But it was a wasteland that could be grazed over by cattle in April and May 'when the periodical hot winds entirely destroyed the herbage of more southern regions.'

Human settlement in both parts of the tarai came at a price. What both the hill rajas of Nepal and the nawabs of the plains knew all too well was that the region was little short of a deathtrap, due what was known locally as the ayul -- 'a poisonous air, which many of them imagine proceeds from the breath of large serpents ... Rational men assign a more natural origin to the Ayul or bad air. They say, that the ground in the forests, in spring, is covered in fallen leaves, which are rotted by the first rains of the hot season, and, by their putrefaction, corrupt the air ... after which the unhealthy season begins, and continues until the cold weather.'

What the locals called ayul the British came to know as tarai fever, a strain of malaria so virulent that permanent human settlement in the tarai was thought well-nigh impossible. The further north you travelled the worse the tarai fever got. 'Throughout the hours of daylight the Tarai is safe enough: wrote a contemporary of Willie Peppe's:

It is the evening that man may not spend in this beautiful park. Sundown in the Tarai has brought to an end more attempted raids into Nepal and has buried more political hopes than has ever been known. The English learned their lesson early, for within forty years of Plassey [1757] a column withered and retreated before the miasma of this paradise. The English had been told of its dangers but they had to learn by experience what all India had known and feared for centuries.


Tarai fever was as lethal to the Gorkhas and the other hill-tribes of Nepal as it was to the British and to the Indian plain-dwellers, and they too learned to keep out, so that for centuries the tarai served as a barrier and a no-man's-land, home only to one group of people: the jungle-dwellers known as the Tharu, who by all accounts had lived there since time immemorial.

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Two semi-Hinduised Tharu women photographed by Dr. Fuhrer in the Nepal Tarai in 1897. The clay storage jars in the background were on display only because their mud-and-thatch dwelling had just burnt down. (IOL, BL)

According to one of the first Europeans to view them as anthropological specimens, the Tharus 'style themselves ban-rajas, or "forest kings," enjoying the free and easy life of the forests.' After centuries of independence, they were now in the process of becoming rapidly Hinduised,' particularly those who lived in the Lower Tarai. 'The women do the largest part of the sowing, weeding and harvesting,' wrote Dr. Anton Fuhrer of them in 1897--

whilst the men engage in hunting and fishing, which they regard as the proper occupation of their sex. Their villages are from one to two miles distant from each other, and the houses are all made of wood and grass. The outside grass walls of each house are plastered over with red mud; they never use cow-dung for this as is usual with the Indian people outside the jungle and forests. The houses are large, cool and commodious, and generally raised on poles, in order to protect the inmates from damp and malaria ... Every little village is a self-governing community. Disputes are settled by a council of elders. and this is sometimes presided over by a head-man or chaudhari [who] acquires the status of head-man by tacit consent and not by election. The decisions of the councilor the head-man are obeyed unreservedly ... Amongst themselves the Tharus are, for the most part, a peaceful and good-natured race, following without question, as if by a law of nature, the customs and maxims of their ancestors. The honesty of the Tharus is proverbial.


By the civil code known as the Mulki Ain promulgated in 1854 the Rana rulers of Nepal had officially designated the Tharus as low caste Hindus, describing them as 'enslavable alcohol drinkers' and 'a degraded and ignorant people.' Like a number of other groups of low social status in India, they reacted against discrimination by claiming descent from one of the so-called royal clans of the Rajputs, the most popular explanation being that their ancestors had migrated east from their homeland in the Thar desert in the face of Islamic conquest. However, the single fact that they had developed such a high degree of immunity from the local strain of malaria pointed to a much longer residence in the tarai. There were other indicators, too -- the absence of caste divisions, an abhorrence of animal sacrifice but no special respect for cows, a history of persecution by the Hindus, the building of mounds over cremated remains, a fondness for endogamy in several of their clans and a number of significant differences in the way they practised Hinduism -- all of which suggested that the religion of their ancestors had been very different. There was even talk that these ancestors, among whose ruined cities they lived as hunter-gatherers, had once been great kings and had produced not one but two great conquerors of men.

What was also notable about the Tharus was the fear in which they were held by the hillmen to the north and the plain-dwellers of the south:

In the plains Tharuhat or 'the Tharu country' is a synonym for 'witch-land.' Every Tharu woman, after the marriageable age, is supposed by those who live outside the Tharu country to possess the power of the Evil Eye to bewitch and enchant: so that she has the power to turn a stranger into a wild animal or destroy him slowly by consumptive fever. This is one of the reasons why all natives of India outside the Tarai forests dread the Tharus and fear to live among them.


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Rural scenes on a decorative frieze from the Bharhut stupa. The Tharu people store their grain and keep their fowls in clay structures similar to those shown here.

The reality, of course, was that the ayul had served the Tharus well, ensuring that for generations they remained free to roam the forests as hunter-gatherers, rice-farmers and fisherfolk. But as the nineteenth century wore on the Tharus came under ever-increasing pressure from north and south as large tracts of what they had always regarded as their ancestral lands were expropriated and turned over to cultivation. More pressure came from the growing practice of setting fire to jungle grassland in the spring so that cattle could be driven up from the parched plains to feed on the new grass. This had a damaging effect on the local wildlife on which the Tharus depended for part of their diet, to say nothing of the increased risk to their lives as large numbers of tigers, rhinos and wild buffalo were forced out from their natural habitat.

A significant part of this pressure came from the Gorakhpur Tarai, a rectangular tract of land approximately sixty miles in length and forty wide extending northwards from the town of Gorakhpur to the Nepalese border. The East India Company (EICo) made no effort to exploit this territory until after its border with Nepal had been fought over and secured in 1815. But in an effort to deprive the Nepalese of resources during that same war, the British army commander was authorised to 'remove the class of persons inhabiting the Forest of Bootwal [Butwal, 65 miles due north of Gorakhpur], denominated Taroos [Tharus], together with their families ... for settling them in the district of Gorakhpoor, where it was intended to provide for them by assignments of waste lands: As a result of this enforced resettlement the lands the Tharus had previously occupied within Nepal were abandoned: 'The forest or jungle extended itself on the high lands, and the low lands which produced the rice crops, became covered in high reeds, the habitation of Tigers, Elephants, and other wild animals. In this state it existed for fully twenty years.'

Then in 1834 the Government of the EICo's North-Western Provinces devised a plan 'for bringing the waste lands and forests in the Zillah [portion of a province, afterwards designated a 'division' by the British] of Gorakhpoor into cultivation ... by inviting European and Anglo-Indian capitalists to take leases of fifty years, bringing the land into cultivation: Within a few years more than 650 square miles of land had been leased out, one of the earliest being the Birdpore Grant, which took its name from the originator of the scheme.

The Gorakhpur Grants scheme was a disaster. No one had considered the tarai fever, which decimated both the British grantees and their imported labour forces: 'The periodical rains brought annually malaria and fever; wrote the son of one of this first generation of colonisers, 'and when sickness did not kill outright, it incapacitated some, and induced others to remove away to healthier regions ... No single Grantee escaped the ordeal, all equally suffered, and if a few outlived the dark period of trouble and misfortune, it was simply from having more perseverance.'

Managing the Birdpore Grant as co-proprietors were two brothers: Hugh and John Pirie Gibbon, who tried everything from indigo and sugar-cane to lac manufacture, silk weaving and horse breeding, but with very little success. So damaging was the malaria that in 1843 Hugh Gibbon and his wife Delia decided to take their three children home to Aberdeen, where they left them with his mother before returning to India. Very soon after their return, however, Hugh succumbed to malaria leaving his wife with a new-born son -- who also died. Then in 1848 Hugh's brother John Pirie Gibbon died, leaving the widowed Delia to run the estate on her own. She looked around for a new manager and found him in the person of William Peppe, who had been managing a nearby estate until differences with its owners had led him to quit. Within months the two were married. Their daughter Annie was born a year later in 1850; then Willie in 1852; Sarah, who died in infancy and was buried in their garden at Birdpore, in 1854; and their last child Georgie in 1856.

Under the joint management of William Peppe and his wife's cousin William Gibbon an estate burdened with enormous debts was turned into a going concern, but not before three decades of hard work accompanied by many setbacks. Every year some 500 male labourers were brought in by train from Azimghur, Jaunpur and Chota Nagpur in Bengal. Due to malaria and disease very few returned home but enough survivors settled with their families to provide the core of the estate's labour force. It was also Peppe's good fortune that in the 1840s large numbers of Hindu and Muslim refugees from the ruinously misgoverned Kingdom of Oude migrated east into Birdpore to replace the lost labour -- and that not long afterwards quinine became more widely available as a partial remedy for malaria. Peppe and Gibbon also recognised that it was in their estate's interests that these migrants should be leased plots of land to settle on and cultivate free of rent for three years. They set up dispensaries to make the quinine freely available and began to drain the swamps that, unknown to all, provided the breeding grounds for the malaria-carrying mosquitoes. 'They seemed to stand the climate better than the imported labourers,' wrote William Gibbon of these new settlers:

The Western Grants gradually settled down and became cultivated where the land offered the most advantages. This gradually induced others with families to join in the venture ... The soil was proved well adapted to the cultivation of rice, and profitable to the husbandman ... With tillage and cultivation the climate improved, and although the latter period of the rainy season, with its decaying vegetation still occasions malaria, bringing with it fever and ague, spleen and other disorders, the cultivator has learned the great boon of a timely dose of quinine, dispensed to him by his malik [chief] the Grantee. In time, dispensaries with European medicines were introduced, drainage and other sanitary arrangements attended to, and better communications with the outside world, prospects brightened, and the life of the Grantee became a different existence altogether from what it was at the start.


Over the same period Peppe and Gibbon discovered that with proper irrigation in the form of canals and reservoirs -- known locally as tanks -- Birdpore's rich soil could produce some of the best, if not the best, rice in India, which when transported down river to Patna became better known as Patna rice.

In 1884 William Peppe's eldest son Willie returned from a home leave with his new bride, Rosalie, who never adjusted to the harsh summer environment of Birdpore and died three years later. Over this same period William Peppe senior became increasingly unwell and took to spending more of his time in a handsome cottage he had bought for the family in the hill-station of Mussoorie. The management of the main estate he left in the capable hands of his eldest son Willie, while Georgie, the younger brother, took charge of two smaller holdings nearby.

It was at this juncture -- with Willie Peppe to all intents in charge of the Birdpore Estate - that the Reverend Doctor Anton Alois Fuhrer appeared on the local archaeological scene, having been appointed in 1885 to the post of Curator of the Lucknow Museum and Archaeological Surveyor of the province that since the annexation of Oude by the EICo had been enlarged to become the North-Western Provinces and Oude (NWP&O).

In that same year of 1885 a grim struggle for succession was being fought out north of the border in the Kingdom of Nepal. Here a remarkable pattern of rule had developed under the nominal suzereinty of the royal family of the Shahs, whose ancestor Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha had overthrown the MalIa kings of Kathmandu Valley in 1768 and subsequently created the nation state of Nepal. The kings remained prisoners in their palaces while a succession of ministers drawn from a rival family, the Ranas, ruled in their stead as hereditary prime ministers, styling themselves maharajas and according themselves all the titles and privileges of kingship, including the possession of large numbers of wives and concubines. In 1877 the founder of this Rana dynasty of ruling prime ministers, Prime Minister Maharaja Sir Jung Bahadur Rana, died of cholera while hunting in the tarai and his brothers saw to it that the prime ministership passed not to one of his sons but to one of them, the genial but weak Maharaja Ranudeep Singh Rana, who left the running of the state to his more able younger brother Dhir Shumsher Rana, nominally his Commander-in-Chief.

Unlike his brother, Dhir Shumsher Rana was both a hard-bitten warrior and a statesman. He effectively ruled Nepal in his brother's name and through a series of purges ensured that the succession passed to his own male line. This was formidable, consisting of seventeen legitimate sons and numerous illegitimate ones. The former became notorious as the Satrabhai or 'seventeen brothers.' After the death of their father in 1884 the Satrabhai continued his work to strengthen their position and in 1885 five of them combined to shoot dead their uncle Maharaja Ranudeep Singh Rana and murder all other rival Rana cousins in the line of succession.

According to family legend, it was Khadga Shumsher Rana, the second oldest of the brothers and then aged twenty-four, who played the leading role in this brotherly putsch. Nevertheless, it was his older brother Bir Shumsher Rana who then became Prime Minister and de facto ruler of Nepal, with Khadga Shumsher at his side as his Commander-in-Chief. The other more junior members of the Satrabhai awarded themselves the rank of general and took on various roles as governors and ministers under their eldest brother.

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Some of the seventeen Satrabhai and their less legitimate brothers. The young Commander-in-Chief Khadga Jung Bahadur Shumsher Rana is seated in the centre next to the man he hoped to depose, his elder brother Prime Minister Bir Shumsher Rana (bearded and wearing helmet). The smaller brother seated on the other side of Bir Shumsher is their younger brother Chandra Shumsher, who later thwarted Khadga Shumsher's ambitions to rule Nepal from 1901 to 1929. Detail from a photograph taken by the court photographer Chitrakar in about 1887 during a reception for the visiting Chinese Amban of Tibet. (Photo courtesy of Kiran Man Chitrakar)

Within two years of gaining power it had become clear to Prime Minister Bir Shumsher Rana that the growing strength of Khadga Shumsher had become a threat to his rule. He summoned his younger brother to his palace and told him bluntly that 'Two lions cannot live in one forest: At this point the stories begin to differ: one version has it that Khadga Shumsher immediately offered to withdraw from Kathmandu Valley in the interests of brotherly unity; the other, recorded by the visiting French Sanskritist Silvain Levi in his journal, that 'four men throw themselves on him, take him by the wrists and the Maharaja announces to his younger brother that by an overflow of affection he creates him governor of Tansen, the district west of Nepal ... And under a strong escort through mountain necks and dells, they lead the Governor to Palpa in spite of himself.'

Whichever version is the more accurate, the facts are that Khadga Shumsher was deprived of his military command, removed from the roll of succession and appointed Governor of the Western Tarai. His elder brother wanted him far enough away to present no military danger yet close enough for him to keep an eye on him, so he exiled him to Palpa, several days' march to the west of Kathmandu. As the 'Palpa Raja,' after the name of the town where he had his summer capital, Khadga Shumsher's new command extended from the lower foothills of the Himalayas in central Nepal to the Indian border opposite the NWP&O and northern Bihar (at that time still part of the province of Bengal).

Although raised in relative poverty, Khadga Shumsher was among the first of the Ranas to benefit from a good English-medium education by being sent to school at what afterwards became Presidency College in Calcutta. The result was that he was well-read and had a good command of written and spoken English. According to an English visitor to Nepal, who knew his brothers better than the man himself, Khadga was 'a man of curious contrasts -- a bully and a keen student of antiquarian research; useless as a leader, he was a capable enough man in carrying out readily and efficiently a scheme thought up by another ... but his impatient vanity was such that there are on record against him no less than four separate attempts to overthrow a Prime Minister of Nepal: Fair assessment or not, the facts are that his banishment to the Western Tarai at the age of twenty-six hit General Khadga Shumsher very hard, for it was a backwater in every sense of the word. In the summer the exile and his family lived in a small palace at Palpa built at 6,000 feet in the lowest of the ranges of the Himalayan foothills; in the winter months they moved down to the town of Batauli (now Butwal) which guarded the main highway into the hills. This was an ancient highway running south from Kathmandu to Gorakhpur and beyond, and one of the few trade links connecting Nepal with the outside world.

Ever since the days of Maharaja Jung Bahadur Rana, the rulers of Nepal had recognised the power of the British Raj in India and the threat it represented to their country's independence. To maintain that independence meant remaining on the best of terms with the British Government of India while at the same time keeping the British at a distance. By the terms of their original peace treaty with Britain in 1815 they had been forced to accept a British Resident in Kathmandu Valley but they kept him on a very tight leash and only in exceptional circumstances, such as a hunting party in the Nepal Tarai, were other Britons allowed to trespass across their borders. To this same end, no effort was made to open up Kathmandu Valley or to develop trade routes by building roads or railways linked to India. As the Satrabhai Ranas strengthened their hold on the government of Nepal in the late 1880s the tarai, with its forests and swamps and mosquitoes, came increasingly to be seen as a defensive shield, used principally as a hunting ground to which the Ranas repaired in the mosquito-free cold weather months from mid-October to mid-March to hunt tiger, rhino, elephant and lesser game.

It now became General Khadga Shumsher Rana's responsibility to organise these cold-weather shikars -- and to exploit the Nepal Tarai's natural resources. British India needed railway sleepers for its fast-growing rail network and the sal timber from the tarai proved ideal for the purpose. When the Tharus declined to cooperate with the destruction of their forests the General brought in immigrants from India, many of them Muslims. Considerable numbers of pahadis or 'hill people' from Nepal also took the gamble of moving down into the unhealthy plains. More ancient forest not required by the Ranas for big-game hunting were cleared, followed by settlement and the planting of crops. Sufficient numbers of these new settlers survived the ayul to transform large swathes of the tarai jungle into open farmland. The losers were the Tharus. They rarely fought back, but they viewed these invaders with hostility, while the settlers for their part regarded the jungle-dwellers as little better than savages. Whereas the Tharu had always built with mud, timber and thatch the newcomers began to build with brick, often using old bricks recovered from the large kots that their clearances of the jungle exposed. These excavations frequently brought to light stone images, some of which were incorporated into new Hindu temples and some destroyed as manifestations of idolatry. Stories of Muslim iconoclasm have frequently been exaggerated -- not least by boastful Muslim historians -- but enough instances have been recorded by neutral observers such as Francis Buchanan and Brian Hodgson to show that idol-breaking and the building of new places of worship over infidel ruins was commonplace in the Gangetic plains as late as the nineteenth century. Yet nineteenth-century progress, in the form of clearing away old ruins or recycling their materials, was at least as damaging as religious intolerance in obliterating the past.

As for General Khadga Shumsher, the accounts of his enemies say that he never stopped plotting his return to Kathmandu and power. Nevertheless, after a decade in exile as the Governor of Palpa he had become not only an expert in shikar but also an authority on the Western Tarai and everything it contained.
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Re: The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer, by Charles Allen

Postby admin » Mon Feb 15, 2021 1:26 am

Chapter 2: The Reading

Birdpore House, 19 January 1898
 

On the morning of 19 January Willie and Ella Peppe sat down with other members of their family at Birdpore House to examine the five vessels from the Piprahwa kot and their contents.

The Peppes' were planters and not archaeologists, and as the lid of each vase or pot was removed and its contents spread out on the table the excitement was so great that afterwards no one could quite recall what had come from where. The overall impression was of myriads of tiny, glittering gems -- amethysts, cornelians, topazes, garnets, beryl, malachites, lapis lazuli, crystals, corals and pearls -- mostly cut to resemble six- or eight-petalled flowers or leaves and many drilled as if they were intended to represent garlands of flowers. Scarcely less in number were flower shapes cut from gold or silver leaf, with the same gold and silver leaf being used for a remarkable variety of other tiny ornaments, which Willie Peppe began to list:

an impression of a woman's figure, an inch long, on gold leaf, the upper part of her body being nude and the lower portion clothed; another small figure in gold leaf, nude; a large circular piece of rather thicker gold leaf, two inches in diameter, with scroll; an elephant stamped on gold leaf; several pieces in gold leaf stamped with the figure of a lion, having a trident over his back and the Buddhist cross (svastika) in front; several pieces with the impression of the Buddhist cross; one piece of solid gold, measuring 3/4" x 1/4" x 1/8"; pearls of various sizes ...


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Mrs. Peppe's drawing of a selection of items from the Piprahwa stupa as published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Her original drawing was subsequently lost.

Ella Peppe was the artist in the family and she now used her skills to make drawings of a representative selection of what the family could only think of as buried treasure.

What was overlooked in all the excitement was that intermingled with all this 'treasure' were fragments of bone and ash which had originally been contained within one or more tiny wooden boxes, On exposure to the fresh air the box or boxes had simply crumbled into dust, scattering the contents, so that afterwards no one was quite sure where these contents had originally been placed or even if there had been one wooden box or several. However, a moment came when it dawned on all those gathered round the table that these fragmentary odds and ends must -- could only be -- human relics, and that the soapstone containers were actually reliquaries, the gold and gems and other precious objects no more than accompanying offerings. According to Willie Peppe, these bone fragments were 'quite recognisable, and might have been picked up a few days ago.'

The mood became more solemn as the latter were placed on one side so that what remained on the table could be gathered together and put in two stone jars. 'I hereby certify,' declared Willie Peppe afterwards in a signed deposition witnessed by members of his family --

that these two jars contain all the bones and wood & dust that were found in the different urns and lying loose in the coffer excavated by me in the stupa at Piprawah on the B. E. B D N W P [Birdpore Estate, Basti District, North-Western Provinces] ... These bones[,] wood dust etc have been kept in these jars under our mutual care & they have not been tampered with in any way. No one has been allowed to see them except in my presence & I have every confidence in saying they are exactly as they were unearthed by me.


On the evening of that same day, 19 January, both Vincent Smith in Gorakhpur and Dr. Anton Fuhrer at his excavation site fifteen miles away received Willie Peppe's letters informing them of his discovery of the Piprahwa treasure. They immediately wrote back, both congratulating him on his finds -- and both urging him to look for an inscription.

'My dear Peppe,' wrote Vincent Smith from Gorakhpur, 'Your discoveries at Piprahwa are very interesting. I send you a volume of the new Archaeological Survey Reports which gives an account of similar finds in the Madras Presd. [Presidency]. The great size of your stone chest is remarkable, and I believe the relics were very highly esteemed ones. I suppose there is no trace of any inscriptions: He went on to ask Peppe to write 'a detailed account of your explorations accompanied by plans, sections and elevations: accompanied by drawings and photographs, and warned him that under the Treasure Trove Act he was required to inform the Collector of Basti District, since the Government of India had a 'right of presumption to such finds: In answer to Peppe's invitation to come over to inspect his excavation and finds, Smith explained that he was tied up in court, including judicial sessions which continued up to 25 January and possibly 26 January as well.

Willie Peppe did what Smith asked: he wrote to the acting Collector and Joint Magistrate of Basti District, Pandit Rama Shankar Misra, informing him that he had opened the stone coffer from the Piprahwa stupa and had found 'two stone vases, one stone iota, one stone box, one crystal bowl: all contained boxes, stones of various kinds, gold leaf and ornaments: In that same note he added that he had 'communicated' with Dr. Fuhrer, Archaeological Surveyor to the Government of the NWP&O, about these finds. This last remark was afterwards to provide ammunition to the conspiracy theorists, proving as it did that Peppe had been in touch with the German archaeologist at about the time of the opening of the stupa.

As for Dr. Fuhrer himself, his response to that communication was remarkably similar to Smith's, although in his case he wrote from his excavation site inside Nepal and gave his address as 'Camp Kapilavastu':

Dear Mr Peppe,

I am exceedingly obliged to you for your very kind letter of yesterday's date, and take this early opportunity of congratulating you most heartily to [sic] your great success in excavating part of Piprahwa-kot. Kindly see carefully whether the stone chest or any of the other stone bowls found do not contain inscriptions. anything may give a clue for the date of that stupa.

I should be delighted to accept your kind invitation to come and see the excavation, but I cannot leave the excavations here, not even for a day, as the coolies, 200 at present on the work, would do a great deal of damage to the buildings now being unearthed, if not properly supervised.

I shall, however, be glad to come on about the 15th February. when the Nepalese Government will close the work for the season here, but if you like I shall be glad to continue the excavations from about the 10th March, and make a determined survey of the buildings unearthed and careful drawings of the relic caskets unearthed and their contents.


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Detail from a photograph taken by Willie Peppe, with the lid of the smaller soapstone reliquary removed and tilted to show the inscription it carried, probably chalked in. (Courtesy of Neil Peppi)

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Part of the inscription on the 'back' of the Piprahwa reliquary casket, where the vase had suffered some damage and appears to have been patched up with wax. The two letters added above the line of script can just be made out. (IOL, BL)

Who first noticed the Piprahwa inscription and when is not known. But it must occurred on 19 January and before Willie Peppe received the two separate requests from Smith and Fuhrer urging him to seek out just such an inscription. At some point on that day, and most probably as the family were sorting out the various finds, someone spotted that the smaller of the two round soapstone jars with the decorated tops carried an inscription on its lid.

Inscribed all the way round the upper part of the lid in tiny scratches were thirty-six letters of an alphabet that looked to the Peppes like a crude form of Greek and quite different from the two sorts of writings they were familiar with locally: the Perso-Arabic script mainly used by Indian Muslims when writing Urdu and the Devanagri in which Hindi was written.

On the first scraps of paper that came to hand Willie Peppe painstakingly made no less than three copies of the inscription. One he sent that same day to Vincent Smith in Gorakhpur and the other two to Dr. Anton Fuhrer at his excavation site in Nepal. The first has been preserved and it can be seen that Peppe first drew five parallel lines with a pencil and ruler and then painstakingly copied down the letters from the soapstone vase. Above it he added two lines in ink which he initialled and dated:

My dear Smith -- this is some writing scratched round the top of one of the bowls -- yours w. C. P. 19.1.98.


Vincent Smith's immediate response on receiving Peppe's scrap of paper was to attempt to transliterate and translate the inscription on that same bit of paper:

ya salila nidhane Budhasa bhagvatasu ki su ki ti bhu ti na m sa bhagi ni ka
This [is] the relic receptacle of the Blessed Buddha [a proper name?} sister
nam sap u tra da la nam
son


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Although no serious Sanskritist, Smith had a good understanding of the Brahmi script and of the Prakrit language it contained. Although parts of the inscription defeated him he very quickly grasped its main import and its huge significance. His response was to turn over Peppe's scrap of paper and write a brief note, which he initialled and dated:

The relics appear to be those of the Buddha himself (i.e. believed to be his) as the beginning of its inscription proves. Salila = Sanskrit sariram 'body; the regular word for 'relics.'

I cannot at present make out the sense of the remainder -- probably some of the letters are erroneously copied.


On that same day, 23 January 1898, Smith wrote a more formal letter to accompany his note:

My dear Peppe

Your find turns out to be of even greater interest than we thought as the bones were believed by their depositor to be those of Buddha himself. This explains the unusual size of the chest and the large number of precious articles accompanying the deposit. The characters may be as early as B. C. 300.

The exact dates of Buddha's birth and death are still disputed but you may take his floruit [when he flourished] as B. C. 500. Rhys Davids tried a later date but that won't wash [T. W. Rhys Davids was at this time Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society. In his Buddhism, published in 1886, he had argued that 'the Buddha died within a few years of 412 B.C.' -- an approximate date now supported by many students of Buddhist history].

With kind regards
Yours sincerely
V. A. Smith


Dr. Fuhrer's reaction to the two copies of Peppe's inscription was equally enthusiastic. As well as the two hand-copies of the inscription Peppe had also sent him a photograph of the five reliquary vessels and a drawing of the Piprahwa site. 'Dear Mr. Peppe: Fuhrer replied on 26 January in a spidery, shaky hand that must have been as difficult to decipher then as it is today, 'I am exceedingly obliged to you for so kindly sending me a plan of your excavations, a photograph of the relic caskets and the copies of the inscription on the lid of one of the bowls. From a cursory glance at it, I can safely say that your shrine contains real relics of Lord Buddha, as the reading "Bhudasa Bhagavatasu" is quite clear. This is indeed a great find, and you have done a great service to ancient history by unearthing it.'

As the rest of his letter made clear, Dr. Fuhrer's expert advice had evidently been sought, and Peppe had also suggested that he and Vincent Smith might come up to Fuhrer's excavation site in Nepal to confer with him -- something about which that the German archaeologist was not entirely happy:

I shall be glad to follow out the plan of the buildings [at the Piprahwa excavation site], when coming on the 15th inst, and if [illegible] to explore also the other mounds in the neighbourhood and the ancient road to Kapilavastu, you mention.

I shall be glad to see you and Mr. V.Smith, if you can arrange [the permission?]. But you will have a very trying ride, as the distance from here to Birdpur is certainly 18 or 20 miles if not more. Kindly let me know as soon as possible, when you intend to come, as it is very difficult to get provisions here and I [illegible] anything.

As soon as I can make out the whole inscription, I shall let you know.

Yours sincerely

A. Fuhrer


Extraordinary as it now appears, when the young gentlemen who called themselves servants of the East India Company began to penetrate into what was then known to the British as Upper Hindoostan in the late eighteenth century they knew nothing of Buddhism. The Mughals and the many dynasties of earlier Muslim invaders who had preceded them had set down extensive written accounts of the means by which they had conquered Hindustan and the manner in which they had ruled, yet very little appeared to have survived from pre-Muslim India. Superficially, there was nothing to show that northern India had once been the fountainhead of Buddhism, no records to suggest that the Dharma had flourished here for centuries. Thanks to the efforts of a devoted band of Orientalists -- amateur savants, antiquarians, numismatists and epigraphists -- led initially by the high court judge Sir William Jones and centred on the Asiatic Society of Bengal, that missing history was slowly pieced together. In the process it was discovered that Buddhism had its roots in India's Gangetic plain and that the Buddha himself, Gautama Sakyamuni, was no mythical figure but a real person who had lived, taught and died in that same region.

Playing an important but now largely forgotten pioneering role in this process was the surgeon and naturalist Francis Buchanan, who after observing practising Buddhists at first hand in Burma and Nepal was given the thankless task of surveying the 'history, antiquities, topography and statistics' of Eastern India for the East India Company. After seven lonely and debilitating years in the field he and his little team of intelligence-gathers and draftsmen returned to Calcutta in 1814 with a mass of new information, all of which was put to one side and forgotten when Buchanan abruptly resigned after failing to secure what he regarded as his reward: the long-coveted post of director of Calcutta's Botanic Garden.

In the last year of his great survey Buchanan explored the country round Gorakhpur just ceded to the East India Company and found it to be almost as well stocked with long-forgotten ruins as the landscape of southern Bihar he had surveyed six years earlier. Everywhere he went he was told that these were the work of the Tharus. Like so many of the foreigners who came after him, Buchanan was fascinated by the Tharus and speculated at length as to their possible origins:

The Tharus pretend to be in fact the proper descendants of the sun ... Their claims to rank however are treated with the utmost contempt, because they are an abomination to the Brahmans, and indulge in all the impurities of eating and drinking. This would to me prove very little, because I have little doubt, that the [Brahminical] rules of purity in eating and drinking were established after the time of the old Kasi Rajas, and the monuments of the Tharus bear every mark of the most remote antiquity.[/quote]

He considered the claims of the Tharus to be descended from the Rajput warrior caste groundless, chiefly because 'they retain in their features strong marks of a Chinese or Tartar origin, though it must be confessed, that these marks are somewhat softened, and that the faces of the men especially do not differ so much from those of Hindus, as those of a pure Chinese. Still however a difference is observed even in the men, and in the women and children is very clearly marked: Buchanan also noted that while some of the Tharus had abandoned their traditional way of life to become boatmen, palanquin bearers and artisans, others 'scorn innovation and adhere, so far as they can, to their impure customs ... rear and eat fowls and swine, and probably devour even the cow. The Hindus are very much afraid of them, especially of the women, who are considered formidable enchantresses.'

These unreconstructed Tharus 'reject the sacred order [of Hinduism], but have priests of their own, some of whom are called Guro: They also claimed ancient loyalties to a ruling dynasty named Sen:

The only prince of the Tharus of whom tradition has preserved any knowledge, is Madana Sen, a perfect Hindu name, as is also that of his lady named Karnawati; so that if I am right in supposing him of a Chinese or mountain tribe, he must have adopted the language of his subjects. His chief priest, Rasu, is said to have been of the impure tribe called Musahar, and there can be no doubt, if the tradition which points out this priest's temple be correct, that he worshipped the Buddhas.


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The seal of the Sen dynasty of Butwal and Palpa rajas, showing a Buddhist stupa complete with umbrella spire and inner axis.

As Buchanan himself noted, Sen was a common enough surname among Hindus but it was also the family name of the very recently overthrown ruling house known as the Palpa rajas, who took that title from their summer seat at Palpa in the first range of the Himalayan foothills. The last ruling Palpa raja, Prithvi Pal Sen, had been overthrown by the Gorkhas in 1801, but his ancestors had ruled over a considerable tract of the Nepal Tarai for generations and their family seal bore a number of curious images.

The Sen seal showed that someone among their forebears was sufficiently acquainted with Buddhism to know that the complete Buddhist stupa not only bore an external chattrayashti or conical spire made up of discs and an umbrella but also contained at its core a central pole or pipe known in Sanskrit as a yupa, representing the cosmic axis linking heaven and earth. If the Sen rajas of Palpa were not themselves Tharu in origin they appeared to have had some role as protectors of Buddhism -- or of Buddhist holy places -- within their territory.

Francis Buchanan was the first Westerner to examine in some detail the extensive ruins near and round about Gorakhpur. Many of the sites he explored he found to have already been excavated for their bricks, such as the conical hill beside the River Rapti south of Gorakhpur said locally to have been 'a temple where Basu, the Musahar who was the family priest of Madaba Sen, was wont to pray.' On its summit Buchanan found a deep trench that had been made only twenty years earlier by a local official in search of building material:

When a good many bricks had been taken, several images were found, although the workmen had not penetrated into any chamber. On the images having been found, the work was abandoned as impious. Some of the images ... have been removed by the Hindus to a small terrace at a little distance from the ruin, where one of them has become an object of worship. The image remaining near the trench represents a male with two arms. He has a male and female attendant, and on each side is supported by two Buddhas. The one which has become an object of worship, and has been placed on the terrace by the name of Hathi Bhawani, is evidently a Buddha with a triple umbrella over his head.[/quote]

A larger complex of ruins known locally as the Rajdhani or 'royal city' was located by Buchanan seven kos or about sixteen miles to the south-east of Gorakhpur -- 'a rampart of brick about a cose [kos] round, and ... overwhelmed by forests: Further east still was another complex near the village of Kasia:

About a mile west a little southerly from Kesiya is a conical mound of bricks, which in the neighbourhood is called Devisthan, or the place of the goddess, because under a large tree growing on the mound is a place where as usual in this district the natives attempt to gain the favour of the deity by offering rude images of elephants made of potters' ware. This mound, except in being covered in trees, and in wanting a modern building on its summit, has a strong resemblance to that at Nij Kasi [Sarnath] near Benares, and in the same manner as at the ancient temple of the Buddhas. There is here also, at about 400 yards west from the mound, the ruin of a solid temple, of a circular form, built indeed entirely of brick ... The people have no tradition concerning the time when this building was erected but say that the Dewhara was the abode of Matakumar a person of the military order [i.e. a Hindu kshatriya or Rajput], and that, when he was flying from his enemies, he was converted into stone. What is shown as this miraculous stone, is a large image of a Buddha carved on a block of stone lying under a tree east from the ruin ... The image ... has under its feet a scrole, on which has been an inscription now very much defaced, so that only the first line is legible. It is said to be 180 Rama Rupa Ramu Ray. The figures probably refer to the year of some era, but of which it is impossible to say.


There were yet more ruins north-west of Gorakhpur, the most impressive of which was located 'at the west end of a marshy lake called Bhuila Tal ... a heap of rubbish of a rounded form and about 1200 yards in circumference: Here Buchanan was able to trace the walls of houses and a large tank or man-made reservoir, again, attributed to the Tharus. He was now in the district which took its name from the little town of Basti, forty miles due west of Gorakhpur. Here the ruins were smaller and more scattered:

About 3/4 of a mile N.E. from Basti is another ruin attributed to the Tharus, and called Laknaura. It may be 300 yards in diameter, but of very little elevation ... About 100 yards beyond this is another ruin attributed to the same people and called Barawa. Its diameter is smaller, but the elevation is more considerable ... About 2 miles beyond this, north and east, is another ruin called Arel, and attributed to the Tharus. It is about 300 yards in diameter, but is higher than Laknaura. Some deep and large excavations have been made into it, probably by men in search of bricks. Besides these I heard of ruins attributed to the same Tharus at Naringaw NE from Basti 3 coses.


Buchanan never completed his survey of the border region but before returning to Calcutta he recorded the existence of a number of stone pillars, the most impressive of which he found 'near a village named Khangho.' It was attributed 'by some to Parasu Rama, and by others to Bhim, the son of Pandu; but most people call it merely the staff (Lat) and have no tradition whatever concerning the person by whom it was made: It stood about twenty-four feet in height on a four-sided base, which carried a Buddha image:

The image is naked and stands before a large many headed serpent while there is a votary at each foot. The shaft for about 7 feet is octagonal, and on two of the faces has an inscription of 12 lines, tolerably perfect, which has been copied in the drawing. The character differs very much from the Devanagri [modern script] now in use, and has some resemblance to that in the ruins of Mahabalipur south from Madras. The upper part of the shaft has 16 sides, alternately wider and narrower. The capital is about 6 feet long, and is not easily described, but near its upper end is quadrangular, with the figure of a standing Buddha carved on each face. A large spike, apparently metallic, is inserted into the top of the pillar, and it probably supported an ornament of the same material.


The site of this pillar has never been identified. Buchanan's drawings were lost and the pillar itself was almost certainly broken up within a few years of Buchanan's visit to the area.

There were at this time three great stone pillars -- two at Delhi and one at Allahabad -- that were known and much discussed in antiquarian circles on account of the curious and indecipherable inscriptions they carried. The great breakthrough came in 1837 with James Prinsep's decipherment of the script known initially as 'Delhi No. 1; as inscribed on the stone column known as Feroze Shah's lat or staff outside Delhi. Prinsep's reading of what is today known as the Brahmi script and his discovery that its Prakrit language was the precursor to Pali and Sanskrit, combined with the realisation that the inscription carved on a fourth pillar newly discovered in northern Bihar was to all intents a copy of what was written on the pillars in Dalhi and Allahabad, led directly on to the revelation that all the edicts found carved on large boulders and smoothly polished pillars throughout the Indian sub-continent were the work of one man who called himself Piyadasi, or 'Beloved of the Gods: In that same year of 1837 the civil servant George Tumour in Ceylon produced the first translation of in the ancient chronicle of the island known as the Mahavamsa, which revealed that Piyadasi was another name for India's first Buddhist Emperor, Asoka the Great.

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Brian Hodgson's drawings of the some of the antiquities seen by him in northern Bihar on the road from Patna to Kathmandu. He noted that one of the pillars had been used for artillery practice by a band of Muslim freebooters. (Asiatick Researches)

It soon became clear that Asoka's pillar edicts had been erected at specific sites for specific purposes. Each carved from a single piece of sandstone up to fifty feet in length and weighing something like fifty tons, the pillars had all come from the same quarry on the banks of the Ganges, from which they had been transported in some cases hundreds of miles before being erected and capped by variously carved statues in the shape of lions, bulls, elephants or horses.

Working in close partnership with Prinsep were a large circle of government officials such as Brian Hodgson in Kathmandu, who in his off-duty hours worked on ancient Sanskrit and Pali texts which revealed the full extent of Buddhism in ancient India. As secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, editor of its journal Asiatick Researches (latterly spelt Asiatic Researches) and much else besides, James Prinsep was their lynch-pin, and with his sickness and premature death in 1838 Indian studies suffered a severe setback. However, one of Prinsep's helpers in Calcutta was a young engineer officer named Alexander Cunningham, who in the 1850s began a systematic search to rediscover the ancient Buddhist sacred sites, beginning with Sarnath, the scene of Buddha Sakyamuni's first sermon, known subsequently among Buddhists as the First Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma.

Cunningham's work was greatly assisted by the appearance of French translations from the Chinese of accounts of journeys into India made many centuries earlier by Chinese Buddhist monks. The first of these to become accessible in the West was written by the greatly revered scholar monk and collector of Buddhist texts who first became known in the West as Yiouen Tsang, Yuan Chwang or other variations of that name -- now standardised as Xuanzang. The Orientalist Stanislas Julien's French translation of Xuanzang's journey appeared in 1853 as Voyages du pelerin Hiouen-tsang. The book set out in great detail how the Chinese monk had reached India in 631 CE after a long and perilous journey across central Asia. He had then spent some fifteen years on the sub-continent, travelling from one Buddhist location to another before settling at the great Buddhist monastic university of Nalanda, where he spent two years studying the sutras. Xuanzang had kept a detailed record of where he went and what he saw and, crucially, how he got there, which on his return to China he set down in his Journey to the West in the Great Tang Dynasty.

With Julien's French translation in his hands Alexander Cunningham was able to locate and excavate a great many ancient cities and locations associated with the Buddha, most notably at Rajgir, the ancient Rajagriha of Gautama Sakyamuni's royal patrons King Bimbisara and his cruel son Ajatashatru. Here the first Buddhist monastery had been built and the First Buddhist Council held after the Buddha's Maharaparinirvana. After his retirement from the Indian Army in 1861 as a Major-General, Cunningham returned to India to become Director-General of the newly established Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). In 1863 the directions supplied by Xuanzang led Cunningham to Sahet-Mahet, north-west of the town of Balrampur, in the Gonda District of Oude and just over sixty miles due west of Birdpore. Contained within a massive brick wall three miles in circumference were the ruins of what was clearly an ancient city now covered in dense forest. After cutting a series of tracks through the jungle Cunningham excavated some of the larger mounds, which revealed themselves to be the remains of stupas built of fired brick, together with attendant monasteries. A magnificent standing Buddha was also uncovered, with a damaged inscription at the base which included the word 'Sravasti.' More stupas and viharas were unearthed just south of the city walls, which Cunningham concluded had to be the Jetavana Garden, the monastic centre that had served the Buddha and his disciples for so many years as their summer rains retreat.

Indian archaeology then suffered a second setback in 1865 when the ASI was disbanded for financial reasons, but five years later Cunningham returned to India as Sir Alexander Cunningham, KCIE, to resume his work as the revived ASI's director. In 1873 he made a second visit to the Sahet-Mahet site which only strengthened his opinion that this important site had to be Sravasti and its associated monastery of Jetavana, as seen and described by Xuanzang more than fourteen centuries earlier.

Cunningham's main efforts thereafter were concentrated elsewhere, initially in the Sanchi area near Bhopal in central India and latterly at Bodhgaya, the seat of Sakyamuni's enlightenment, where he has to take some responsibility for the botched reconstruction of the Mahabodi temple we see today. The work of tracking down the remaining lost sites of Buddhism was now delegated to Cunningham's assistants, one of whom was the eccentric Archibald Carleyle, who soon after his arrival in India chose to add another 'I' to his name and spell it 'Carlleyle.' His main claim to fame today is his pioneering work on India's prehistory, but in the cold weather months of 1874-75 and 1875-76 Carlleyle travelling through northern Bihar and what had now become the united provinces of the North-Western Provinces and Oude (NWP&O). His first tour took him to the lake of Buila Tal, fifteen miles north-west of Gorakhpur, first noted by Buchanan in 1814. Here his exploration of the site was greatly impeded by the hostility of the local people who were determined to destroy whatever he uncovered. 'This,' he reported, 'is the invariable policy of the brutish, ignorant, and evil-disposed natives of this part of the country, who have, moreover, already destroyed some ancient monuments since I have been here, simply because they knew I wanted to preserve them.'

Despite the local hostility Archie Carlleyle was able to convince himself that what he saw beside the lake at Buila Tal matched the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang's descriptions of Kapilavastu, the city in which the young prince Siddhartha had grown up. General Cunningham then visited the site himself. 'The result of my examination; he concluded, 'was the most perfect conviction of the accuracy of Mr. Carlleyle's identification of Bhuila Tal with the site of Kapilavastu, the famous birthplace of Sakya Muni.'

A year later Carlleyle did even better when he located the ruins of Kushinagara, the scene of Sakyamuni's Maharaparinirvana and cremation, which he placed near Kasia, thirty-three miles due east of Gorakhpur in a 'great long mound of ruins called the Matha Kunwar ka kot' -- in other words, the fort or abode of Matakumar, the chieftain or prince described to Buchanan in 1814 as 'a person of the military order: Here Carlleyle had the enormous satisfaction of finding precisely what he was looking for: 'The famous colossal statue of the [Mahapari-] Nirvana ofBuddha' - famous, because this was what the Chinese traveller Xuanzang had seen and described in the course of his visit to Kushinagara some twelve centuries earlier. 'After digging to a depth of about 10 feet; wrote Carlleyle in his report to Cunningham, 'I came upon what appeared to be the upper part of the legs of a colossal recumbent statue of stone ... I then hurried on the excavations, until I had uncovered the entire length of a colossal recumbent statue of Buddha, lying in a chamber.'

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Archibald Carlleyle's rebuilt Buddha Maharaparinirvana statue at Kasia, the ancient Kushinagara, drawn by his draftsman Ram Narayan Bhaggat. (IOL, BL)

Much of the statue was damaged but further excavation uncovered most of the missing parts, which Carlleyle restored with the aid of Portland cement. In his enthusiasm for reconstruction, he went on to paint the statue as he thought it ought to be: 'I coloured the face, neck and hands, and feet a yellowish flesh colour, and I coloured the drapery white; and I also gave a black tint to the hair. Thus I really made the statue as good and as perfect as ever it was -- or perhaps even better than it ever was: Carlleyle then rebuilt the temple that had held the statue, adding a vaulted roof to his own design, after which he affixed a large notice above the Maharapari nirvana statue, proclaiming himself its finder and restorer. He concluded his report to Cunningham by explaining that all this had been done at his own expense and that he was now out of pocket to the tune of 1,200 rupees. 'And finally to all I would say: he ended, 'Let those who cavil come and see the complete work with their own eyes, and then I shall be satisfied!'

But this was not the full extent of Carlleyle's triumphs. From Kushinagara he led his survey party eastwards across the Gandak River into northern Bihar and to the district town of Bettiah, not far from which stood the two inscribed Asokan pillars first observed and reported upon by Brian Hodgson some forty years earlier: one at Lauriya Araraj, twenty miles south east of Bettiah; the other at Lauriya Nandangarh, fifteen miles north-west of Bettiah. Here Carlleyle encountered a party of Tharu tribesmen who told him that in their home country to the north there was 'a stone sticking in the ground which they called Bhim's Lat, and which they said resembled the top or capital of the pillar at Laoriya: Guided by the Tharus, Carlleyle hurried northwards some twenty miles, 'although I had heard that the locality was most unhealthy, and a most dangerous place for my native servants.' Half a mile outside the little village of Rampurva he came upon 'the upper portion, to about 3 feet in length, of the capital of a pillar ... sticking out of the ground in a slanting position, and pointing towards the north.' With the Tharus' help he managed to expose the upper part of the pillar to a length of about forty feet. The ground was too waterlogged and the stone column itself too heavy to be moved so he had to content himself with an imperfect impression of the Asokan edict it carried, achieved by his men 'standing up to their waists in water.'

The Rampurva edict turned out to be identical in lettering and content with the inscription carried on the Lauriya Nandangarh pillar, which led Carlleyle to propose that Emperor Asoka had erected these pillars to mark his royal pilgrimage:

Four different pillars of Asoka are now known to be situated along the line of the old north road which led from Magadha to Nipal, or from the Ganges opposite Pataliputra or Patna, through Besarh or Vaisali, in a northern or rather north-north-westerly direction, keeping at a moderate distance to the east of the Gandak, to the Tarai and hills of Nipal ... The fourth pillar is the fallen and buried pillar discovered by me close to Rampurva. 21-1/2, to the north-north- half-north-east from the pillar at Laoryia Naondangarh ... Now it is evident that the inscriptions on these pillars were intended to be read by passing travellers and pilgrims passing along the old north road from the Ganges opposite Pataliputra to Nipal. I should therefore expect to find either another pillar. or else a rock-cut inscription, still further north somewhere in the Nipal Tarai.


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The Rampurva Asokan pillar, first uncovered close to the Nepali border by Archie Carlleyle in 1876, but not fully excavated until 1904, when its missing lion capital (upper left) was located -- and when this photograph was taken by John Marshall. (IOL, BL)

With the publication of the ASI's annual report for 1876 it seemed that all the major Buddhist sites had been satisfactorily located. Much of Carlleyle's field-work thereafter was taken up with palaeontology in the wild hill country known as Bundelkhand but already his behaviour had become increasingly irrational and in May 1885 Sir Alexander Cunningham ordered his compulsory retirement at the age of fifty-four. The General himself retired from the ASI in that same year, and with his departure Indian archaeology suffered yet another major setback when the organisation he had established was broken up into a number of provincial archaeological services each subordinate to their local Public Works Departments (PWD).

A year prior to General Cunningham's retirement Samuel Beal's English translation of Xuanzang's travels was published as Si-Yu-Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World by Hiuen Tsiang. And a year after his retirement James Legge published A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms: Being an Account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Hiuen of his Travels in India and Ceylon (AD 399-414) in Search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline. This was a translation from a Korean text of the travels of an earlier Chinese traveller: Fa-Hiuen -- today Faxian -- who had entered India more than two and a quarter centuries before Xuanzang. Despite this difference Faxian and Xuanzang had covered very much the same ground in their journeys across India. Consequently, it now became possible to use the two accounts in tandem not only to confirm the validity of those Buddhist sites already discovered by Cunningham and Carlleyle -- particularly in relation to their locating of ancient Sravasti, Kapilavastu and Kushinagara -- but also to take the process of rediscovery a stage further.

That, at least, was the theory and in 1886 no one was better placed to take advantage of these new research tools than Dr. Anton Fuhrer, Curator of Lucknow Museum and Assistant Architectural Surveyor to the Government of the NWP&O. Unfortunately for Fuhrer the resources of the NWP&O's Archaeological Survey Department were so limited and its responsibilities so enormous -- extending as they did to scores of major historic Hindu and Muslim sites such as Agra, Allahabad and Ayodya (to list only the more important of the 'A's) -- that very little could be done beyond keeping records of what was already known. These records included the Museum's existing collection of inscriptions, and one side-effect of the lack of funding for excavation was that Anton Fuhrer became a major contributor to Epigraphica Indica, a project set up by his old Sanskrit teacher Professor Georg Buhler to record and publish every known ancient and mediaeval inscription in India.

The situation improved in 1887 when Fuhrer took over as the province's Archaeological Surveyor. At the start of the cold weather months of that year he accompanied, at the request of Professor Buhler, the eminent Dr. James Burgess, formerly Archaeological Surveyor for the Madras and Bombay Presidencies, in what was to be Dr. Burgess's last excavation before his retirement. It was under Dr. Burgess's brief and already outdated tutelage that Anton Fuhrer acquired his skills as an archaeologist. Their dig took place on a large mound outside the ancient city of Mathura (which the British authorities insisted on calling 'Muttra') known as the Kankali Tila, or 'hill,' which had long served as a brick quarry. It had first attracted the attention of General Cunningham in the early 1870s and two British local magistrates had subsequently extracted some magnificent Buddhist and Jain statues carved out of the local red sandstone, along with stupa pillars and railings and a great many inscriptions. Burgess and Fuhrer were no less successful and returned to Lucknow Museum at the end of their first season with a magnificent haul that, according to Dr. Fuhrer's annual report, included:

10 inscribed statues of several Svetambara Jinas of the Indo- Scythian period, four inscriptions of which are most important for the history of the Jainas; 34 pieces of sculpture forming parts of a magnificent Svetambara ]aina temple of the time of the IndoScythian king Huvishka; a statue of Mahaviranatha surrounded by the remaining 23 Tirthamkaras; two colossal statues of the ]ina Padmaprabhanatha, dated Samvat 1036 and 1134. respectively; a colossal pillar with the life-size figure of a dancing girl; an inscribed statue of the Bodhisattva Amogha Siddhartha of the first century A. D.; 10 inscribed Buddhist statues of the Indo-Scythian period; six bases of Buddha statues inscribed and dated in the regnal years of the Indo-Scythian rulers Huvishka, Kanishka, and Vasudeva; 19 pillars, 16 cross-bars and 12 pieces of copings of Buddhist railings, etc.


This same dig produced the only certain surviving photograph of Anton Fuhrer, then aged thirty-four, standing beside a newly-excavated Jain statue -- one of the two 'colossal statues' listed above (more correctly of Prashvanath, dated to 981 CE; the statue now stands in pride of place in the foyer of Lucknow Museum). Close examination of this poor-quality photograph reveals the German archaeologist to have possessed a dark and bushy beard.

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Dr. Anton Fuhrer (to the right of the statue) at the Kankali Tila site in 1886-87. The original photograph was removed from the photographic records of his Archaeological Survey Department after his forced resignation (from the frontispiece of The Jain Stupas and Other Antiquities of Mathura by Vincent A. Smith, 1901).

After the triumph of the 1887-88 season, Dr Fuhrer obtained official sanction to return to the Kankali Tila to direct further excavations at the start of the next cold weather season -- and again a year later. According to his annual report for 1890-91, this third season was the most fruitful of all, so much so that the extensive cellars of the Lucknow Museum became crammed with statuary and carved stone work almost to bursting point. 'The results of his work; Fuhrer wrote proudly of himself in his role as Curator of the Lucknow Museum, 'far surpass those of the previous two years, as the new finds form important additions to our knowledge of Indian history and art. He [i.e. Fuhrer himself] forwarded to the Museum 737 fine pieces of sculpture, comprising beautifully-finished panels, doorways, toranas, columns, complete railings with copings and bars, statues of Tirthamkaras, etc.' Sixty-two of these pieces carried inscriptions and dates which, according to the Curator, ranged from 150 BCE to 123 CE. All had come from two Jain temples, one much older than the other and probably built before 150 BCE. With no one to challenge him, these and other claims went unquestioned.

Within the hierarchy of the NWP&O Dr. Fuhrer remained a comparatively lowly and poorly-paid official in charge of a sub-department of the PWD on a fixed salary of 400 rupees a month and with no prospect of a pension. But in the field of Indology the Reverend Doctor's reputation as a leading authority in the field of Jain studies was now secured -- in large part because his work dovetailed very neatly with the studies of his old mentor Professor Buhler, who had now extended his scholarship to Jain religious texts. 'Dr. Buhler's services to the cause of Jain religious history are immeasurable,' wrote another of Buhler's former students of his contributions at this time. 'By a systematic study of the famous Mathura Inscriptions and those of Karavela he successfully and incontrovertibly established the priority of Jainism over Buddhism.'

Although his work on the Mathura excavations took up most of his time Anton Fuhrer found opportunities to make a number of brief forays into the field to document the province's antiquities, the fruits of which he published in two reports in 1889 and 1891. One early visit was to the supposed site of the ancient city of Sravasti and its famous Jetavana monastery, which Sir Alexander Cunningham had located a few miles to the north-west of the town of Balrampur. Fuhrer first visited the site in the winter season of 1888-89, perhaps prompted by excavation work undertaken there by Dr. William Hoey four winters earlier. He found the ancient city covered in what he correctly termed 'jangal,' the Hindi word for waste ground:

At the present day the whole area of the city, excepting a few clearances near the gateways, is a mass of almost impenetrable jangal, which is broken into a wavy surface by the remains of temples and palaces underneath. All the principal buildings were in the western half, and it is there that the undergrowth is the thickest, only ceasing along two or three broad streets which have been left bare and indicate the chief features of the old city ... At a distance of half a mile from the south-west gate, and separated from the main town by swamps, which probably mark the course of the old moat, is another considerable ruin, generally called Jogimia bhariya, or the 'witches' mound,' identified by General Cunningham with the great monastery of Jetavana, which was one of the eight most celebrated buildings in India.


His appetite whetted, Fuhrer then travelled east to visit another of the sites promoted by Sir Alexander Cunningham: Buila Tal, which the General had confirmed as the ruins of Buddha Sakyamuni's Kapilavastu following its earlier identification by Archie Carlleyle. Fuhrer criss-crossed the ruins twice, on the first occasion armed with a copy of Beal's Si-Yu-Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World by Hiuen Tsiang. 'This place; he wrote afterwards, 'has been identified by Mr. Carlleyle with Kapilavastu, the birthplace of Sakyamuni, which identification General Cunningham approves of. After careful inspection of all the places identified by Mr. Carlleyle, I have come to the conclusion that this spot cannot be the Kie-pi-lo-fa-su-tu (Kapilavastu) of Hiuen Tsiang.'

Fuhrer returned again two years later, this time with a copy of Legge's A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, and again he was not impressed: 'Buila Dih; he declared, 'cannot be the Kapilavastu of Fa Hian and Hiuen Tsiang on the following grounds: He then listed his reasons, one of which was Carlleyle's identification of the large circular lake at Buila Tal as the hole made by a dead elephant which, according to Buddhist legend, had been thrown by Gautama Sakyamuni from Kapilavastu. Carlleyle had claimed that this lake was known to the local people as Hathikund, or 'elephant lake,' but Fuhrer learned from these same locals that it was Carlleyle himself who had given the lake that name.

Although now in retirement in England, General Sir Alexander Cunningham was still widely revered in antiquarian circles as the father of Indian archaeology. Dr. Fuhrer's questioning of his judgement was not well received. However, this challenge, first made in print in 1889 and repeated two years later, had the effect of encouraging others to do the same.
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Re: The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer, by Charles Allen

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Part 1 of 2

Chapter 3: The Expected Visit: Birdpore House, 27 January 1898

Vincent Smith's first opportunity to see the Piprahwa reliquaries for himself came on Thursday 27 January, a public holiday. He caught the early morning train to Uska Bazaar railway station, where a pony trap sent down by Willie Peppe conveyed him over the twelve miles to Birdpore House. His first reaction to the stone coffer and its contents was one of amazement at the size of the coffer and the 'richness of the deposit of precious objects in the vases; which struck him as 'obvious proofs of the veneration attaching to the relics enshrined: It was clear that 'the depositors believed the fragments of bone to be part of the sacred body (sariram) of Gautama Buddha himself. Whether or not the depositors' belief was actually well-founded no man can say. Mr. Peppe, unfortunately, omitted to take a note of the contents of each vase separately.'

A visit to the Piprahwa excavation site followed, allowing Smith the opportunity to examine the main stupa and the partial excavation Peppe had carried out, particularly on its eastern side, which Smith confirmed as a classic example of a large Buddhist vihara, with more than thirty individual monastic cells and an entrance opening directly on to the stupa. He suggested to Peppe that further excavation of the partially cleared area immediately north of the stupa would probably reveal a temple or shrine (which indeed proved to be the case).

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Plans of the Piprahwa excavations, drawn by Babu P. C Mukherji and his draftsman Sohan Lal after their visit a year after W. C Peppe's original excavation, during which Mukherji exposed more of the monastic buildings surrounding the relic stupa.

What Smith also noted was that there were other mounds in the area: 'A group of stupas lies about half a mile south-west of Piprahwa stupa, and there is another mound of ruins more than a quarter of a mile to the east. A fourth mound of ruins exists to the north-east near Siswa reservoir, and there are several mounds, probably stupas, in the Dulha Grant [east of the Birdpore Grant]: It was quite clear that the area must at one time been a place of significance in the Buddhist world.

The Piprahwa stupa itself impressed Smith not so much by its size, which he thought placed it 'in the second class of monuments of the kind,' as by its solid mass of brickwork: 'The bricks are of the large size specially characteristic of the Asoka period, and are well made. Rice-straw has been freely used to strengthen the cohesion of the clay.' He calculated the height of the stupa in its present form to be just under twenty feet and its diameter at the base 116 feet: 'Though the original height must have been considerably greater it must have fallen far short of half a diameter. According to a well known rule this low ratio of height to diameter is a certain sign of high antiquity.' The whole thing reminded him of a slightly larger but badly-damaged stupa that Alexander Rea of the Madras Archaeological Survey had excavated at Bhattiprolu in the Madras Presidency six years earlier. At Bhattiprolu the stupa had been found to house three stone coffers, two of which were buried several feet below the first. All were much smaller that the Piprahwa coffer and much more crudely cut. The first contained a soapstone casket, globular in shape, containing a single bone fragment enshrined in a tiny crystal phial. The other two caskets were without relics but held between them a total of 194 pieces of gold leaf, all cut into flower shapes of six, eight or nine petals, and very similar in appearance to the gold flowers found at Piprahwa.

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Willie Peppe's photographs of twelve of the fourteen glass cases containing items from the Piprahwa stone coffer. This did not represent the entire collection, the total number amounting to approximately 2,000 individual pieces. (Courtesy of Neil Peppe)

What was significantly different about the two excavations, however, was the sheer scale of the Piprahwa offerings and the exceptional quality of the lapidary work. The three Bhattiprolu coffers had together contained some 250 individual pieces of gold, pearl, crystal, gemstone, semi-precious stones and beads. The Piprahwa coffer contained almost eight times that number, the bulk of which the Peppes divided into various categories and placed in fourteen glass cases. Several lists of items in Smith's and Peppe's handwriting survive, showing that in addition to what was placed in the fourteen cases there was: 'One bottle containing gold stars - about 38 stars of gold & silver leaf & a few black bits'; a pen box with 'pieces of wood with metal through them' -- pieces of silver vessel; a box of 'metal snakes etc'; a pill box with 64 rolls of gold; and a bag of pearls. There also appear to have been two further boxes of crystals, stones and beads which Smith did his best to sort: 100 small beads, 81 white cornelians, 67 cornelian bugle beads, 41 crystal beads, 33 long bugle cornelians, 30 purple amethysts, 28 crystal beads, 28 serrated white cornelian leaves, 20 red garnet stars, 14 coral beads, 13 small coral cups, 13 blue pyramids, 13 long beads, 13 crystal blocks, 11 white cornelian leaves with red tips, 11 yellow topazes, 11 topaz beads, 9 purple topazes, 8 pyramids, 8 transparent crystals, 8 topaz and cornelian beads, 8 lotus seed pods, 7 flat crystals, 6 pyramids, 6 red cornelians, 5 amethyst beads, 5 white crystals, 5 small amethysts, 4 blueish crystals, 4 topaz bugle heads, 3 amethyst leaves, 3 deep stars, 3 amethyst stars, 3 peppercorns, 2 pink amethysts, 2 yellow topazes, 2 amethysts, 2 small garnets, 2 pink and white cups, 2 amethyst drops, 2 long beads, 2 green topazes, 2 crystals, 2 coral cups, 2 drops, 2 lapis lazuli, 1 pendant, 1 white star, 1white pyramid, 1 piece of ivory.

However, the most important item in the Peppes' collection had to be the inscribed vase. A meticulous examination by Smith showed him where he had gone wrong in his first reading based on Willie Peppe's eye copy. Peppe had missed the triangle of three dots before the first letter and the further dot after, so that Smith read it as ya rather than iyam -- 'this is: Smith had also failed to realise that the two genitive characters ya nam positioned above the first line in Peppe's rendering were not random scratches but had been set there deliberately: 'The characters yanam were accidentally omitted by the scribe and were then inserted above the line: When inserted at the proper place they helped to make the key phrase sakiyanam, or 'of the Sakya.' But what Smith could still not make sense of were the next three letters, which spelled out su ki ti. This made no sense to Smith except as possibly as an honorific proper name, although, so far as he knew, 'Sukiti' held no significance in Buddhist literature. A tentative second reading, written in pencil in Smith's handwriting on a slip of paper, was probably made at this time: 'This is the relic receptacle (of the) Buddha (blessed) of the Sakyas and the brothers (noble) and the sisters people with the sons' [-] portion (virtuous offering).'

Smith's conclusion was that his first impressions of the inscription's great antiquity had been sound: 'The exact age of the inscription cannot as yet be settled with certainty. The record is probably older than the reign of Asoka ... The Sakyas of Kapilavastu, "as the relations of Buddha," obtained a share of the relics of the master at the time of the cremation. It is possible that the Piprahwa stupa ... may be that erected by the Sakya brethren immediately after the death of Gautama.'

Since General Sir Alexander Cunningham's retirement in 1885and the scaling down of the ASI a new generation of archaeologists and Sanskritists had come to the fore, many of them gentlemen amateurs drawn from the ranks of the ICS and the Indian Political Service. These were highly educated and motivated young men, the cream of Oxford, Cambridge and Trinity College, Dublin. Some preferred to spend their off-duty hours at the gymkhana club or out on shikar, or 'hunting,' but a surprising number followed in the footsteps of their celebrated predecessors by to taking up antiquarian pursuits which the central and provincial governments were unable or unwilling to fund.

Among these Young Turks were Vincent Smith and William Hoey. For both of them Sravasti- Jetavana came to have a special resonance, for by the end of the 1880s it had become obvious that this was the key to Sakyamuni's lost homeland. Although neither may have cared to say so, it was Dr. Fuhrer's public questioning of General Cunningham's judgement that first led them to this view.

These two Indian civil servants had much more in common than membership of the same elite service. Smith was Hoey's senior by one year, but both men were Anglo-Irish, both had topped the ICS final examinations and both had elected to serve in the NWP&O. Remarkably, the study of Sanskrit was an integral part of the ICS training course at this time so that both men had come out to India well qualified to pursue antiquarian interests. As outlined earlier, Smith spent his early years in the NWP, whereas Hoey was initially attached to Oude, where he served as assistant commissioner and junior magistrate in a number of districts that included Sultanpur, Fyzabad, Gonda, Unao and Lucknow. During that time Hoey was encouraged to spend as much of the cold weather months as possible out in the field, a practice known as 'touring; its purpose to allow junior officers to get to know their district and its people. It also enabled Hoey to become something of an authority on the antiquities of every district he served in. After a decade of service Hoey went on 'furlough' or home leave, during which time he acquired a wife and, much more unusually, a doctorate, based in part on his translation into English of Oldenberg's Buddha: His Life, Doctrine and Order. Already proficient in Hindi, Urdu, Persian and Sanskrit, Dr. Hoey soon began to make a name for himself as an amateur Indologist.

In December 1884, shortly after the publication of Samuel Bears Si-Yu-Ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World by Hiuen Tsiang, William Hoey was posted for a second time to Gonda District, within which lay the supposed remains of Sravasti and the Jetavana Garden at Sahet-Mahet. He at once applied to the Government of the NWP&O for permission to re-examine the ruins first brought to light by Cunningham in 1863. Two months of excavations added further weight to Cunningham's theory that these two linked sites were indeed the ruins of Sravasti and its associated garden monastery as seen and described by Xuanzang.

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Vincent Smith with fellow shikaris, probably photographed in Basti District in the late 1870S when Smith was assistant commissioner. It is presumed that Smith is the young man in the centre foreground but he could be anyone of the Europeans present. He very soon abandoned shikar for more serious pursuits. The photograph is from an album of Smith's donated to the Indian Institute at Oxford and since lost. (From Richard Symonds, Oxford and Empire, 1986)

Next door in the NWP Division of Gorakhpur Vincent Smith shared with William Hoey the advantage of being on the spot at the right time. In 1883-84 he travelled the length and breadth of Basti District in the capacity of Settlement Officer, a post which required land holdings and crop yields to be checked on the ground for taxation purposes. In 1885 he was appointed joint officiating magistrate of Basti District and it was while in that post that he first began to make himself an expert on the Indian travels of Faxian and Xuanzang.

Like Jones, Prinsep, Hodgson and Cunningham before him, Smith was a driven man when it came to the subject of India's early history. In 1878 he joined with a Hindu pandit to write a paper on two copper-plates of the Chandella period found at Nanaura in the Hamirpur District west of Banda. These were among the first such plates of that period found, and from this time onward Smith began to steep himself in the past to a degree that made him a formidable opponent in matters of dispute and perhaps a less than agreeable colleague. One of his first projects was the re-cataloguing of the many thousands of coins in the Indian Museum in Calcutta, which led him to become the leading authority on coinage of the Gupta period. At the same time he worked on the indexing of the twenty-three volumes of Sir Alexander Cunningham's monumental Archaeological Survey of India Reports, which gave him an unrivalled understanding of Indian archaeological work. This breadth of knowledge he put to good use, whether it was tracking the movements of Faxian and Xuanzang in the field or gathering material for what was to be the first biography of Asoka the Great. This last undertaking was only made possible by the fact that there now existed a wide circle of scholars, professional and amateur, whose published work Vincent Smith was able to draw upon. In the course of a quarter-century of lonely scholarship, Smith contributed dozens of scholarly articles on a wide range of historical topics to Asiatic Researches, the Indian Antiquarian, the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society and other such periodicals, culminating in the writing of Asoka: the Buddhist Emperor of India, published in 1901, which itself became but a part of Smith's Early History of India, published three years later. This was, in Smith's words, 'the first attempt to present a narrative of the leading events in India history for eighteen centuries; drawing on all the epistemological, genealogical, numismatic and archaeological research available.

What made Smith's achievement all the more remarkable was that his research was unpaid and done outside his official duties -- an undertaking that must surely have taxed his colleagues and made him a distant husband to his wife, and father to their four children. Yet it gave Smith a surer grasp of early Indian history than any of his contemporaries. 'He accomplished a great work that lay beyond the scope of the researches of other individuals: was the judgement of a colleague, made possible because 'his knowledge of Indian history and art and all their connection was comprehensive and unrivalled.' It was Vincent Smith who first grasped the full impact of Emperor Asoka, who in his zeal to extend the Dharma throughout and beyond the borders of his empire introduced an entirely new concept of moral duty to much of Asia. 'In the space of two years: wrote Smith --

between the emperor's entry into the Order in the eleventh year and the publication of his earliest inscriptions in the thirteenth year of his reign, missions charged with the preaching of the doctrine of the Sakya sage had been despatched to Ceylon and the independent kingdoms in the south of the Peninsula, to Mysore and the Bombay coast, to the Maratta country, to the mountains of the Himalayas and Kashmir, and to Pegu ... Prior to Asoka's conversion Buddhism had maintained its position in a portion of the valley of the Ganges as a sect of Hinduism ... The transformation of this local sect into a world religion is the work of Asoka alone. The romances written by monks naturally represent the king as a tool in the hands of his clerical advisers, to whom all the credit of the missionary enterprise is given. But the monuments do not support this view. Asoka claims all the credit for himself ... and he is fairly entitled to the credit of the measures taken in his name.


In the eleventh year of his reign, Emperor Asoka began the first of a series of royal tours devoted to pious purposes. According to Smith, one such tour in the twenty-first year of his reign followed the last journey taken by Sakyamuni Buddha:

The king started from his capital Pataliputra, crossed the Ganges, and entered the Vaisali territory of the Lichchavi tribe, now known as the Muzaffarpur and Champaran districts. His line of march is marked by the ruins of Vaisali (Basar), which include the Bakhira lion-pillar, by the stupa of Kesariya, and the lion-pillars of Lauriya Araraj and Lauriya Nandangarh. He may then have kept to the east, passing Rampurva, where another lion-pillar lies, and have then crossed the passes over the hills to Kusinagara, the scene of Gautama Buddha's death, or he may have turned westward, crossed the Gandak river, and proceeded direct through the Tarai to the Lumbini Garden, the reputed scene of the birth of Gautama Buddha.


What Smith also showed was that the Mauryan Empire had reached its zenith under Asoka, who ruled as a lay Buddhist for thirty-eight years before abdicating to become a monk, leaving his dynasty fatally vulnerable by the determination of his immediate descendants to enter the Buddhist church rather than rule. The best-known of these offspring were the son and daughter who helped establish the Dharma in Ceylon. Less well documented was the daughter who went north into the Himalayas. Local genealogies state that a King of Pataliputra came to 'Nevala' or Nepal in the reign of Raja Sthunko, fourteenth monarch of the Kirat dynasty. Smith believed that this could only have been Asoka, even though Nepal -- meaning the Kathmandu Valley -- is not mentioned on a rock edict listing all the places visited by Emperor Asoka. According to Nepalese legend, however, Asoka came to the Kathmandu Valley accompanied by the monk Upagupta and his daughter Princess Carumati, who married a local warrior named Devapala. The couple subsequently established two viharas or monastic centres, while Asoka himself is credited with founding the city of Devapattana, today Patan, where he built memorial stupas to honour Sakyamuni Buddha and the three earlier Buddhas. Sited at the four corners of the city, these 'Asokan' stupas survive almost unscathed to this day, although there is as yet no hard evidence that it was Asoka who ordered them built.

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One of the four 'Asokan' stupas which originally stood at the four corners of Patan in the Kathmandu Valley. The photo was taken by the court photographer Chitrakar in the 1940S before the stupas were swallowed up by the expanding city. (Courtesy of Kiran Chitrakar)

'How long the efforts of Asoka continued to bear fruit after the close of his protracted and brilliant reign we do not know; wrote Smith in closing his chapter on Asoka's administration of his empire. 'Envious time has dropped an impenetrable veil over the deeds of his successors, and no man can tell the story of the decline and fall of the Mauryan empire: What was known was that in about 185 BCE the ninth and last of the Mauryan line was assassinated by the commander of his army, Pusyamitra Sunga. The Buddhist chronicles portray the founder of the Sunga dynasty as a Brahmin Shaivite implacably hostile to Buddhism and a great persecutor of Buddhists. He was said to have raised a mighty army specifically to destroy all traces of Buddhism within the Magadhan empire and to have put a price on the head of every Buddhist monk. Yet Pusyamitra Sunga's son and subsequent successors may well have reversed his father's policy since the archaeological record revealed by Cunningham and his successors showed that Buddhism continued to receive royal patronage under the Sungas, particularly in Central India, where the Mauryan stupas at Sanchi and Barhut were restored and beautified to a new level of magnificence. In north-western India, too, Buddhism continued to prosper under Pusyamitra Sunga's contemporary, the Graeco- Bactrian ruler Menander.

The last of the Sungas was assassinated by a slave-girl in about 73 BCE, by which time the empire of Magadha was a mahajanapada in name only. In the middle of the first century of the Christian era a Jain king of Kalinga named Kharavera briefly occupied the Buddhist heartland and became known as another 'dharma raja' very much in the mould of Asoka the Great, ruling wisely and protecting Buddhism. However, the centre of power had by then shifted to Gandhara in the north-west, where the Bactrians gave way to the Shakas, who in turn were dispersed by the Kushan nomads from central Asia. In the second and third centuries CE the Kushan summer and winter capitals at Kapisha (Kabul) and Purushapura (Peshawar) became the central axis of a thriving east-west trade linking Rome and China.

Under the great Kushan emperor King Kanishka, who ruled from about 127 CE to 150 CE, raiding parties ravaged the Gangetic plain as far east as Pataliputra (today Patna), returning to Purushapura laden with Buddhist trophies by way of booty. These included relics of Sakyamuni Buddha taken from Pataliputra and Rajgir, which were then interred in a enormous stupa at Purushapura afterwards visited by the Chinese monks Faxian and Xuanzang. According to Buddhist texts, King Kanishka was converted to Buddhism by the Buddhist scholar Ashvaghosa and subsequently convened the Fourth Buddhist Council in Kashmir. He became, at the very least, a protector of Buddhism and under his patronage a syncretic Graeco-Buddhist art developed whose influence extended across northern India and deep into the Gangetic plain. As well as being the first ruler to show images of Sakyamuni Buddha on his coins King Kanishka and his immediate successors presided over the restoration and enlargement of Buddhist monasteries, temples and stupas in what amounted to a second golden age of Buddhism that continued well into the third century CE.

The usual dynastic decline and fragmentation followed. In the Magadhan country the Bharshivas seized power in what appears to have been a violent overthrow of the old Buddhist-dominated order, accompanied by the burning of monasteries. After a period of political confusion a powerful new dynasty emerged: the Guptas, originating most probably from Bengal. In about 320 CE Chandragupta -- not to be confused with his namesake who had founded the Mauryan dynasty -- formed an alliance with the much-weakened Licchhavis of Yaisali through marriage and restored Magadha to something like its former glory. His son Samudragupta continued the expansion of the revived mahajanapada in a series of brilliant military campaigns that added twenty kingdoms to what was now the Gupta empire. In Smith's estimation, Samudragupta was the 'Indian Napoleon; whose 'lost fame has been slowly recovered by the minute and laborious study of inscriptions and coins during the last eighty years ... The fact that it is now possible to write a long narrative of the events of his memorable reign is perhaps the most conspicuous illustration of the success gained by patient archaeological research in piecing together the fragments from which alone the chart of the authentic early history of India can be reconstructed.'

But it was not only Samudragupta whom Smith and his contemporaries rescued from obscurity. Samudragupta's second son Chandragupta the Second built on his father's successes by extending the Gupta empire from coast to coast. In the process he 'unburdened the sacred earth of the Mlecchas [barbarians without caste] .. and by so doing annihilated these sinful Mlecchas completely.' A forty-year reign gave Chandragupta the Second the time to move on from the consolidation of his empire to its just government. A third golden age followed which saw a flowering in literature, mathematics, science and astronomy, centred on the royal court at Pataliputra. Although himself a Vaisnava Hindu, the emperor added to the lustre of his name with his support for both the Buddhist and Jain communities and his patronage of religious art in general.

Emperor Chandragupta had been on the throne for more than a quarter of a century when the Chinese pilgrim Faxian entered the western borders of his empire through Gandhara. He and his travelling companion Tao-chin entered the great northern plain of India in the year 401 CE. As they made their way across the Land of the Five Rivers they were suitably impressed by the order prevailing throughout the country. This they attributed to the lasting effects of the Dharma of the Buddha as propagated by Asoka:

The people are numerous and happy; they have not to register their households, or attend to any magistrates and their rules; only those who cultivate the royal land have to pay (a portion of) the grain from it. If they want to go, they go; if they want to stay on, they stay. The king governs without decapitation or (other) corporal punishments. Criminals are simply fined, lightly or heavily, according to the circumstances (of each case). Even in cases of repeated attempts at wicked rebellion, they only have their right hands cut off. Throughout the whole country the people do not kill any living creature, nor drink intoxicating liquor, nor eat onions or garlic.


What also impressed Faxian was the prevailing atmosphere of religious tolerance and the respect shown by the local rulers to the Buddhist religious communities:

In all the countries of India, the kings had been firm believers in that Law. When they make their offerings to a community of monks, they take off their royal caps, and along with their relatives and ministers, supply them with food with their own hands. That done, (the king) has a carpet spread for himself on the ground, and sits down in front of the chairman -- they dare not presume to sit on couches in front of the community. The laws and ways, according to which the kings presented their offerings when Buddha was in the world, have been handed down to the present day.... From the nirvana of Buddha, the forms of ceremony, laws, and rules, practised by the sacred communities, have been handed down from one generation to another without interruption.


Faxian and his companion passed the summer monsoon of 404 CE in Mathura, the 'peacock city' on the banks of the River Yamuna (Jumna), where Hindu, Jain and Buddhist communities lived side by side in apparent harmony. From Mathura they followed the River Ganga down to the city of Kannauj, where they stayed in a monastery belonging to the Theravada school of Buddhism. They then crossed the great river and, according to Beal's translation, travelled south for a distance of eight yojanas to reach the city of Sravasti, former capital of the kingdom of Kosala.

In setting down his account of his travels Faxian used two units of measurement: li and yojana. He began with the Chinese ii, a unit of measurement representing a set number of paces, possibly as few as 360 (in modern China the Ii has been standardised at 500 metres but it seems to have been much less in ancient times). Later Faxian included the Sanskrit yojana, representing the distance covered in a day's march by a royal army. Based on his measurements in the field, General Sir Alexander Cunningham worked out that there were just less than six Ii to one mile and 6.71 miles to one yojana. For want of anything better, Anton Fuhrer and his contemporaries followed Cunningham's conversion chart (as will this writer).

But, of course, both Faxian and Xuanzang were scholar monks and not geographers, and the distances and directions they gave were rudimentary and even arbitrary. Both they and the scribes who afterwards made copies of their accounts made mistakes -- as, indeed, did the European scholars who made the first translations. Faxian's directions in describing how he travelled from Kanauj to Sravasti is a case in point. He wrote: 'Going on from this [Kanauj] to the south, for eight yojanas, (the travellers) came to the city of Sravasti in the kingdom of Kosala:* [For reasons that will become clear, extracts from the accounts of Faxian and Xuanzang are set in italics from this point onwards.] In fact, Sravasti lies east of Kanauj, and the distance between the two is more than twice that given, however one cares to measure a yojana. To treat as gospel Faxian's and Xuanzang's distances and directions as they survive today was bound to lead to confusion and dispute -- and it did.

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The building of the great vihara at the Jetavana Garden, the gift of a devotee who paid for the land with gold laid over the ground. A bas-relief from the so-called 'Prasenajit Pillar' of the Bharhut stupa, excavated by Sir Alexander Cunningham and his assistant). D. Beglar in 1874.
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Re: The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer, by Charles Allen

Postby admin » Mon Feb 15, 2021 1:31 am

Part 2 of 2

So far in their travels Faxian and his companion had seen plenty of evidence of the continuing success of Buddhism, but when they reached Sravasti, where Buddha Sakyamuni had spent so many summers teaching, they were dismayed to find a city in decline, its inhabitants Jew and far between, amounting in all (only) to a few more than two hundred families.' Even more disconcerting was the fact that Buddhism was in retreat, and the local Hindu priests hostile -- 'the Brahmans, with their contrary doctrine ... full of hatred and envy in their hearts.' However, their main concern was to reach the great monastic complex at the Jetavana Garden south of Sravasti, the grounds of which had originally been donated to the Sakyamuni by the wealthy tradesman Sudatta, and where he and many of his followers had spent so many summers during the months of the rains. Here, at least, they were made welcome:

When Fa-hien and Tao-ching first arrived at the jetavana monastery, and thought how the World-honoured one [Sakyamuni Buddha] had formerly resided there for twenty-five years, painful reflections arose in their minds. Born in a border-land, along with their like-minded friends, they had travelled through so many kingdoms; some of those friends had returned (to their own land), and some had (died), proving the impermanence and uncertainty of life; and to-day they saw the place where Buddha had lived now unoccupied by him. They were melancholy through their pain of heart, and the crowd of monks came out, and asked them from what kingdom they were come. 'We are come,' they replied, 'from the land of Han.' 'Strange,' said the monks with a sigh, 'that men of a border country should be able to come here in search of our Law!'


Guided by the Buddhist monks in residence, the Chinese travellers were able to visit and venerate the many places associated with Sakyamuni Buddha:

The park was the space of ground which the head Sudatta purchased by covering it with gold coins. The vihara was exactly in the centre. Here Buddha lived for a longer time than at any other place, preaching his Law and converting men. At the places where he walked and sat they also (subsequently) reared topes [stupas], each having its particular name ... Outside the east gate of the Jetavana, at a distance of seventy paces to the north, on the west of the road, Buddha held a discussion with the (advocates of the) ninety-six schemes of erroneous doctrine, when the king and his great officers, the householders, and people were all assembled in crowds to hear it ... Further, at the place where the discussion took place, they reared a vihara rather more than sixty cubits high, having in it an image of Buddha in a sitting posture .... It has been handed down, that, near the time when these things occurred, around the Jetavana vihara there were ninety-eight monasteries, in all of which there were monks residing, excepting only in one place which was vacant ... Four le [li] south-east from the city of Sravasti, a tope has been erected at the place where the World-honoured One encountered king Virudhaha [Vidudhaba], when he wished to attack the kingdom of Shay-e [Sakya, thus Kapilavastu], and took his stand before him at the side of the road.


From Sravasti Faxian and his companion set out for Kapilavastu, the homeland of Sakyamuni Buddha. To get there they first journeyed south-east to a town that Faxian's English translator set down as Na-pei-kea:

Going on south-east from the city of Sravasti for twelve yojanas, (the travellers) came to a town named Na-pei-kea, the birthplace of Krakuchanda Buddha. At the place where he and his father met, and at that [place] where he attained to pari-nirvana, topes were erected. Going north from here less than a yojana, they came to a town which had been the birthplace of Kanakamuni Buddha. At the place where he and his father met, and where he attained to parinirvana, topes were erected. Less than a yojana to the east from this brought them to the city of Kapilavastu.


Although greatly moved to find themselves at last in the hallowed country of the Sakyamuni's birth and early years, the two Chinese pilgrims were shocked by what they found there:

in it there was neither king nor people. All was mound and desolation. Of inhabitants there were only some monks and a score or two of families of the common people .... The country of Kapilavastu is a great scene of empty desolation. The inhabitants are few and far between. On the roads people have to be on their guard against white elephants and lions, and should not travel incautiously.


Fortunately for posterity -- and to the great confusion of archaeologists -- both Faxian and Xuanzang left detailed accounts of their impressions of the city in which Prince Siddhartha grew to manhood in the confines of the palace of his father King Suddhodana, albeit, as filtered through the religious sensibilities of two devout Buddhists. First Faxian:

At the spot where stood the old palace of king Suddhodana there have been made images of the prince (his eldest son) and his mother; and at the places where that son appeared mounted on a white elephant when he entered his mothers womb, and where he turned his carriage round on seeing the sick man after he had gone out of the city by the eastern gate, topes have been erected. The places (were also pointed out) where (the rishi [ascetic]) A-e inspected the marks (of Buddhaship on the body) of the heir-apparent (when an infant); where, when he was in company with Nanda and others, on the elephant being struck down and drawn to one side, he tossed it away; where he shot an arrow to the south-east, and it went a distance of thirty le [Ii], then entering the ground and making a spring to come forth, which men subsequently fashioned into a well from which travellers might drink; where, after he had attained to Wisdom, Buddha returned and saw the king, his father; where five hundred Sakyas quitted their families and did reverence to Upali ... where Buddha preached his Law to the devas ... ; where Buddha sat under a nyagrodha [Ficus religiosa or pipal] tree, which is still standing, with his face to the east, and (his aunt) Maja-prajapati presented him with a Sanghali [robe]; and (where) king Vaidurya [Vidudhaba] slew the seed of Sakya, and they all in dying became Srotapannas [saints]. A tope was erected at this last place, which is still existing ...


From Kapilavastu Faxian went on to the Lumbini Garden, the scene of Queen Mayadevi's delivery of the baby Prince Siddhartha. To get there he walked east:

Fifty le east from the city [of Kapilavastu] was a garden, named Lumbini, where the queen entered the pond and bathed. Having come forth from the pond on the northern bank, after (walking) twenty paces, she lifted up her hand, laid hold of a branch of a tree, and, with her face to the east, gave birth to the heir-apparent. When he fell to the ground, he (immediately) walked seven paces. Two dragon-kings (appeared) and washed his body. At the place where they did so, there was immediately formed a well, and from it, as well as from the above pond, where (the queen) bathed, the monks (even) now constantly take the water, and drink it.


From Lumbini Faxian continued eastward, travelling through country even more desolate than before. He soon entered the country that in the days of the Sakyas had been known as Koliyagrama, but which had since come to be known as Ramagrama, after the place where the Koliyas' share of the Sakyamuni's relics had been interred: 'East from Buddha's birthplace, and at a distance of five yojanas, there is a kingdom called Rama. The king of this country, having obtained one portion of the relics of Buddha's body, returned with it and built over it a tope, named the Rama tope.' Having located the Ramagrama stupa without apparent difficulty, Faxian was unusually forthcoming about its history:

By the side of it there was a pool, and in the pool a dragon, which constantly kept watch over (the tope), and presented offerings to it day and night. When king Asoka came forth into the world, he wished to destroy the eight topes (over the relics), and to build (instead of them) 84,000 topes. After he had thrown down the seven (others), he wished next to destroy this tope. But then the dragon showed itself, took the king into its palace; and when he had seen all the things provided for offerings, it said to him, 'If you are able with your offerings to exceed these, you can destroy the tope, and take it all away. I will not contend with you.' The king, however, knew that such appliances for offerings were not to be had anywhere in the world, and thereupon returned (without carrying out his purpose). (Afterwards), the ground all about became overgrown with vegetation, and there was nobody to sprinkle and sweep (about the tope); but a herd of elephants came regularly, which brought water with their trunks to water the ground, and various kinds of flowers and incense, which they presented at the tope.


This period of neglect had apparently ended when a Buddhist ascetic came to worship at the Ramagrama stupa and found it venerated only by elephants: 'He prevailed on the king of the country to form a residence for monks; and when that was done, he became head of the monastery. At the present day there are monks residing in it. This event is of recent occurrence.'

From Ramagrama Faxian's pilgrimage took him to Kushinagara, the scene of the Maharaparinirvana. To get there he apparently went east:

East from here four yojanas, there is the place where the heir-apparent [Prince Siddhartha after quitting his father's palace in the Great Renunciation] sent back Chandaka [his groom], with his white horse; and there also a tope was erected. Four yojanas to the east from this, (the travellers) came to the Charcoal tope [the Sakyamuni's cremation site], where there is also a monastery. Going on twelve yojanas, still to the east, they came to the city of Kusanagara, on the north of which, between two trees, on the bank of the Nairanjana river, is the place where the World-honoured one, with his head to the north, attained to pari-nirvana (and died). There also are the places where ... in his coffin of gold they made offerings to the World-honoured one for seven days ... and where the eight kings divided the relics (of the burnt body). At all these places were built topes and monasteries, all of which are now existing. In the city the inhabitants are few and far between, comprising only the families belonging to the (different) societies of monks.


From Kushinagara Faxian went south to Vaisali and crossed the Ganges to enter the city of Pataliputra, where the magnificent palace, pillared halls and other Buddhist edifices erected by Emperor Asoka were still standing -- works so magnificent that Faxian judged them to be the work of spirits employed by the emperor.

Approximately 216 years after Faxian's departure from India (in about 415 CE) the Chinese scholar-monk Xuanzang arrived on the north-western border of the Indian sub-continent (in about 631 CE). During the intervening centuries northern India had undergone a series of major upheavals in which Buddhism had been one of the main losers. Of these the most devastating was the eruption onto the plains of India of a new wave of Mleccha from central Asia who called themselves the Huna, known to the Greeks as the Hephthalites or 'White Huns: They first appeared at a time when the Gupta empire was being threatened on his southern borders by the growing power of the Pushyamitras. In about 475 CE Kumaragupta the Second defeated the Pushyamitras and repulsed the first wave of the Huns. But his empire's defences had been fatally weakened and when the Huna warlord Toramana launched a second assault in about 480 CE the Gupta armies were forced into retreat. More attacks followed under Toramana's successor Mihirakula, whose name is forever blackened in Buddhist eyes by his relentless persecution of Buddhists and his destruction of Buddhist monasteries. The Hunas were eventually broken up but not before the Guptas had been forced back to their original mahajanapada of Magadha, which they managed to cling on to until the last significant ruler of their line, Vishnugupta, was ousted in about 550 CE.

The years that followed saw the rise of militant Shaivism, with King Sassanka of Karansuvara in Bengal leading an assault on Buddhist centres in Bihar in which the revered pipal tree at Bodgaya was cut down, its roots dug out and burnt and the ground soaked with sugar-cane juice to ensure that nothing would ever grow there again. Over this same period the various Prakrit or 'vulgar' languages, including Pali, derived from the original speech introduced into India by the Aryans, was formalised into Sanskrit or 'pure' language, which became the dominant literary language of northern India and of Mahayana Buddhism.

Northern India was now divided among a number of independent rulers, with bands of Hunas vying with other invaders from the north to establish strongholds in the wild country south of the Jamuna River -- a process that eventually led to the emergence of the Rajputs of Rajputana and Central India. Out of this struggle there also emerged the Vardhana dynasty, whose third in line, Harsha Vardhana, killed the last of the Guptas in battle at the age of sixteen and added Magadha to his family's fast-expanding mahajanapada. Having established his capital at Kannauj, Harsha Vardhana marched against the anti-Buddhist King Sassanka and defeated him to bring Bengal, Bihar and Orissa under his authority. Raised by his father as a worshipper of the sun-god Surya, King Harsha was nominally a Shaivite for most of his adult life but may well have converted to Buddhism before his death. Like Asoka, Kharavera, Kanishka and Chandragupta the Second before him, he extended his royal patronage to all the faiths within his empire, and he, too, was fortunate to live long enough to ensure the consolidation of his rule.

It was during the latter years of King Harsha's reign that the great scholar-monk Xuanzang travelled through India.

When Xuanzang entered the Gangetic plain towards the end of the year 634 CE he was as impressed as his predecessor had been two centuries earlier. The city of Mathura was now dominated by Hindu temples to Shiva and Vishnu, but the two main Buddhist schools of the Mahayanas and Theravadas he found there were well supported, with more than 2,000 monks enrolled in their monasteries. Like Faxian before him, Xuanzang continued on to Kannauj, now thriving as a centre of religion and culture. Here Xuanzang reported the existence of a hundred Buddhist monasteries supporting 10,000 monks. He also spent some months studying the Pali scriptures in a Theravada monastery before moving on to Sravasti.

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The seventh-century Buddhist scholar-monk Xuanzang returns from India laden with precious texts. From a tenth-century coloured woodcut from Tun-huang on the Silk Road, now in the Bibliotheque National in Paris.

At this point in his travels Faxian had proceeded directly to Sravasti. The more determined Xuanzang wanted to take in every scene associated with Sakyamuni Buddha and his three predecessors. From Kannauj he went downstream to the confluence of the Jamuna and Ganga Rivers at Prayag (afterwards Allahabad), from where he made an excursion to the ancient city of Kosambi, only to find the Buddhist monasteries in ruins and the number of Hindu devotees 'enormous: He then re-crossed the Ganges to make his way northwards towards Sravasti, travelling by way of Kasapur (Sultanpur) and the ancient Hindu town of Saketa (Ayodhya). To get from Saketa to Sravasti he went north-east for '500 li or so:

Although thoroughly conversant with Faxian's account of his travels, Xuanzang was as shaken as his predecessor had been by what he found at Sravasti. Of the few active Buddhist foundations that Faxian had noted nearly everyone was in ruins, including the great monastery of Jetavana:

The kingdom of Sravasti (Shi-lo-fu-shi-ti) is about 6,000 li in circuit. The chief town is desert and ruined. ... There are several hundreds of sangharamas {Buddhist monasteries], mostly in ruin, with very few religious followers There are too Deva {i.e. Hindu] temples with very many heretics Within the old precincts of the royal city are some ancient foundations; these are the remains of the palace . ... To the south of the city 5 or 6 li is the Jetavana. This is where Anathapindada (Ki-ku-to) (otherwise called) Sudatta, the chief minister of Prasenajita-raja, built for Buddha a vihara. There was a sangharama here formerly, but now all is in ruins. On the left and right of the eastern gate has been built a pillar about 70 feet high; on the left-hand pillar is engraved on the base a wheel; on the right-hand pillar the figure of an ox is on the top. Both columns were erected by Asoka-raja. The residences (of the priests) are wholly destroyed; the foundations only remain, with the exception of one solitary brick building, which stands alone in the midst of the ruins, and contains an image of Buddha.


The reader will have observed that at the Jetavana Garden Xuanzang saw two Asokan pillars which Faxian failed to mention in his account. Faxian seemed to hold no particular regard for these columns and tended to overlook them. Another significant difference between the two pilgrims' accounts is that (despite the impression given by the abbreviated version set down here) Xuanzang's is the more detailed, chiefly because he set down whatever he heard or already knew by way of associated Buddhist legends -- as, for example, in his explanation of Sakyamuni Buddha's attempts to prevent King Virudhaba from slaughtering his Sakya kinfolk: 'After King Virudhaka [Virudhaba] had succeeded to the throne, stirred up to hatred by hisformer disgrace, he equipped an army and moved forward with a great force. The summer heat being ended and everything arranged, he commanded all advance.' One of the Sakyamuni's followers got to hear of the king's plans and went to warn him. Meanwhile, King Virudhaba let his army towards Kapilavastu -- only to see the sage of the Sakyas seated beside the road under a withered tree:

Virudhaka-raja, seeing him thus seated some way off, alighted from his chariot and paid him reverence. Then as he stood up he said, 'There are plenty of green and umbrageous trees; why do you not sit beneath one of these, instead of under this withered one with dried leaves, where you walk and sit?' The Lord said, 'My honourable tribe is like branches and leaves; these being about to perish, what shade can there be for one belonging to it?' The king said, 'The Lord of the World by his honourable regard for his family is able to turn my chariot.' Then looking at him with emotion, he disbanded his army and returned to his country.


From Sravasti Xuanzang continued on to Kapilavastu. Faxian at this stage in his journey had first gone south to Na-pei-kea, the birthplace of the earlier Buddha Krakuchanda, and then north from Na-pei-kea to a town which was the birthplace of another earlier Buddha, Kanakamuni. Xuanzang initially ignored these two sites associated with Buddhas Krakuchanda and Kanakamuni and instead made an excursion to the north-west of Sravasti to honour the memorials of the early Buddha, Kasyapa: To the north-west of the capital 16 li or so, there is an old town ... in which Kasyapa Buddha was born. To the south of the town there is a stupa. This is the place where he first met his father after arriving at enlightenment. To the north of the town is a stupa, which contains relics of the entire body of Kasyapa Buddha. Both these stupas were built by Asoka-raja.

From this relic stupa a short distance north-west of Sravasti Xuanzang went directly to the country of Kapilavastu: 'From this point going south-east 500 li or so, we come to the country of Kie-pilo- fa-sse-ti (Kapilavastu).' Like Faxian before him, Xuanzang found everything in ruins: This country is about 4,000 li in circuit. There are some ten desert cities in this country, wholly desolate and ruined. The capital is overthrown and in ruins. Its circuit cannot be accurately measured. The royal precincts within the city measure 14 or 15 li round. They are all built of brick. The foundation walls are still strong and high. It has been long deserted. The peopled villages are few and wasted.

In describing Kapilavastu Xuanzang drew freely on his predecessor's account but added more detail (only the bones of which can be given here for reasons of space):

Within the royal precincts are some ruined foundation walls; these are the remains of the proper palace of Suddhodana-raja; above is built a vihara in which is a statue of the king. Not far from this is a ruined foundation, which represents the sleeping palace of Mahamaya [Great Maya, Mayadevi], the queen. Above they have erected a vihara in which is a figure of the queen. By the side of this is a vihara; this is where Bodhisattva descended spiritually into the womb of his mother. ... To the north-east of the palace of the spiritual conception is a stupa; this is the place where Atisha the rishi prognosticated the fortune of the royal prince .... At the south gate of the city is a stupa. This is where the royal prince, when contending the Sakya princes, cast the elephant away. ... At the south-east angle of the city is a vihara in which is the figure of the royal prince riding a white and high-prancing horse.... Outside each of the four gates of the city there is a vihara in which there are respectively figures of an old man, a diseased man, a dead man, and a sramana [ascetic). ...

To the north-east of the city [of Kapilavastu] about 40 li is a stupa. This is the spot where the prince [Siddhartha] sat in the shade of a tree to watch the ploughing festival .... To the north-west of the capital there are several hundreds and thousands of stupas, indicating the spot where the members of the Sakya tribe were slaughtered. Virudhaka-raja having subdued the Sakyas, and captured the members of their tribe to the number of 9,990 myriads of people, then ordered them to be slaughtered. They piled their bodies like straw, and their blood was collected in lakes .... To the south-west of the place of massacre are four little stupas. This is the place where the four Sakyas withstood an army. ...

To the south of the city 3 or 4 li is a grove of Nyagrodha trees in which is a stupa built by Asoka-raja. This is the place where Sakya Tathagata, having returned to his country after his enlightenment, met his father and preached the law.... By the side of the sangharama and not far from it, is a stupa; this is the spot where Tathagata sat beneath a great tree with his face to the east and received from his aunt a golden-tissued kashaya garment. A little farther on is another stupa; this is the place where Tathagata converted eight kings sons and 500 Sakyas ....

Within the eastern gate of the city, on the left of the road, is a stupa; this is where the Prince Siddhartha practised (athletic) arts. Outside the gate is the temple of Isvara-deva. In the temple is a figure of the deva [deity] made of stone, which has the appearance of rising in a bent position. This is the temple which the royal prince when an infant entered. ... The nurse, carrying the child in her arms, entered the temple; then the stone image raised itself and saluted the prince.


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Devotees worship 'Bodhi' trees under which earlier Buddhas achieved enlightenment. offering garlands of flowers; the Buddhas here being Buddha Krakuchanda (left) and his Bodhi tree the sirisa (Acacia sirisa), and Buddha Kanakamuni (right) and his Bodhi tree the udambara (Ficus glomerata). Buddha Sakyamuni's tree was, of course, the pipal (Ficus religiosa). Bas-reliefs from the Barhut stupa.

Crucially, Xuanzang saw and described two Asokan pillars associated with the early Buddhas Krakuchanda and Kanakamuni, located south and south-east of the city of Kapilavastu:

To the south of the city going 50 li or so, we come to an old town where there is a stupa. This is the place where Krakuchanda Buddha was born .... To the south of the city [of Buddha Krakuchanda], not far, there is a stupa; this is the place where, having arrived at complete enlightenment, he met his father. To the south-east of the city is a stupa where are that Tathagatas relics [i.e. Krakuchanda's]; before it is erected a stone pillar about 30 feet high, on the top of which is carved a lion. By its side (or, on its side) is a record relating the circumstances of his Nirvana. It was erected by Asoka-raja.

To the north-east of the town of Krakuchanda Buddha, going about 30 li, we come to an old capital (or, great city) in which there is a stupa. This is to commemorate the spot where ... Kanakamuni Buddha was born. To the north-east of the city, not far, is a stupa; it was here, having arrived at complete enlightenment, he met his father. Farther north there is a stupa containing the relics of his bequeathed body; in front of it is a stone pillar with a lion on the top, and about 20 feet high; on this is inscribed a record of the events connected with his Nirvana; this was built by Asoka-raja.


The reader will recall that Faxian also visited memorials to Buddhas Krakuchanda and Kanakamuni on the way to Kapilavastu, but made no reference to any Asokan pillars. Both pilgrims placed these memorials on the southern side of Kapilavastu -- but in different places. Faxian linked Krakuchanda Buddha with the town of Na-pei-kea, which he sited twelve yojanas south-east of Sravasti and one yojana south of an unnamed town associated with Kanakamuni Buddha, itself less than one yojana west of Kapilavastu city. Xuanzang, however, placed Krakuchanda's memorials fifty Ii south of Kapilavastu and Kanakamuni's memorials a lesser distance south-east of Kapilavastu.

On applying Cunningham's conversion table of just under six li to one mile and 6.71 miles to one yojana (thus 40 li to one yojana), the following chart of these conflicting positionings emerges:

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From Kapilavastu Faxian had travelled directly to Lumbini, whereas Xuanzang chose to proceed indirectly, by way of a sacred spring south-east of Kapilavastu known as the Arrow Well, where a stupa marked the spot where an arrow fired by Prince Siddhartha had landed: 'Outside the south gate of the city [of Kapilavastu], on the left of the road, is a stupa; it was here the royal prince contended with the Sakyas in athletic sports ... From this 30 li south-east is a small stupa ... Here it was, during the athletic contest, that the arrow of the prince, after penetrating the targets, fell and buried itself up to thefeather in the ground, causing a clear spring of water to flow forth.'

From the Arrow Well stupa Xuanzang continued on to Lumbini:

To the north-east of the arrow well about 80 or 90 ii, we come to the Lumbini garden. Here is the bathing tank of the Sakyas .... To the north of this 24 or 25 paces there is an Asoka-flower tree, which is now decayed; this is the place where Bodhisattva was born. ... East from this is a stupa built by Asoka-raja .... To the east of this stupa are two fountains of pure water, by the side of which have been built two stupas .... To the south of this is a stupa ... Close to this there are four stupas .... By the side of these stupas and not far from them is a great stone pillar, on the top of which is the figure of a horse, which was built by Asoka-raja. Afterwards, by the contrivance of a wicked dragon, it was broken off in the middle and fell to the ground. By the side of it is a little river which flows to the south east. The people of the place call it the river of oil. This is the stream which the Devas caused to appear. ... Now it is changed and become a river, the stream of which is still unctuous.


From Lumbini Xuanzang followed the same eastward course to Ramagrama as Faxian, experiencing the same difficulties: 'From this going east 300 Ii or so, across a wild and deserted jungle, we arrive at the kingdom of Lan-mo (Ramagrama). The kingdom of Lan-mo has been waste and desolate for many years. There is no account of its extent. The towns are decayed and the inhabitants few. To the south-east of the old capital (town) there is an old stupa, in height less than a hundred feet: This was the stupa containing the Koliya's eighth share of the Sakyamuni's relics, with the attendant monastery seen by Faxian now on the verge of collapse, but still surrounded with all the old stories of attentive elephants and the dragon guardian who had prevented Emperor Asoka from removing the relics.

Still following the same course as Faxian, Xuanzang continued east again from Ramagrama: first, through a great forest for more than a hundred Ii to reach an Asokan stupa marking the place of the groom Chandaka's return; then east again to the Head-Shaving stupa, where Prince Siddhartha had shaved off his hair; then southeast, going 180-190 Ii to reach the Embers stupa; and then northeast, 'along a dangerous and difficult road, where wild oxen and herds of elephants and robbers and hunters caused incessant trouble to travellers', to reach the ruined and deserted city of Kushinagara itself. Here at the site of the Sakyamuni's Maharaparinirvana, Xuanzang found a grove of sal trees, noting four of particular size. Nearby was a large stupa built by Emperor Asoka, a stone pillar recording the circumstances of the Buddha's decease and a brick temple containing a giant statue: an image (or presentation) of Ju-lai- nie-pan (that is, of the Buddha dead) lying with his head to the north'.

Xuanzang then crossed the Ganges to the country of Magadha and settled at the great Buddhist monastery-cum-university of Nalanda, where he spent several years studying before returning to China laden with more than a thousand precious Buddhist texts. As a direct result of his sojourn in India Emperor Harsha sent an embassy to China which established the first diplomatic links between the two countries. According to the Tibetan chronicle known as The White Annals the Chinese responded with their own mission, which reached India through Nepal only to find Harsha dead and his throne occupied by his chief minister Arjuna, who attacked the Chinese envoy and forced him and his escort to flee to Tibet. A combined Tibetan and Nepalese army then invaded India, defeated Arjuna in battle and sent him and his family to the Chinese emperor in chains. Harsha's empire then disintegrated and another 'dark age' followed in which the Gangetic valley reverted to the old pattern of warring states. In the words of Vincent Smith: 'The partial unity of India vanishes with Harsha and is not restored in any considerable measure until the closing years of the twelfth century, when the extensive conquest of Muhammad of Ghori brought the most important provinces under the sway of the Sultans of Delhi.'

Buddhism in India was now threatened with extinction as Hinduism underwent a spiritual revival beginning in the ninth century spearheaded by the Brahmin reformer Adi Shankara, in the course of which Sakyamuni Buddha was absorbed into the Hindu pantheon as the ninth avatar or incarnation of Vishnu. Only in Bengal and Bihar did Buddhism survive and even prosper, thanks to the Pala kings, who took their dynastic name from the word pal or 'protector.' The founder of their dynasty, Gopala, came to power in Gaur, in West Bengal, in about 755 CE by the remarkable process of democratic election. His Buddhist successors Dharmapala and Devapala expended their empire up the Gangetic valley as far west as Mathura and in the process helped to spread the esoteric practices of Tantric Buddhism into the Kathmandu Valley and beyond. Under Pala patronage Eastern Indian forms of Buddhist practice underwent a revival based on the great centres of learning at Nalanda in southern Bihar and Vikramshala in eastern Bihar, from which missionaries and students took the Dharma as far afield as the spice islands of south-east Asia.

In the final decade of the eleventh century the last of the Pala kings was overthrown by the orthodox Hindu founder of the Sena dynasty, and from that moment Buddhism in India went into rapid and terminal decline, helped along by the arrival of Muslim Sufi refugees from Afghanistan and Central Asia fleeing from the Mongols. There is some evidence that the religious orthodoxy of the Senas led to mass conversions of Buddhists to the Islam propagated by Sufi missionaries but Muslim iconoclasts also played their part, culminating in the bigotry of the Turkish warlord Qutb-ud- Din, who took Delhi in 1193 and set the pattern by building Delhi's first mosque, the Qubbat ai-Islam, over the Hindu temple built by the conquered Rajput leader Prithvi Raj. His leading general, Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, then put fire and sword not only to Nalanda and Vikramshila but virtually every other Buddhist monastery in the Gangetic plain. By the end of the twelfth century Buddhism had to all intents been eradicated from the country of its birth. Within the space of another two or three centuries all its great monuments had been reclaimed by nature where they had not been plundered by builders or treasure-seekers.

So it came about that when Dr. Anton Alois Fuhrer came to tour the tarai country east of Lucknow in the winter of 1889-90 he found much of it to be a wilderness. 'Nowhere: he wrote, 'is there any trace of genuine continuous tradition handed down from the times of Buddhist ascendancy and civilisation. So far as it appears, Gorakhpur and Basti Districts lapsed into jungle during the disturbances which accompanied the extinction of Buddhism, and remained for centuries unoccupied by settled or civilised inhabitants.' What traces there were to be seen of the past were in the form of large mounds:

Nothing is known of the history of these ruined mounds. The villagers, as a rule, ascribe them to the forest tribe of Tharus ... due to the fact that when the ancestors of the present inhabitants immigrated, they found the country. as far as it was peopled at all, in the possession of the Tharus. The immigrants knew nothing of an earlier and vanished civilisation. and naturally ascribed all ruins to the people whom they found in occupation of the country.
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Re: The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer, by Charles Allen

Postby admin » Tue Feb 16, 2021 5:19 am

Part 1 of 2

Chapter 4: The Unannounced Visit

'Camp Kapilavastu,' 28 January 1898


On Friday 28 January, the day after Vincent Smith's arrival in Birdpore, he made what he afterwards described as an 'unannounced visit' to the site of Dr. Anton Fuhrer's excavation in the Nepal Tarai, accompanied by Willie Peppe. Smith provided no explanation for this visit, which has allowed conspiracy theorists to propose that collusion took place between Fuhrer, Smith and Peppe -- some sort of conspiracy involving the removal of objects from one excavation site to another and the forging of an inscription. A more straightforward motive was that Smith had long been convinced that Kapilavastu was to be found in Nepal and wanted to see for himself what Fuhrer had found there. Another, was that he and Peppe wished to seek the professional opinion of the Archaeological Surveyor of the province in which they lived and worked. Smith said nothing about it at the time for the very good reason that he had not sought the permission of the Government of Nepal to enter Nepalese territory. This might not have mattered in Peppe's case but Smith was a senior official of the British administration and such persons only entered Nepal by permission of the Nepal Durbar. In fact, the Government of Nepal did get to hear of his intrusion and complained to the British Resident, resulting in Smith receiving a rap over the knuckles for his improper conduct.

Smith and Peppe left the Birdpore bungalow at dawn and made their way on horseback to Border Post 44 on the Nepal border, where the pukka road built by the Peppes terminated in a rice field. As Smith afterwards remarked, 'The Nepalese Government does not encourage the construction of roads, and leaves its subjects to make their way as best they can along rough tracks, or, when the crops are off the ground, across the fields: Fortunately, two elephants were waiting for them at the border, on loan from Smith's friend, the local zamindar Babu Shobrat Singh. 'We crossed the frontier north of Birdpur close to pillar No. 44, and advanced a little west of north through the villages of Siswa [Sisawa], Bankasia, Kuangawan [Kurwagaon], Dhani [Dohani], Ramsahai, Dhamauli and Simri [Semari]. Beyond Simri we passed some ancient mounds and tanks, and then for 14 minutes crossed a belt of jungle: This itinerary shows that they steered well clear of the district town of Taulihawa.

Once through the stretch of jungle north of Taulihawa they passed by the little settlement of Srinagar, and about half a mile beyond reached the Tharu hamlet of Sagarwa, situated on the eastern bank of the Banganga. This was where Dr. Fuhrer had set up his camp. Sagarwa village took its name from a nearby lake, known locally as lambu sagar or 'the long lake; which was roughly oval in shape and about a quarter of a mile in length. At the western end of this lake they found Dr. Fuhrer and no less than 200 Tharu coolies, all hard at work removing earth from a rectangular pit running north and south for about 250 feet. Watching over the proceedings was a Nepali officer in military uniform whom they came to know as 'the Nepalese Captain': Captain Bir Jang, deputed by General Khadga Shumsher Rana to 'superintend the excavations on behalf of his Government.'

As the two Britons approached the pit Dr. Fuhrer emerged holding five small copper caskets, which were immediately taken from him by the Nepalese Captain. The German archaeologist welcomed them to his excavation and declared the caskets to be nothing less than the ashes of some of the thousands of Sakya warriors massacred here by King Prasenajit of Kosala. He explained that he was in the process of excavating the fifth of a series of small stupas covering the remains of these Sakyas, having been guided to this spot by Xuanzang. The Chinese traveller's account of the ruins of Kapilavastu had, he claimed, been proved to be correct in every detail:

According to his Si- Yu-Ki, the 'place of massacre' of the Sakyas, who fell in battle with the Kosalan army of the king of 'Sravasti' shortly before the demise of the Buddha, was situated to the northwest of the capital. Following this direction, we dug into the vast brick ruins, skirting the eastern bank of the Banganga, and stretching far away between the Tharu villages of Sagrava [Sagarwa] and Bandhauli, and were rewarded by finding a great number of small square relic-stupas, built of well-burnt bricks, and varying in size from 19' by 19' to 7' by 9' and in height from 12 feet to 5 feet. These square relic-sttlpas are the oldest monuments ever unearthed in India .... Exactly in the true centre of each shrine, at the level of the foundations, we discovered the relic chamber, built up in some instances of nine, seven and five bricks, respectively, impressed with well-executed designs of a full-blown lotus flower or a svastika, under which the relic caskets were buried in the soil. The remaining bricks, forming the relic chambers, bore representations of the arms and instruments used by the Sakya in the battle, such as daggers, swords of different sorts, javelins, battle-axes, tridents, thunderbolts, shields and standards.


What Smith and Peppe saw for themselves was very much in accordance with what Fuhrer claimed. What they also observed was the manner in which the Nepalese Captain moved in to remove every item as it was recovered. 'When Mr William Peppe and I rode up unannounced on the morning of 28 January 1898; reported Smith, 'we happened to find Dr. Fuhrer and the Nepalese Captain, who watched him, in the act of taking out the deposit from one of the seventeen stupas ... The little caskets lay immediately under the bricks -- one in the centre and one at each corner -- five in all. They were small, shallow, circular, metal vessels with lids crushed and thickly coated with verdigris ... They contained a few gold stars, etc., and probably fragments of bone: But it was what happened next that stayed in Smith's mind:

They were instantly taken possession of by the Nepalese Captain, who stood over Dr. Fuhrer, and were opened by the Captain who then laid them aside. I doubt greatly if Dr. Fuhrer was ever allowed to touch them again, and he certainly never got the chance of cleaning them .... Dr. Flihrer complained to me that he was hardly allowed to look at what he found, and was not permitted to remove even a brick. He also told me that no inscriptions had been found.


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The decorated brick layer from one of the seventeen small stupas excavated by Dr. Fuhrer at Sagarwa, showing the symbols which he identified as memorials to the slain Sakya warriors. The copper relic caskets were found under the central and corner bricks. From P. C. Mukherji's Report. 

The Nepalese Captain's behaviour did not surprise Smith in the least. 'Nothing: he had written a year earlier with characteristic bluntness, 'will persuade the Nepalese that Englishmen, digging among old ruins, can really want anything but treasure. All our protestations of interest in ancient history and so forth, though they may be listened to with politeness, are regarded as mere lies to cover the real object of these explorers: What Smith was more concerned about was Dr. Fuhrer's archaeological method, which appeared to consist of digging away until nothing was left. Being a visitor and a gentleman, he said nothing about his reservation, but quietly observed.

In 1885 -- the same year in which Anton Fuhrer joined the Archaeological Department of the Government of the NWP&O, that Vincent Smith was appointed joint officiating magistrate of Basti District, and that William Hoey next door in Gonda District completed his two-month dig at Sahet-Mahet -- an Englishman named Duncan Ricketts got to hear of a standing stone pillar just inside Nepalese territory. Ricketts was at that time the assistant manager of the Dulha Estate, adjoining Birdpore Estate to the east and situated in the extreme north-east corner of Basti District. He slipped across the border and found the pillar protruding from the side of a tree-covered mound near the village of Paderiya, about five miles north-east of his estate in the Nepalese district of Rummindei. There was an inscription cut into 'the exposed parts of the pillar: Ricketts took a rubbing and showed it to Vincent Smith, who dismissed the writing as 'mediaeval scribblings' -- a hasty verdict he lived to regret.

Smith spent almost four years in Basti District and by the end of his time there had come to the conclusion that Cunningham, Carllyle, and, indeed, his ICS colleague William Hoey had got it wrong: that Sravasti and Kushinagar, as well as Kapilavastu, Lumbini and Ramagrama, were all still waiting to be rediscovered; and that, if the routes provided by Faxian and Xuanzang were to be believed, the reallocation of these five sites must lie across the border in the Nepal Tarai. His reasoning was based entirely on the directions and distances given by the Chinese travellers. If they were correct the site of Sravasti and the Jetavana Garden had to lie somewhere in the Nepal Tarai just north of Basti District. And since both the Chinese pilgrims had then gone on from Sravasti in a predominantly easterly direction, it followed that Kapilavastu, Lumbini, Ramagrama and even Kushinagar must all lie north of the border.

This reading put Smith at intellectual odds with William Hoey, who in 1889 took up a new appointment on the other side of Oude, initially as joint magistrate of Banda District, south of the River Jumna, and then as Collector of Banda. Sakyamuni Buddha was said to have twice visited the Banda region and both Faxian and Xuanzang had passed through on their travels, the latter spending some months studying Pali texts in the ancient city of Kannauj.

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'Committee of Hoey Park, Gorakhpur: February 1894. Dr. William Hoey, Collector of Gorakhpur, seated in the centre flanked by Muslim and Hindu worthies. The park (now 'Government Gardens') in the centre of Gorakhpur town was created as the result of Dr. Hoey's initiative. It is said that he used to sit in the park's raised bandstand in the evenings to survey the rose gardens and to smoke a cigar. (Courtesy of the Hoey family)

During his time in Banda District Hoey purchased a number of finds, mostly gold coins but also an inscribed copper plate and three small bronze statuettes. These important statuettes had been found in the ruins of Dhanesar Khera and all three were Buddha figures: one, seated in the classic lotus position, is now in the British Museum; another, a very fine standing figure, is in the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City; but the whereabouts of the third and smallest Buddha, also a standing figure, is unknown -- although a statuette which appears identical and which has the same damage is now in the Bangkok Museum.

For Hoey, a second period of home leave followed the Banda tour, and on his return to India in 1892 he was transferred from Oude to the NWP, taking up the post of Magistrate and Collector of Gorakhpur Division, based in the town of Gorakhpur.

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The Sohgaura plate, possibly the earliest discovered in India, presented by Dr. Hoey to the Asiatic Society of Bengal and since lost or stolen.

Hoey's transfer brought him right back into the Sravasti- Kushinagar debate. One of his first known forays out from Gorakhpur, made in about December 1892, took him about eighteen miles south-south-east of the town to a big bend in the Rapti River covered in a 'series of mounds; seemingly the remains of an ancient city. His explorations led him to a hamlet named Sohgaura in 'the middle of the long mound of remains: Here he got talking with an old man who recalled how when laying down the foundations of his house many decades earlier he had dug up a small copper plate covered in strange writing. This he had presented to the local zamindar or landowner, who had since died. Hoey made enquiries, which ended some months later when the son of the dead zamindar turned up with the plate and presented it to him.

Although scarcely more than 2-1/2 inches wide and 1-1/2 inches in height, the plate was in astonishingly good condition and covered in symbols and lettering that had been cast in such high relief that they were easy to make out. The writing consisted in four lines of the script that Hoey recognised as the Brahmi of the Asokan columns. But above the lettering was one line made up of seven distinct symbols representing what appeared to be two trees in railings, two buildings, a spear, a central image of three domes topped by a sun and moon and beside it a globe topped by what appeared to be a pair of horns, a familiar symbol known as a taurine. This was beyond Hoey's expertise and he turned to his colleague for help.

By a stroke of luck, Hoey's move to Gorakhpur had put him in close touch with Vincent Smith, by now acknowledged as India's leading authority both on copper plates and Gupta coinage. Indeed, his work on Gupta gold coins had more or less filled two entire issues of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1884 and 1889, and he was about to continue the process in a third issue. Smith and Hoey now began the first of a number of collaborations with a joint presentation on the Sohgaura copper-plate, which was read on their behalf at a meeting of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (ASB) in Park Street, Calcutta, in May 1894. It was Smith's view that no plate of such antiquity had ever been found in India -- and in this surmise he was subsequently proved correct. He declared the characters of the writing to be 'ancient Nagari of the Maurya period' but confessed himself unable to make sense of the text because its language appeared to be Pali rather than Sanskrit. Dr. Rudolf Hoernle, principal of the Calcutta Madrassa College and a leading light of both the ASB and the Indian Museum, was then brought in and fared little better. The meanings of the seven symbols were equally mystifying, although the central image of three linked domes topped by a sun and moon struck Smith as undoubtedly 'Buddhistic' and probably represented a memorial stupa. The two structures of wooden posts and thatch roofs obviously represented three-storied buildings of some sort but perhaps the most intriguing element were the two trees, each set behind railings but distinctively different from one another. Smith thought the tree on the left was meant to represent a sal tree but offered no opinion as to what the other might be.

Dr. Hoey presented the plate to the ASB -- a misplaced act of generosity, as it turned out, for so chaotic was the Society's curating in the years that followed that it was some decades before it could be officially admitted that the Sohgaura plate was missing believed stolen. The loss is incalculable, for the plate may well be the earliest copper plate ever found in India, very likely made at the time of Asoka himself -- whose personal seal may well be represented by the central stupa image -- if not earlier.

Fortunately, a photograph of the plate was taken and a copy sent to Prof. Buhler, who published the first tentative translation in his own journal, the Vienna Oriental Journal: 'The order of the great official of Sravasti (issued) from (their camp at) Manavasitikata: These two storehouses with three partitions (which are situated) even in famous Vamsagrama, require the storage of loads of Black Panicum, parched grain, cumin-seed and Amba for (times of) urgent (need). One should not take (any thing from the grain stored): In fact, Buhler was uncharacteristically wide of the mark here, except in so far as he identified the plate as being some form of order about the storage of food supplies. He was equally uncertain about the significance of the line of images above the inscription, five of which he took to be mangala or auspicious symbols. He thought the railings round the two trees identified them as chaitya or sacred trees, 'such as are often mentioned in the Buddhist Canon, the Brahminical books and elsewhere -- the second of them without leaves being probably one of the so-called "shameless" trees which shed their leaves in winter: The spearlike object, which Vincent Smith had thought resembled a longhandled spoon, he identified as a 'toilet mirror, as the mirror is one of the auspicious symbols and is depicted as such, together with other symbols, above the entrance of the Jaina cave at Junagadh, called Bawa Pyari's Math: As for the supposed Buddhist symbol of combined stupas at the centre, this Buhler thought 'may be meant for a rude representation of Mount Meru' -- the mountain at the centre of the cosmos in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist cosmography. Lastly, there was that curious symbol of the orb linked to the pair of horns, which Vincent Smith had described as the sun and moon. This, according to Buhler, was 'a nandipada, the footmark of Shiva's bull Nandin.'

It was more than a decade before the puzzle of the Sohgaura plate was partially solved. Even then, the idea that these symbols might be pictographs and the plate a combination of two forms of communication, one old and one new, rather in the manner of the Rosetta Stone, was not entertained (this was, after all, still four decades away from the discovery of Mohenjo-Daro and the re-emergence of the Indus-Harappa civilisation). Hoey's Sohgaura plate may be the only one of its kind, a unique representation of the transition from pictographs and hieroglyphs to a proper written language -- a quantum shift that (however much modern Hindu nationalists may wish it otherwise) almost certainly came about in the early Mauryan period as a result of Chandragupta's contacts with the Graeco-Persians and his realisation that the efficient administration of the Magadhan empire required proper written communications.

This first collaboration led Hoey to work with Smith on his third paper on Gupta coinage, read at the ASB in December 1894. 'Since I have been stationed in Gorakhpur; Smith wrote in that paper, 'I have had the opportunity of examining the large and varied collection of coins formed by my friend, Mr. William Hoey, I. C. S. The most remarkable coins of the Gupta Period in his cabinet are noticed in this paper. On other occasions 1hope to publish some of the novelties in other departments which he possesses: The 'novelties' that had particularly excited Vincent Smith's interest were the three bronze statuettes that his colleague had purchased during his posting in Banda District some years earlier. These now became the subject of 'Ancient Buddhist Statuettes and a Candella Copperplate from the Banda District' read at the ASB and published by Smith and Hoey in the JASB in 1895. The two largest statuettes carried inscriptions on their bases which enabled the authors to determine that both were donations by devotees and early Gupta bronzes from the third and fifth centuries CE.

Further collaboration followed, most notably a joint article on some bricks from the village of Gopalpur on the north bank of the Gogra River twenty-eight miles due south of Gorakhpur. A local zamindar building some indigo pits had raided a large mound for its bricks and having exhausted the surface supply had dug deeper. A Hindu pandit from the village had spotted writing on some of the bricks from this deeper level, one of which he secured and sent to Vincent Smith. The latter knew of the site as the place where a hoard of twenty gold coins from the Gupta period had been found four decades earlier. He 'gave a high price' for the brick and showed it to his ICS colleague, who himself owned a terracotta plaque found at Gopalpur showing an archer hunting a wild boar and two deer. Hoey then visited the site and persuaded the builders to reopen the pit from which they had extracted the bricks. All had come from a small underground chamber about eight feet square. However, two of the inscribed bricks had been overlooked by the builders and Hoey afterwards recovered another two from the newly-built indigo vats. The bricks did indeed carry inscriptions, cut into the clay before baking -- a find which the joint authors considered of 'much interest and importance; since 'no similar discovery has ever before been made in India, and it is startling to find the Indian Buddhists using brick, as the Assyrians did, to preserve long documents: From the character of the inscriptions, Smith and Hoey ascribed them to 'the Northern alphabet of the third or fourth century' written in 'good grammatical Sanskrit prose: As to their contents, while the authors were in no position to offer complete translations 'and must leave that task to professed scholars; they were in no doubt that they were Buddhist sutras: 'They all deal with Buddhist ontology, and specially with the doctrine of the twelve nidanas, or "causes" which connect Avidya, or Blind Ignorance, with Jara-marana, Decay and Death, and thus form the Bhavacakra, or Cycle of Existence.'

The authors concluded that the 'earliest possible date should be assigned to the inscriptions; and here they were greatly helped by William Hoey's discovery in the same underground chamber of a small earthenware saucer containing eleven copper coins. These he and Smith had no difficulty in identifying as Kushan: 'The coins belong to the reigns of the great Kusan kings, Hima Kadphises, Kaniska and Huviska, and therefore range in date from about A. D. 40 to about A. D. 150, according to the chronology generally accepted: It followed that the brick sutras must also have been baked at the end of that same period.

Despite their alliance, Hoey and Smith continued to differ over Cunningham's and Hoey's identification of Sahet-Mahet as Sravasti-Jetavana -- and whenever the opportunity arose Hoey sought to confirm the correctness of that identification by looking for Kapilavastu within the Gorakhpur Division, taking his lead from the Chinese travellers' directions. The reader will recall that Faxian had proceeded from Sravasti to Kapilavastu indirectly by way of the town of Na-pe-kea, a journey of twelve yojanas, which by the Cunningham rule placed Na-pe-kea about eighty-four miles to the south-east of Sravasti. Then from Na-pe-kea Faxian had moved on to the birthplace ofKanakamuni Buddha, some six miles north of Na-pe-kea, after which he had gone another six miles east to reach the city of Kapilavastu. Thus, if Faxian's directions were transferred to a modern map, the city of Kapilavastu ought to be found a few miles north-east of Basti town not far from the Rapti River and more or less on the border between Basti District and Gorakhpur District. As for Xuanzang, from the relic-stupa of Kasyapa Buddha north-west ofSravasti he had gone directly to the country of Kapilavastu. Thus, approximately eighty-seven miles in a south-easterly direction. 'From this point going south-east 500 li or so, we come to the country of Kie-pilo-ja-sse-ti (Kapilavastu): This also placed Kapilavastu beside the Rapti River and no more than a mile or two north-west of Gorakhpur town. In fact, both the Chinese had placed Kapilavastu uncomfortably close to Archibald Carlleyle's discredited Kapilavastu site at Buila Tal.

Hoey went over the ground again. 'I began researches as to Buddhist sites: he afterwards wrote. 'I observed in the north-east of Basti [town] many villages called Kapid, which suggested the Kapilavastu kingdom: Further north-east again and near the town of Bansi, Hoey noted a number of scattered mounds but none extensive enough to match the Chinese travellers' accounts. This left him with no option but to follow Smith's lead, so that he too began to cast his eyes further north, even going so far as to employ a local agent who could cross the border into Nepal without restriction. This agent brought back news of what sounded like a second inscribed pillar in the Nepal Tarai, as well as other possible archaeological remains, as a result of which Hoey contacted the Governor of the Western Tarai, General Khadga Shumsher Rana, exiled from Kathmandu Valley and with his summer and winter headquarters at Palpa and Butwal.
 
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General Khadga Shumsher Rana at about the time of his exile to the Western Tarai. In 1887 he would have been aged 26. (Courtesy of Deepak Shumsher Rana)

'In 1893,' continued Hoey, 'I came to know Kharga [sic. Khadga] Shamsher Jang, Governor of Tausem [Tamsem], and he corresponded with me about Buddhism in Nepal, and he even sent me rubbings from pillars, but these were not of Asoka lettering. I did nothing, as I could not go to the places, but I had supplied Kharga Shamsher with heel-ball, and instructed him how to take rubbings. The rubbings he sent were taken under my direction.'

The General's rubbings turned out to be of inscriptions carved on two different pillars by the same man: Raja Ripu Malla, a fourteenth-century ruler of Western Nepal. Like Smith before him, Hoey failed to consider the fact that where there was one inscription visible on a pillar, there might well be others hidden from view.

In March of that same year, 1893, a zamindar named Major Jaskaran Singh of Balrampur, who owned estates on both sides of the border, reported the existence of an inscribed stone pillar inside Nepalese territory at a place called Bairat in the district of Kolhuwa near the border town of Nepalganj, some distance to the north-west of Balrampur beyond Sahet-Mahet. Among those who took note of the report was Dr. Anton Fuhrer in Lucknow, by now a leading figure in the world of Indian archaeology and epigraphy. On 15 September 1893 Dr. Fuhrer published a brief 'Note' in what was then India's leading English-language newspaper, the Pioneer of Allahabad, giving details of the several reports of Asokan pillars and inscriptions in the Nepal Tarai. He also applied to the Government of the NWP&O for permission to visit the Nepal Tarai 'in order to take estampages of the new Asoka edicts.' His request was passed on to the Government of Nepal through the British Resident in Kathmandu, Colonel H. Wylie.

The policy of the Durbar -- as the Government of Nepal termed itself -- had always been to discourage outsiders from entering Nepal. By the terms of its treaty with the British the Durbar was required to host a British Resident and a small staff in Kathmandu but every effort was made to confine his movements and to prevent other British officials from entering the country. However, the Durbar was less fussy when it came to the Nepal Tarai. British officials were regularly invited to join the Ranas in their cold weather tiger hunts and the British Resident was himself allowed to invite guests for his own annual shoot in the Tarai provided their names were submitted in advance. So there was a precedent for Dr. Fuhrer's application for permission, but one complicated by the fact that the governor of the region in question was Prime Minister Maharaja Bir Shumsher Rana's younger brother and exiled rival General Khadga Shumsher Rana. Dr. Fuhrer's application reached the desk of the Prime Minister and stayed there, presumably in the 'Decisions Pending' tray.

Meanwhile, a new contender for the discovery of Kapilavastu had entered the lists: Major Lawrence Austine Waddell, MD, of the Indian Medical Service (IMS). Dr. Waddell had been born in Scotland in 1854, which made him two years younger than Willie Peppe and one year younger than the man he came to regard as his greatest rival, Dr. Anton Fuhrer. Raised in a strict Presbyterian household and trained as an MD at the University of Glasgow, Waddell had come out to Calcutta at the age of twenty-six to join the IMS. His first six years in India had been spent as an assistant sanitary commissioner in Bengal, during which time he had travelled widely through what he referred to as 'the greater part of the Buddhist Holy Land: He had then been attached as a medical officer to the expeditionary force which brought about the deposition of the last king of Ava and the acquisition of Upper Burma. This was his first contact with a Buddhist culture and was followed by seven lonely years in the hill-station of Darjeeling, during which time he made himself an authority on Indian venomous snakes, the birds of Sikkim -- and what he called 'Lamaism: What he discovered in Darjeeling was 'the most depraved yet interesting form of Buddhism' in the form of Tibetan Vajrayana, which both fascinated and repelled him. He got to know some Tibetan exiles and with their sometimes reluctant assistance made at least two bold but unsuccessful attempts to penetrate Tibet in disguise. Finding Tibet closed to him he began to look elsewhere.

Armed with a Tibetan pilgrimage guide to the sacred places of Buddhism, L. A. Waddell took to spending his leaves trying to locate those same ancient sites that Fuhrer, Smith, Hoey and others were looking for. A fruitless foray up the Brahmaputra River in search of the Buddha's Maharaparinirvana site in Upper Assam led Waddell to set aside his Tibetan pilgrim's guide in favour of the newly-available translations of Faxian and Xuanzang. He soon came to share Vincent Smith's belief that the Nepal Tarai was where Sravasti, Kushinagar, Ramagrama and Kapilavastu were to be found -- and he also became increasingly determined that he should be the man to do the finding. 'For many years past: Waddell afterwards wrote --

I had been devoting a portion of my holidays to a search for this celebrated site -- Kapilavastu, the birthplace of Prince Gautama Siddharta, the Buddha Sakya Muni -- as well as for that of the Buddha's death -- Kusinagara -- ever since I had realised that General Cunningham's identification of the villages of Bhuila and Kasia with these sites was clearly altogether false.... Pursuing my search for these two famous lost sites, and attempting to trace the itineraries thither of the Chinese pilgrims, I cross-quartered the greater part of the country in question which lay within British territory, traversing in this search some thousands of miles, of which several hundreds had to be done on foot. ... In addition to accumulating much minor archaeological information, I formed the opinion, from a close study of the locality, that the line of the Asoka edict pillars which runs northwards from Pataliputra seemed intended to mark the route of Buddha's last journey to Kusinagara, where he died; also that ... the birthplace of the Buddha seemed to lie either in the extreme north-west of the modern Gorakhpur district, where I had not visited, or in the Nepalese Terai, where a Tibetan manuscript of mine had placed it.


In the early spring of 1893 Dr. Waddell believed he had achieved an archaeological coup with his exploration of the ruins at Rajdhani at the junction of the Rapti and Paren rivers south-east of Gorakhpur, a site first noted by Francis Buchanan (see p. 56) back in 1813-14. As he went over the ground he became increasingly convinced that he could trace among the ruins at the centre of the complex King Suddodhana's palace, Queen Maya's chamber and Prince Siddhartha's residence, and in its north-west corner the scores of little stupas marking the site of the massacre of the Sakyas. In April 1893, as he was about to make his way to Europe on sick leave, he wrote from Patna to William Hoey in Gorakhpur what reads today like a frantic letter written in great haste, full of scratchings out and heavily overwritten or underscored words. He informed Hoey of his conviction that he had found 'no less an important place than Kapilavastu, for such I fully believe it to be: and he more or less demanded that Hoey, as Collector of Gorakhpur District, take action to secure the site:

My now offering what I believe to be the real site within your district feasibly reachable from Gorakhpur, I trust you may take an active interest in probing this question now raised to the bottom; and the matter is of much urgency on account of the well known fact that the vestiges of these sites are yearly disappearing & becoming irredeemably lost -- and from this particular site all the superficial images have been removed within the last two years .... At present I cannot enter into many details as my health has for the present broken down & I am just going on sick leave for 2 yrs.; but I appeal to you to lose no time in visiting Rajdhani in view of this identification & especially to recover the images which have been removed thence within the past two years .... I trust you will lose no time in instituting a search for them. They must be found, and also further excavating for bricks in three places which even now is going on should not be permitted.


Waddell wrote again a month later enclosing a sketch map of the Rajdhani site, showing how neatly it matched with Xuanzang's account of Kapilavastu. We do not know whether Hoey was able to act on Waddell's requests but he would have sympathised with the point Waddell had had made on the need for action before more archaeological sites and artefacts were destroyed beyond recovery. The ever increasing pace of human settlement of the tarai, north and south of the border, was having a devastating effect on the ancient landscape. The problem, as elsewhere in India, was not so much a lack of will as of funds and manpower. Men like Smith and Hoey were already doing the best they could with what they had.

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Dr. L. A. Waddell, photographed in 1903 after he had joined the Younghusband Mission to Tibet as the expedition's archaeologist. (National Army Museum)

Dr. Waddell's search may have begun as a hobby but by the mid 1890S it had become something more serious. He corresponded regularly with his fellow Indologists but came increasingly to see them either as adversaries or as inferiors who lacked his expertise. He was greatly frustrated by the fact that Messrs. Smith and Hoey, besides being among the 'Heaven-Born; with all the privileges that membership of the ICS conferred, were on the spot and had plenty of opportunities to get out and about -- and that Dr. Fuhrer had even greater opportunities. Whereas he, Lawrence Austine Waddell, had to suffer the indignity of being at the beck and call of both the civil or military authorities. His career had so far been littered with lost opportunities, not the least of which were his frustrated attempts to enter Tibet. In 1892 he had been forced to hand over a most promising archaeological dig at Patna to a PWD engineer, so that when remains from what were almost certainly Emperor Asoka's palace at Pataliputra were uncovered it was the local man and not he who got the plaudits. Then after returning from his sick leave in 1895 he was again prevented from conducting further excavations at Patna by being ordered to the North- West Frontier to join the military column that force-marched into the high Pamirs to relieve the beleaguered garrison at Chitral. On his return he had been appointed to the post of Professor of Chemistry and Pathology at Calcutta Medical College where, to his disappointment, he discovered that his new teaching and administrative duties gave him even less opportunity to follow the Chinese pilgrims' trails than before.
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Re: The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer, by Charles Allen

Postby admin » Tue Feb 16, 2021 5:19 am

Part 2 of 2

In late February 1895 the Government of the NWP&O received word from Co!. Wylie in Kathmandu that the Durbar had at last granted permission for the Archaeological Surveyor of the NWP&O to enter the Nepal Tarai to conduct a search for the reported Asokan pillars. This was late in the season as far as safe travelling in the tarai was concerned but Anton Fuhrer was determined to seize the opportunity. He lost no time in setting out from Lucknow for the Nepal border and in early March met up with his Nepalese military escort at the frontier.

After following a couple of false trails Fuhrer was redirected east to the district centre of Taulihawa, a little township lying eight miles inside Nepalese territory due north of the Birdpore Estate. This was in response to a report of a large stone pillar in that region known locally as Bhimasenaki nigali or 'the smoking pipe of Bhim Sen: The source of this report, never acknowledged by Dr. Fuhrer, was almost certainly General Khadga Shumsher Rana, who was well aware of the pillar's location, having previously sent a rubbing of its inscription across the border to Dr. Hoey.

Although large stretches of the Nepal Tarai had by now been cleared for cultivation there remained numerous swamps, large swathes of high elephant grass and patches of thick jungle, all divided by numerous rivers and streams, and nearly all running from north to south. As a result, the Archaeological Surveyor's progress was extremely slow and arduous until he secured the services of two elephants from a local landowner through the offices of Vincent Smith in Basti. 'After experiencing many difficulties: as Fuhrer put it in his report, he found -- or, more accurately, was directed to -- Bhim Sen's smoking pipe.

The stem of this 'pipe' turned out to be a large pillar with a smooth-polished surface measuring some ten feet six inches and broken at both ends. It was lying just above the water's edge of a small tank or reservoir known locally as Nigliva Sagar, not far from the hamlet of Nigliva.

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Dr. Fuhrer's photograph of the longer section of pillar lying above the water at Nigliva Sagar. (IOL, BL)

The pillar carried an inscription in the form of two lines of mediaeval Sanskrit, the first carrying the well-known Mahayana Buddhist mantra Om mane padme hum, the second reading Sri Ripu Malta chiram jayatu, indicating that a king named Raja Ripu Malla had visited the site as a Buddhist pilgrim. The inscription had been cut round and not down the pillar, which showed that the pillar had been standing upright at that time. What was also apparent was that it had been moved relatively recently, since it had only been prevented from rolling into the lake by two young trees that could not have been more than fifteen years old.

Further up the bank and about twenty feet from this fallen column was the 'bowl' of Bhim Sen's smoking pipe: a second section of pillar showing as a badly damaged stump sticking about a foot out of the ground. This appeared to be the base of the pillar and did not show any sort of inscription -- until the surrounding undergrowth and debris was cleared away.

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The cleared stump of the Asokan pillar at Nigliva Sagar showing part of its damaged inscription. (IOL, BL)

It must have been a very special moment for Anton Fuhrer when the previously hidden lower part of the stone stump was exposed to reveal four neatly inscribed lines of Brahmi, the ancient script of the Asokan edicts. 'The new edict of Asoka,' he afterwards reported, 'is incised in four beautifully engraved lines on the lower half of the mutilated lion pillar, just 10' 6" above its base, and has suffered by its fracture a great deal on its left side in losing the first five letters of the third as well as the first seven of the fourth line: But what he failed to report was that his Nepalese escort had then refused him permission to excavate the pillar to its base, so that his reference to its inscription being 'just 10' 6" above its base' was, to put it bluntly, a fib. Forbidden to dig, he had to content himself making ink impressions and paper moulds of the inscription and taking photographs. He took just three such photographs, all of the two sections of pillar beside the lake, after which he and his party turned about and headed back to the Indian border.

The discovery of the Nigliva Sagar Asoka edict was, by any account, a triumph. Fuhrer's language skills enabled him to make a fair translation but his interpretation had to be confirmed, and immediately upon his return to Lucknow in March 1895 he posted his rubbing of the inscription to his old Sanskrit mentor at the University of Vienna, Professor Georg Buhler -- who very promptly published his translation in the April issue of the Academy journal:

When the god-beloved king Piyadasi had been anointed 14 years, he increased the stupa of Buddha Konakamana for the second time; and when he had been anointed [damaged section] years, he himself came and worshipped it, caused to obtain [damaged].


The opening phrase of the inscription was the familiar royal refrain first identified by James Prinsep and George Turnour almost sixty years earlier as belonging to Emperor Asoka. The rest made it clear not only that the stupa had been enlarged by Asoka's orders but that the emperor had himself come to this site to honour this early Buddha. The name of the Buddha on the inscription, Konakamana, was a Pali version of the more familiar Sanskrit Kanakamuni, the second of the five Buddhas of our age -- and the very same Buddha Kanakamuni whose memorial stupas had been seen and venerated by both Faxian and Xuanzang in close proximity to Kapilavastu.

Faxian, it will be recalled (see p. 90), had visited these memorials while proceeding from Sravasti to Kapilavastu:

Going on south-east from the city of Sravasti for twelve yojanas, (the travellers) came to a town named Na-pei-kea, the birthplace of Krakuchanda Buddha. A t the place where he and his father met, and at that where he attained to pari-nirvana, topes were erected. Going north from here less than a yojana, they came to a town which had been the birthplace of Kanakamuni Buddha. At the place where he and his father met, and where he attained to pari-nirvana, topes were erected.


According to Faxian's account, these last two memorials to Buddha Kanakamuni lay 'Less than a yojana' west of the city of Kapilavastu.

Xuanzang, in his account (see p. 101), had even gone so far as to describe an Asokan pillar seen by him at the site of Buddha Kanakamuni's Nirvana stupa: 'Farther north there is a stupa containing the relics of his bequeathed body; infront of it is a stone pillar with a lion on the top, and about 20 feet high; on this is inscribed a record of the events connected with his Nirvana; this was built by Asokaraja.' This pillar Xuanzang had placed a few miles to the south-east of Kapilavastu, having first walked south 'about 50 li' from Kapilavastu to the Krakuchanda stupas, then north-east 'about 30 li'. Thus both Chinese pilgrims had placed their respective Buddha Kanakamuni stupas roughly the same distance from Kapilavastu -- about six miles, according to the Cunningham reckoning -- but on opposite sides of the city: Faxian to the west, Xuanzang to the south-east. Either way, the positive identification of an Asokan pillar dedicated to Buddha Kanakamuni at Nigliva Sagar by Anton Fuhrer could only mean one thing: that the city of Kapilavastu lay close by.

It is clear from Dr. Anton Fuhrer's subsequent actions that he immediately grasped this fact. But what is equally clear is that he knew he had run out of time. Realising that Kapilavastu was close at hand but having no time left to actually locate it, he did the next best thing, which was to anticipate its discovery - and claim it for himself.

In the preliminary version of his report of his discovery of the Nigliva Sagar Asokan pillar Fuhrer chose to state quite categorically: 'The Capital of the Sakyas [i.e. Kapilavastu] is situated just five miles north-west of Asoka's broken lion pillar lying on the west bank of the Nigali Sagar'; and 'A short distance from the western embankment of the lake (Nigali [Nighira] Sagar) on which the mutilated portion of the edict pillar stands are vast brick ruins stretching far away in the direction of the south gate of Kapilavastu.'

Not content with these two bold statements, he went on to describe in detail what remained of the great stupa of Buddha Kanakamuni seen and described by Faxian and Xuanzang:

The great Nirvana-stupa of Konagamana [Buddha Kanakamuni] is despite its great age still fairly well preserved and rears its imposing pile close to Asoka's Edict Pillar.... Among the heaps of ruins, the Nirvana-stupa of Konagamana is clearly discernible, the base of its hemispherical dome being about 101 feet in diameter, and its present height still about 30 feet. The dome seems to have been constructed of solid brick to a depth of about 20 feet, while the interior is filled up with earth packing. This dome rests of a great circular mass, 109 feet in diameter, built in the shape of a huge brick drum, about 6 feet high, cased with solid bricks of a very great size, 16" by 11" by 3"; thus leaving a procession-path round the exterior of about 8 feet in breadth. About 10 feet beyond the great circular base all round was apparently a stone railing with gateways, the position of which can still be traced. It is thus abundantly evident that the corporeal relics of Konagamana, collected from his funeral pyre, were carefully and securely interred in this stupa, and that his Nirvana stupa is undoubtedly one of the oldest Buddhist monuments still existing in India. On all sides around this interesting monument are ruined monasteries, fallen columns, and broken sculptures.


When Vincent Smith came to read Dr. Fuhrer's final report on behalf of the Government of the NWP&O he was sufficiently impressed to declare that 'There cannot be any doubt that the site [of Kapilavastu] has been correctly identified: What he overlooked was the lack of any supporting evidence to support Fuhrer's claims other than his three photographs of the Nigliva Sagar pillar. Where were the photographs of the 'vast brick ruins stretching far away in the direction of the south gate of Kapilavastu' or of the 'great Nirvana-stupa of Konagamana' that reared 'its imposing pile close to Asoka's Edict Pillar'? Not until three years later did it become clear why there were no other photographs.

It was also some time before anyone -- and, unfortunately for the German archaeologist, it happened to be Vincent Smith -- noticed the remarkable similarities between Dr. Fuhrer's description of the Buddha Kanakamuni stupa and its surrounds and General Cunningham's account of the stupa of Satdara given in his book The Bhilsa Topes, beginning 'The base of the dome is 101 feet in diameter; but its present height is only 30 feet' (p. 321). Elsewhere (p.183) Cunningham had written of 'ruined monasteries, fallen columns, and broken sculptures' (compare these two quoted excerpts with my italicised passages above).

This was by no means the first of Anton Fuhrer's deceptions -- nor was it to be his last. At about this same time the first accusations of plagiarism by Dr Fuhrer began to surface. One concerned the incorporation into his Report on the Moghal Architecture of Fatehpur Sikri of details on the life of Emperor Akbar lifted directly from the British Museum's catalogue of Mughal coins written by the numismatist Stanley Lane-Poole, who then complained in a letter to the Athenaeum that all Dr. Fuhrer had done was to 'interpolate a couple of paragraphs, add a word here and omit one there.' Although Fuhrer afterwards claimed that the plagiarism was inadvertent and due to an error by a member of his staff, there were those who thought that his explanation did not, as Vincent Smith might have put it, wash.

This habit of 'borrowing' passages from other people's writing had probably begun as early as 1892 when in writing about his excavation work at Ramnagar in his annual progress reports on archaeology in the NWP&O Dr. Fuhrer had recycled an analysis on the inscriptions at Sanchi by none other than his old mentor Professor Georg Buhler, something that the latter either failed to spot or kept quiet about.

Following on from his indisputably important discovery in the Nepal Tarai Dr. Fuhrer returned in the cold-weather season of 1895-96 to Mathura, the site of his early and highly productive excavations of 1888-89, 1889-90 and 1890-91. But this fourth season did not go nearly as well, largely because he dug at a new mound some distance away from his earlier excavations and was hampered throughout by a local landowner who claimed the land belonged to him and took possession of whatever the excavators dug up. The best that the Archaeological Surveyor could come up with was a Buddhist processional path carrying an inscription stating that that it had been repaired in Samvat 76 by the Kushan king Vasishka (i.e. in the 76th year of the Kushan dynasty, samvat being the word for a dynastic calendar). Unfortunately, no rubbing or photograph of the inscription was taken, leading its finder's chief prosecutor, Vincent Smith, to afterwards declare that 'there can be no doubt that the Vasuska [sic. Vasishka] inscription can only be a product of his [Fuhrer's] imagination.'

Eventually Fuhrer was forced to abandon the disputed site and return to the Kankali Tila digs which he had excavated so successfully in earlier years. Even so, when he got back to Lucknow at the end of March 1896 he was still able to declare in his Museum Report that, for all his difficulties, he had returned with '57 ornamental slabs of great finish and artistic merit and 15 inscribed bases of images: According to Fuhrer, one of the latter was particularly noteworthy:

One inscription especially, dated Samvat 299, and inscribed on the base of a life-sized statue of Arhat Mahavira [the founder of Jainism] possesses, in spite of the omission of the reigning king's name, a considerable interest, and, in all probability, indicates that the dates of the Kushana kings of Mathura must be interpreted otherwise than is usually done. Hitherto the dates of the Kushanas have been taken to be years of the Saka era of 78 A. D., supposed to have been established by king Kanishka; but on the strength of this inscription it would seem that the beginning of this northern era must fall in the first half of the first century B.C.


Here, it seemed, was evidence that the Kushan dynasty of Gandharan kings had become established a full century earlier than previously supposed. It was some years before anyone thought to question that claim, or to examine the sculptures and inscriptions in question.

In the meantime, Dr. Fuhrer's discovery of the Asokan pillar in the Nepal Tarai was causing considerable excitement among the small band of Kapilavastu seekers. From Calcutta Dr. L. A. Waddell wrote to Lucknow for a copy of Fuhrer's report and received no reply, so it was not until very late in 1895 that he finally saw a copy of the article containing Professor Buhler's translation of the Nigliva Sagar inscription published some months earlier. No sooner had he read it than he realised that the Kanakamuni Asokan pillar found by Fuhrer at Nigliva Sagar could only be the one described by Xuanzang -- which meant that Kapilavastu was waiting to be discovered just a few miles away. Furthermore, the Lumbini Garden where Queen Mayadevi had given birth to the future Buddha must also lie close at hand, since both the Chinese travellers had gone on to Lumbini from Kapilavastu.

Dr. Waddell now believed himself to be the only man who knew where Kapilavastu and Lumbini were to be found. He wrote again to Dr. Fuhrer, and again received no reply. He then wrote to the Secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and received nothing more than a formal acknowledgement to his letter, which so irritated him that he wrote to the Calcutta Englishman, informing its readers that they stood 'on the verge of one of the most important Indian archaeological finds of the century,' for --

the long-lost birthplace of Sakya Muni, with its magnificent monuments, certainly lies at a spot in the Nepalese Tarai, about seven miles to the north-west of the Nepalese village of Nigliva ... The Lumbini or Lumbana grove (the actual birthplace) will be found three or four miles to the north of the village of Nigliva, and the old town of 'Na-pi-kia' with its relic-mound and its inscribed Asoka's pillar, should be found about five miles to the south-west of that village.


Waddell's bold forecast, published on 1 June 1896, was immediately picked up by the other Indian newspapers and excited official as well as public interest. As he had hoped, the Government of Bengal came forward with an offer to bear all the costs of a six-week exploration, provided the Nepalese Durbar was agreeable and provided Dr. Waddell's employers would give him the necessary leave. To Waddell's fury, the Director of the Calcutta Medical College refused to grant him time off. Then in February 1897 he received a letter from the Under-Secretary of the Bengal Secretariat, General Department, informing him that since 'the Government of India could not undertake to find a substitute to act for you' it had decided 'to allow Dr. Fuhrer, Archaeological Surveyor, NWP&O, to carry out the work.'

To be prevented from putting his hypothesis to the test in the field was bad enough but to find his place taken by the man who, as it seemed to him, had deliberately kept him in the dark, was a bitter pill to swallow. Dr. Waddell was, by all accounts, a disagreeable and peevish character with a very high opinion of himself. He was not a man to bear grudges lightly and he continued to nurse this particular grudge for many months, choosing to believe that Dr. Fuhrer had somehow cheated him. In fact, the record shows that the German archaeologist asked the Government of the NWP&O to apply to the Government of Nepal for permission for a second and more detailed exploration of the area round Nigliva Sagar well before the publication of Dr. Waddell's letter in the Englishman. Fuhrer was desperate to get back to Nigliva Sagar, and not simply because he had worked out for himself from the Chinese pilgrims' accounts where Kapilavastu ought to be. He had to get back, having already committed himself by stating in his presented but not yet published report that he had seen the lost city of the Sakyas in the form of 'vast brick ruins stretching far away in the direction of the south gate of Kapilavastu: It was most likely for this reason that he had failed to respond to Dr. Waddell's pleas for information. Anton Fuhrer needed Kapilavastu for himself.

In mid-September 1896 notice was received from Colonel Wylie in Kathmandu that Prime Minister Bir Shumsher Rana had directed his brother General Khadga Shumsher Rana to meet Dr. Fuhrer at Nigliva Sagar, where the Governor would be ready 'to receive suggestions from him regarding the contemplated excavation among the ruins of Buddha Konagrama's Nirvana Stupa.' The implication was that the General would provide a labour force and the Archaeological Surveyor of the NWP&O direct the excavations.

In late November 1896, armed with his permit to enter Nepal and a gift of 800 rupees towards his expenses from his patron Professor Buhler, and once more riding on elephants supplied to him by Babu Shohrat Singh of Chandapur and Shohratganj, Dr. Fuhrer again crossed the border into Nepal. But to his surprise, when he reached Nigliva Sagar and the two sections of Asokan pillar he was met by a messenger from General Khadga Rana telling him to proceed directly to the general's camp at the village of Padariya, some twenty-one miles away to the south-east.

Padariya village lay five miles short of the Indian frontier at a point where the border line bulged south into the plains. It was about thirteen miles north-east of Birdpore House and seven miles from the house of the Peppe's neighbour Duncan Ricketts, assistant manager of the Dulha Estate and the man who had first reported the existence of a stone pillar sticking out of a mound back in 1893. The village itself was surrounded by open fields which had been cleared of jungle a generation earlier. But less than half a mile north-east of the village and the General's tented encampment was a 'five-acre thicket of trees breaking the flat level of the surrounding plough-land,' bounded by a small, meandering stream on its eastern side and a small pond on the south. As a subsequent visitor saw it, 'practically the whole extent of what I have described as a thicket is raised from ten to twenty feet above the surface of the surrounding country. It is, in fact, a huge mass of debris.'

Within this great thicket Dr. Fuhrer was able to make out four mounds, on the largest of which stood a small, box-like brick temple. It had been built only very recently and was dedicated to the river goddess Rupa-devi: 'A small modern mean-looking temple, dedicated to that goddess, was about four years ago erected by a Saiva ascetic on the top of one of the ruined stupas: Peering into this crude little structure Fuhrer saw in a dark recess at the back 'an interesting nearly life-size stone image: This, he learned, had been extracted from the ruins below and set up by the Hindu hermit in occupation as its 'tutelary deity for the worship of the purely Hindu population: From its appearance Fuhrer concluded that it was in fact a Buddhist sculpture, and one of enormous significance:

The sculpture represents Mahamaya [Great Maya, thus Mayadevi, mother of Sakyamuni Buddha] in a standing position, bringing forth the infant Buddha from her right side; the child being received by the four guardian gods of the quarters. Unfortunately the free application of oil and sindur by worshippers has almost destroyed all minor details, and as the image is kept in a dark cella, it was impossible to prepare a photograph or even a drawing of it.


Less than forty feet away from the little temple, sticking out about half-way up the slope on the western side of the mound, was a 'slightly mutilated pillar rising about 10 feet above ground.' It had lost its capital and appeared to have suffered a lightning strike which had split what was left of the column all the way down to the ground. Only the inscriptions that Vincent Smith had earlier dismissed as 'mediaeval scribblings' were visible.

Anton Fuhrer afterwards claimed the discovery of the Lumbini pillar and inscription for himself, and in this was supported by his patron Professor Buhler. But given that the pillar had been known and written about for some years, if anyone had a right to make such a claim it was General Khadga Shumsher Rana, who had previously taken rubbings of the inscriptions on the exposed section of the pillar for Dr. Hoey. On receiving his elder brother's instructions to meet with Fuhrer at Nigliva the General had at once written back 'to report the existence of the Padariya monolith which had already struck me very much for [sic] its unique shape and surroundings characteristic of Ashoka-pillars: He had duly been given permission by his brother to investigate the Padariya pillar, and it was to this end that he had asked Fuhrer to meet him there rather than at Nigliva Sagar. He had wanted to draw on Fuhrer's expertise but, with the example of the Nigliva Sagar stump fresh in his mind, he had come expecting to dig for an Asokan inscription, and to this end had brought with him a team of military sappers. 'It is only needless for me to remark; he wrote afterwards, 'that I had a mind to clear the debris round it for finding out any inscriptions[,] the existence of which to me had seemed very probable:

On his arrival at Padariya on 1 December 1896 Fuhrer was immediately taken to see the unexcavated pillar by the General. He then told him that an Asokan inscription would be found 'if a search was made below the surface of the ground: But what his subsequent report did not say was that he then left the site, most probably returning to his own camp. When he returned later in the day General Khadga's sappers had already dug away the ground on the southern side of the slope on which the pillar stood to a depth of about ten feet.

What the sappers' excavation had also exposed on that same, outer side of the pillar was what Fuhrer afterwards described as 'a well-preserved inscription of the Maurya period in five lines; and Vincent Smith, more precisely, as 'four and a half lines of beautifully incised and well-preserved characters, averaging about 30 millimeters, or little over an inch in height.'

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The central stupa and 'bathing pool' at Lumbini, photographed from the south by Babu P. C. Mukherji in March 1899

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The central stupa and 'bathing pool' at Lumbini, a detail from his map of the same area. In the photograph the top of the Asokan pillar can just be made out half-way down the slope left of the mound topped by the little Shaiva temple. A trial trench dug by Babu Mukherji can also be seen. (Both photo and map are from P. C. Mukherji's Report)

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The newly-exposed lower section of the Asokan pillar at Lumbini, photographed by Anton Fuhrer on 1 December 1896; in attendance, the Hindu ascetic from the nearby temple and one of General Khadga Shumsher Rana's Gorkha soldiers. The newly-revealed Asokan inscription is not visible here but begins about four feet below the end of the split in the column. (IOL, BL)

If Dr. Fuhrer made an on-the-spot translation of the inscription, he failed to communicate it either to General Khadga or to the other European present, Duncan Ricketts from Dulha Estate. What is certain is that the General took two rubbings of the inscription which he gave to Fuhrer, who in turn despatched them to Georg Buhler in Vienna for expert translation. However, a Sanskritist of Fuhrer's ability familiar with the Brahmi script and the already-published Asokan edicts could have had no difficulty in working out the meaning of the first two lines:

Devanapiyena piyadasina lajina visativasabhisitena
Beloved of the gods, King Piyadasi [Asoka] when twenty years consecrated
atana agaca mahite hidabudhejate sakyamuniti
came to worship saying here the Buddha was born Sakyamuni


Those last two words of the second line, hidabudhejate sakyamuniti, must surely have jumped out at Anton Fuhrer when he read them -- to say nothing the phrase lumminigame in the fourth line of the inscription, which could only have meant 'Lumbini village: He knew then exactly who the emperor had come here to venerate -- and why.

Hitherto in his search for Kapilavastu Anton Fuhrer had only had the clues contained in the Buddha Kanakamuni inscription on the Asokan pillar at Nigliva Sagar and the contradictory accounts of the location of Kapilavastu in relation to the Kanakamuni relic stupa provided by the Chinese pilgrims. Dr. Waddell had, of course, very obligingly published his belief that Kapilavastu was to be found seven miles to the north-west of Nigliva but Dr. Fuhrer had no wish to be seen to have acted on his rival's lead. Now, however, with the unambiguous identification of Lumbini Garden he now had two further sets of directions from the Chinese pilgrims to go on. Indeed, he would afterwards claim that 'the discovery of the Asoka Edict pillar in the Lumbini Grove enabled me to fix also, with absolute certainty, the site of Kapilavastu and of the sanctuaries in its neighbourhood. Thanks to the exact notes left by the two Chinese travellers I discovered its extensive ruins about eighteen miles north-west of the Lumbini pillar, and about six miles northwest of the Nigali [Nigliva] Sagar.'

But, of course, the Chinese did not leave exact notes, only conflicting ones. The reader will recall (see p. 92) that to get from Kapilavastu to Lumbini, Faxian had walked east: 'Fifty le east from the city was a garden, named Lumbini'. By Cunningham's method that would place Kapilavastu about eight miles west of Lumbini. Xuanzang (see p. 102) had reached Lumbini indirectly by way of the sacred spring south-east of Kapilavastu known as the Arrow Well, first walking south-east for 30 li and then north-east for 'about 80 or 90 li.' These directions placed Kapilavastu approximately fourteen miles west-south-west of Lumbini. Dr. Fuhrer's subsequent actions show that when faced by four sets of contradictory directions from the Chinese travellers he plumped for Dr. Waddell's advice, which was to look for Kapilavastu 'about seven miles to the north-west of the Nepalese village of Nigliva.'

Before being summoned to Padariya by General Khadga, Dr Fuhrer had planned to excavate at and around the site of the Buddha Kanakamuni pillars using the General's Nepali sappers. Indeed, he afterwards reported that he had done so, excavating down to the base of the pillar carrying the Asokan Kanakamuni inscription, which 'was found to measure 10 feet 6 inches in depth and its base 8 feet 2 inches in circumference; and 'still fixed in situ, resting on a square masonry foundation 7 feet by 7 feet by 1 foot.' But Fuhrer had come to Nigliva Sagar expecting to add real bricks to his so far imagined Kapilavastu and the equally imaginary Kanakamuni stupa -- instead of which he had been summoned to Padariya to witness General Khadga's momentous discovery of the Lumbini inscription. All might have been well if Anton Fuhrer had been allowed to return to Nigliva Sagar to do his excavating. But then the General dropped what amounted to a bombshell by announcing that he 'did not think any other operations feasible on account of the severe famine.'

There had indeed been very severe famine throughout the tarai country that summer and autumn, when the initial failure of the summer monsoon had been followed by the failure of the lesser October rains known as the hatiya. General Khadga was directing relief operations in the Western Tarai, for which he needed all the manpower he could get. It meant that he was removing the sappers that Dr. Fuhrer needed to make his case.

This was an awful blow to Dr. Fuhrer -- and not just because of his extravagant claims about Kapilavastu and the Kanakamuni stupa. The fact was that the very existence of the Archaeological Department of the Government of the NWP&O -- and, with it, his own post as Archaeological Surveyor -- was under threat, with rumours of severe cuts in the funding of the PWD circulating. Furthermore, after ten years of loyal service he was still on the same salary at which he had started: 400 rupees a month or about £400 per annum. A striking example of the value of his department and of his own worth was required -- which he duly provided.

On or about 20 December Fuhrer emerged from the Nepal Tarai to despatch a telegram to the Pioneer newspaper in Allahabad announcing a double discovery: he, Dr. Anton Alois Fuhrer, had found Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, and he had found Kapilavastu, too, the city where Prince Siddhartha had been raised. The Pioneer ran its exclusive on 23 December 1896 and other newspapers quickly picked up the story, which was reported in the London Times on 28 December.

Five weeks later Professor Buhler gave his public support to Fuhrer's claims in a letter entitled 'The Discovery of Buddha's Birthplace' published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society: 'Dr. Fuhrer's discoveries are the most important which have been made for many years,' he declared. 'They will be hailed with enthusiasm by the Buddhists of India, Ceylon and the Far East. ... The [Lumbini] edict leaves no doubt that Dr. Fuhrer has accomplished all the telegram [first published in the Pioneer] claimed for him. He has found the Lumbini garden, the spot where the founder of Buddhism was born.'

Professor Buhler went on to give his translation of the Lumbini inscription:

The decisive passages of the Paderia Edict are as follows: -- 'King Piyadasi (or Ashoka), beloved of the gods, having been anointed twenty years, himself came and worshipped, saying, "Here Buddha Shakyamuni was born" ... and he caused a stone pillar to be erected. which declares, "Here the worshipful one was born.'" Immediately afterwards the edict mentions the village of Lummini (Lumminagama), and adds, according to my interpretation of the rather difficult new words, that Ashoka appointed there two officials.


Since then innumerable attempts have been made to clarify the second half of Asoka's Lumbini edict, within which two phrases still continue to puzzle the world's leading Sanskritists. But over the first two sentences there has never been any dispute: Emperor Asoka had come to Lumbini after the twentieth year of his consecration as ruler; he had paid reverence there, because this was where Sakyamuni Buddha was born, at Lumbini village; and he had caused a stone pillar to be erected to mark that birth.

But it was not just the discovery of Lumbini that Prof. Buhler celebrated. The two inscriptions discovered by his protegee were very important pieces in the still far from incomplete jigsaw of Asokan inscriptions: 'The characters of the two edicts; wrote Buhler in a longer follow-up article for Epigraphica Indica,

agree exactly with those of the north-eastern pillar-edicts of Radhia, Mathia and Rampurva. And their language is the Magadhi of the third century B. C. which is found also in the other two Bairat and Sahasram edicts. in the cave-inscription of Barabar. and in the Sohgaura copper-plate .... The wording of the two inscriptions agrees very closely, and leaves no doubt that they were incised at the same time. It makes also the restoration of the lost portions of the Nigliva edict easy and absolutely certain.


And, of course, there was also the finding of the long-lost city of Kapilavastu, which Anton Fuhrer had located with absolute precision. 'The Paderiya [i.e. Lumbini] edict, of course, fixes also the site of Kapilavastu; added Buhler:

Fahien says that the Lumbini garden lies 50 li or, adopting Sir A. Cunningham's reckoning, 8-1/3 miles east of the capital of the Sakyas, and Dr. Fuhrer has found its extensive ruins eighteen miles northwest of Paderiya 'between the villages of Amauli and Bikuli (northeast) and Ramghat on the Banganga (south-west); covering a space seven miles long and from three to four miles broad. The country of the Sakyas, it now appears, has been looked for too far south by Sir A. Cunningham and his assistants. Sir A. Cunningham's errors have been caused by the vague statements of the Chinese pilgrims, who both say that in travelling from Sravasti to Kapilavastu they went south-east .... Nevertheless, the town lay much further north, and it may be pointed out that its real position agrees with the hints given in the Ceylonese canonical books. According to the Ambattha-Sutta the banished sons of Ikshvaku or Okkaka settled yattha Himavantapasse pokharaniya tire mahd saakasando; 'where there was a great grove of sdka trees on the bank of a lake in the slopes of the Himalaya: This description fits the Nepal Terai better than the absolutely flat districts of Basti and Gorakhpur.
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Re: The Buddha and Dr. Fuhrer, by Charles Allen

Postby admin » Tue Feb 16, 2021 5:28 am

Part 1 of 2

Chapter 5: The Return

Birdpore House, 29 January 1898


The two British visitors Smith and Peppe stayed the night of 28 January at Sagarwa. Whether this was in the Archaeological Surveyor's camp or in their own tents elsewhere is a matter for conjecture, since none of the three left any further account of what passed between them at Sagarwa. But given that Vincent Smith had spent the best part of a decade arguing that Kapilavastu was to be found in the Nepal Tarai and that Anton Fuhrer had publicly claimed to have found Kapilavastu in the Nepal Tarai, it is hard to believe that there was not some enquiry made along the lines of: 'If this, my dear Doctor, is the site of the massacre of the Sakyas then where exactly is the city of Kapilavastu?' It may be that both men were keeping their cards close to their chests yet the amateur and the professional were equally aware that the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang had given a specific site for the massacre of the Sakyas when he had written:

To the north-west of the capital [Kapilavastu] there are several hundreds and thousands of stupas, indicating the spot where the members of the Sakya tribe were slaughtered. Virudhaka-raja having subdued the Sakyas, and captured the members of their tribe to the number of 9,990 myriads of people, then ordered them to be slaughtered. They piled their bodies like straw, and their blood was collected in lakes.


If the site that Dr. Fuhrer was excavating was indeed the site of the massacre, which appeared to be the case from the evidence emerging from the stupas, then Kapilavastu city itself was close by to the south-east. Yet, bizarrely, there seems to have been no mention from either party of a most promising archaeological site, well known locally as Tilaura Kot, less than five miles away to the south and concealed in the same patch of forest through which the two Britons had crossed on their elephants the previous day. Had Fuhrer brought up the subject of a great walled enclosure at Tilaura Kot, Smith would surely have demanded at least a cursory look at it -- instead of which he and Peppe set off back to the Indian border at first light on the morning of 29 January.

However, the two gentlemen did make one diversion on this return journey -- to the lake at Nigliva Sagar to see 'Bhim Sen's smoking pipe': the stump of the Asokan pillar and its Buddha Kanakamuni edict. 'We returned from the camp: wrote Smith, 'in a south-easterly direction (I cannot give exact bearings) and after passing some ruins and going about a mile and a half, we reached the west end of the Nigliva lake, where the Asoka Pillar lies: They saw no signs of recent excavation. Fuhrer was to assert that his dig at Sagarwa lay four miles north-west of Nigliva Sagar, but modern satellite mapping shows that Smith's estimate of a mile and a half to be more accurate: Sagarwa lake is two miles north-west of the much smaller lake at Nigliva Sagar.

Once back at Birdpore House, Vincent Smith sat down with Willie Peppe to help him plan out a report on his excavation, which they agreed should go to the Royal Asiatic Society in London together with an introductory note from Smith. Willie would draw up plans and cross-sections of the excavation while Mrs Peppe would employ her artistic skills to provide drawings of the reliquary vases and a representative selection of the offerings they contained. On the afternoon of Sunday 30 January Vincent Smith left for Gorakhpur, where he was due back in his magistrate's court next morning.

The Peppes' next important visitor seems to have been Dr. William Hoey, now promoted to Commissioner of Gorakhpur Division, who must have been following events with the greatest interest ever since being officially notified of Peppe's discoveries by the Indian magistrate at Basti. His main focus of interest was evidently the inscription on the Piprahwa vase, which he subjected to a careful examination before making his own copy in the form of a pencil rubbing. He then returned to Gorakhpur to work on a translation, published in the Allahabad Pioneer on 27 February. Since Dr. Hoey was a servant of Government his notice could not be attributed to him but was ascribed to 'a correspondent':

I have seen the objects recovered by Mr Peppe in his excavation of a stupa at Piprahwa Kot on his estate on the north of the Basti district, which you noticed in your column about a month ago. A Pali inscription on one of the steatite urns is of great interest. It runs:

Yam salilanidanam Budhasa Bhagavato Sakiyanam sukittibhattinam sabhaginikanam saputadalinam.


Which may be translated:

'This relic deposit of the Lord Buddha is the share of (i.e. the share allotted at the division of his ashes after cremation to) his renowned Sakya brethren, his own sister's children and his own son.'


Hoey's notice was the first to alert the general public that what had been interred in the stone coffer of the Piprahwa stupa appeared to be no less than the Sakya clan's portion of Buddha Sakyamuni's ashes.

Dr. Fuhrer's proclaimed double discovery of Kapilavastu and Lumbini in the Nepal Tarai was received by the local Indologists with mixed feelings. The first to react was Dr. William Hoey. Immediately after reading Dr. Buhler's account in the April 1897 issue of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society he contrived to slip over the border into Nepal in what was afterwards described as 'a hasty visit to Rumminidei.' He took with him his junior colleague Walter Lupton, the Joint Magistrate of Gorakhpur, in what was probably an unofficial visit made with the approval of his old acquaintance General Khadga Shumsher Rana. As well as inspecting the Asokan column and confirming the general accuracy of Buhler's reading of its inscription the two officials also 'had the good fortune to discover in the main shrine close to the pillar ... a statue of Maya giving birth to the Buddha .... The image is of nearly life-size, and the infant is represented, according to the legend, as emerging from the right side of his mother, and being received by attendants: This was, of course, the same nativity sculpture first identified by Anton Fuhrer five months earlier.

No less exercised by Fuhrer's triumph was Vincent Smith, for it appeared to vindicate his theory that Sravasti- Jetavana had to lie north of the position ascribed to it at Sahet-Mahet. In order to put that theory to the test he took some weeks' local leave at the start of the cold weather of 1897, having secured permission from the Kathmandu Durbar to make a couple of brief forays into the Nepal Tarai. His expedition took him in mid-October first to Birdpore House, where he advised Willie Peppe on how best to proceed with the excavation of what was at that time the only partly-revealed Piprahwa Kot stupa, and then to Lumbini. He made what must have been a very hurried inspection of the Asokan column before returning to Indian territory and travelling by rail to Gonda in Oude. Here he met up with the civil surgeon of the district, Dr. Vost, a fellow numismatist and an authority on coins of the Muslim period.

On 28 October the two men took another train to the border town of Nepalganj in the Western Tarai, approximately ninety miles east-north-east of Taulihawa. Vost had arranged for elephants to meet them and they lost no time in mounting their beasts and directing their mahouts to take them in a generally easterly direction for about six miles, which brought them to the edge of a broad expanse of sal forest. Here they made camp in a grove of trees near the village of Balapur. The next morning they pushed deep into the jungle until they came across 'a very extensive area of low mounds ... covered with forest in many places all but impenetrable, and deeply scored by watercourses.' They gathered up some 'small and much defaced fragments of terra-cotta figures' before forging on through jungle cut with deep ravines to emerge on the western bank of the River Rapti at 'a spot known as Intawa (i.e. brick ruins); where they found two small brick stupas, one 'opened on the south side down to ground level by treasure seekers: From the local Tharu jungle dwellers they learned that the ruins here had formerly been much more extensive but had been washed away by the river. Gathering darkness forced them to return to their camp and it was dark by the time they reached their tents.

'The people of Nepal are very timid about giving information to Europeans,' grumbled Smith afterwards in an article bearing the uncompromising title of 'The Discovery of Sravasti' —

and we were consequently unable to extend our researches. Enough, however, was learned to prove beyond doubt that Intawa marks the site of an extremely ancient and considerable settlement on the west bank of the Rapti. From native information we gathered that very extensive remains exist buried in the forest north-west of Balapur and west of Intawa. ... The indications point to the existence of an extensive city with outlying towns and villages. ... We are of opinion that the remains in that tract which we saw and heard of are certainly the remains of the great city of Sravasti, which was already in ruins when Fa-hian visited in or about A. D. 406.


Smith's report of his foray was duly published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society but gained no acceptance. His supposed Sravasti on the western bank of the Rapti lies a few miles northeast of what is now the bustling border town of Nepalganj and what remains of it still awaits the archaeologist. From the evidence of a surviving letter from Col. Wylie, British Resident in Kathmandu, it is apparent that Smith also hoped to find Kushinagar in the Eastern Nepal Tarai. Having learned there was a village in the foothills of Eastern Nepal called Kusina he wrote seeking permission to visit it. Wylie's reply, dated 1 November 1897 and enclosing a tracing of a map showing where Kusina was located, told him his quest was pointless: 'From this [map] you will see where Kusina is situated, and, as it is far in the hills, I fear there is no chance of the Durbar's allowing any of us to visit it.' That was the last anyone heard of Kusina.

A year after the publication of Prof. Georg Buhler's laudatory article Dr. Fuhrer's star as the discoverer of Lumbini and Kapilavastu still appeared to be very much in the ascendant. Scores of articles about the twin discoveries had appeared in newspapers, periodicals and learned journals in Asia, Europe and America, all naming their discoverer. True, there had been some mutterings following the publication on 22 September 1897 in the Pioneer of a letter accusing the Archaeological Surveyor of the NWP&O of further plagiarism in reproducing without acknowledgement in his Monograph on Christian Tombs in the North-Western Provinces passages from an earlier source. And a bad-tempered argument was also being played out in the Indian papers, with Dr. Waddell of the IMS complaining to anyone who would listen that `the entire credit' for the discovery of the Buddha's birthplace had been given to the German archaeologist when it should have gone to him, since 'it was I who first pointed out the clue which the Niglivi Pillar gave us for fixing with absolute certainty the place of Buddha's birth' — and with Dr. Fuhrer responding by accusing the other of making 'egotistical statements; but also pointing out that what Waddell had actually said was that 'The Lumbini Grove (the actual birthplace) will be found three or four miles to the north of the village of Nigliva; whereas he, Dr. Fuhrer, had actually found Lumbini thirteen miles to the south-east of Nigliva. Their quarrel spilled over onto the letters pages of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society in London before the Council of that august body stepped in to declare the correspondence closed.

But it was not closed as far as Dr. Waddell was concerned. Convinced that his reputation had been besmirched, he continued to harry Dr. Fuhrer, intent on securing a full retraction of his claims and an apology.

And then there was also the small matter of the growing complaints of a venerable Buddhist monk from Burma, one U Ma, concerning Buddha relics sent to him by Dr. Fuhrer from Kapilavastu — complaints which at this time must have seemed no more threatening than the proverbial few tiny black clouds on the distant horizon.

Following the triumph of December 1896 Fuhrer had applied for permission to return to Nepal in the cold weather season of 1897-98, in order to conduct a full excavation of 'the ancient sites of Kapilavastu and the Lumbini Grove' and also to explore the Tarai further `to determine the ancient sites of Sravasti, Ramagrama and Kusinara [Kusinagara], three famous pages in Buddhist literature, and described by the Chinese Buddhist pilgrims Fa Hien and Huien Tsiang.' He had succeeded in staving off the closure of his Archaeological Department for another year but his own position as Archaeological Surveyor was still under threat and the vultures of the PWD still circled. The lost city which he had already claimed to have located was still waiting to be revealed in all its glory and he knew exactly where it would be: six or seven miles to the northwest of Nigliva Sagar.

In late November 1897 the permission Fuhrer had been waiting for finally came through, but with the proviso that he was not to enter the Nepal Tarai before 20 December and then only under the strictest conditions: 'The Darbar [Durbar] wish it to be clearly understood that Dr. Fuhrer will have no authority to make excavations on his own account or to issue any orders, He should merely suggest to the Nepalese officials the best course to be followed, and they on their part will allow him to make casts of any objects of interest'.

These conditions were far from ideal but Fuhrer had no alternative but to accept. He crossed into Nepal on the appointed day to find waiting for him a supervising officer in the person of Captain Bir Jang, the 'Nepalese Captain', and a labour force of 200 Tharus, rounded up from nearby villages and quite unaccustomed to working with picks and shovels.

What he did not know was that someone — almost certainly General Khadga Shumsher Rana — had beaten him to it. The General was no fool. He had kept himself fully abreast of what was going on south of his territory and was bound to have learned of Dr. Waddell's prediction published in the Calcutta Englishman on June 1896 that Kapilavastu was to be found 'about seven miles to the north-west of the village of Nigliva: There is strong circumstantial evidence to show that General Khadga made his own bid to find Kapilavastu, either in the weeks following his discovery of the Lumbini inscription in December 1896, after he had warned off Dr. Fuhrer with the remark that he 'did not think any other operations feasible on account of the severe famine', or in the first weeks of December 1897 before Fuhrer's arrival. It is more than likely that, taking Dr. Waddell's cue, the General started at the Asoka pillar beside the lake at Nigliva Sagar and proceeded in a north-westerly direction for seven miles. The only problem would have been that before three miles were up he and his party would have arrived at the River Banganga and the large oval-shaped lake beside it called Sagarwa. Between the river and the lake stood a large mound. What is beyond dispute is that someone or some persons took a great chunk out of this mound. It could have been the people of the new township of Taulihawa springing up five miles to the south, who used it as a quarry for bricks which they extracted and then shipped down river — or it may have been General Khadga Shumsher Rana.

The strongest piece of evidence that the first excavator of Sagarwa was the General was provided by the distinguished French linguist Dr. Silvain Levi, who happened to be in Kathmandu Valley at this time, doing his best to decipher ancient inscriptions in the face of the hostility of just about everyone except the Prime Minister, Maharaja Dir Shumsher Rana. In an entry to his diary made on 27 January 1898 Levi noted the belief widespread in Kathmandu that all such inscriptions denoted hidden treasure, adding that 'it is due to such belief that Khadga Shumsher, the brother, has dug out the great stupa of Kapilavastu in order to hunt out the large sum, and they take leave of me with the resonant hope that all this epigraphical treasure will end in treasures of resonant money.'

When it came to Anton Raiser's turn to seek out Kapilavastu, it seems that having met his 'Nepalese Captain' at the border on 20 December he did exactly what General Khadga had done before him. That is to say, he returned to Nigliva Sagar and then set off in a north-westerly direction, convinced that after seven miles he I would come upon the no-longer-imagined ruins of Kapilavastu. This would be the great prize he could carry back to Lucknow as his own, unshared discovery. It would save his department, his job and his reputation. But, like the General before him, the German archaeologist found himself on the eastern bank of the Banganga well short of his prize.

Fuhrer's preliminary report suggests that his march took him to the banks of the Banganga upstream of Sagarwa and that, determined to go the full distance, he decided to follow the river upstream for another four miles. A four-mile march north brought him nothing, but a mile to the east was the little Tharu village of Bikuli (today Biduli). Here he discovered that the villagers had built their own dwellings of wattle-and-daub and thatch beside a much earlier settlement. Digging into the ruins of what he decided was a Shaiva temple, he uncovered what he described as 'a stone image of Abhaya-devi, the tutular goddess of the Sakyas, sculptured as if "rising in a bent position", as described by Huien Tsiang: By a further leap of faith, the Doctor recognised this statue as the pre- Buddhist deity Isvara-deva seen by Xuanzang outside the eastern gate of Kapilavastu city, when he had written: 'Outside the [eastern] gate is the temple of Isvara-deva. In the temple is a figure of the deva made of stone, which has the appearance of rising in a bent position. This is the temple which the royal prince when an infant entered:

All Anton Fuhrer's subsequent movements stemmed from this piece of self-deception. 'In order to test in another instance the accuracy of Huien Tsiang's description of Kapilavastu; he afterwards wrote, 'we examined the ruins of the ancient Siva temple, which was situated outside the eastern gate of the city.'

Convinced that he was now close to the eastern gate of Kapilavastu Fuhrer turned about and followed the Banganga back down river until he came to the lake of Sagarwa. But he had, of course, been preceded by General Khadga and he must immediately have seen that the great stupa between the river and the lake had already been brutally excavated. Putting this unfortunate fact to one side, he set his 200 Tharus to excavate what could only be Kapilavastu. It was from here that he wrote to Willie Peppe on 19 January (see p. so), heading his notepaper 'Camp Kapilavastu.'

Fuhrer's first area of excavation was the land between the damaged stupa and the western end of the lake. Here a line of small square stupas soon began to reveal themselves. Not until the dig was well under way could he accept the fact that there was nothing here to match the Chinese pilgrims' descriptions of the city of Kapilavastu, and that the only reference to a lake near Kapilavastu was to found in Xuanzang's description of the site of the massacre of the Sakyas:

To the north-west of the capital there are several hundreds and thousands of stupas, indicating the spot where the members of the Sakya tribe were slaughtered. Virudhaka-raja having subdued the Sakyas, and captured the members of their tribe to the number of 9,990 myriads of people, then ordered them to be slaughtered. They piled their bodies like straw, and their blood was collected in lakes.


Xuanzang's predecessor Faxian had said very little about the Sakya massacre site beyond providing one snippet of information: A tope [stupa] was erected at this last place, which is still existing: Xuanzang's lake, Faxian's stupa and the series of small stupas now being revealed forced Dr. Fuhrer to abandon his first assumption that this was Kapilavastu and conclude instead that Sagarwa could only be the site of the Sakya massacre. This change of heart appears to have taken place just before the unexpected arrival in his camp of Vincent Smith and Willie Peppe on 28 January. In subsequent letters written in February his camp site was referred to simply as 'Camp Sagrawah'.

Shortly after the departure of his two British visitors Dr. Fuhrer moved his workmen from the excavation site seen by Smith and Peppe to two other sites close by. One of these was the great stupa already wrecked by General Khadga or persons unknown, where his Tharu coolies dug down to its foundations to uncover an unusual floor-plan made up of fifteen square chambers. Exactly at the centre they found a cylindrical red earthenware casket covered by a copper lid containing 'several pieces of human bone two heavy triangular bits of gold and silver, two figures of Nagas worked in gold, pieces of a pale greenish crystal, a garnet and a ruby, besides some grains of rice and pieces of black and white talc.'

Image
The Sagarwa excavations undertaken by Dr. Anton Fuhrer, as mapped by Babu P. C. Mukherji a year later. The much damaged 'great stupa' with its exposed foundations is shown in the top left. The initial excavations of the 'massacred Sakya' stupas lie between the great stupa and Sagarwa lake. The second group of Sakya stupas were uncovered in the excavated area shown in the bottom right corner, with Fuhrer's excavated 'lion temple' in the bottom left.

Drawings of these relics and relic offerings were made by Fuhrer's draftsman and afterwards logged in Lucknow. But then Dr. Fuhrer chose to add to his preliminary report by stating that the great stupa 'on excavation turned out to be the relic-stupa of the Sakya Mahanaman, the successor of King Suddhodana of Kapilavastu: He could say this because on the copper lid of the reliquary he had found 'incised the following:- "Relics of the Sakya Mahanama": This was a detail that his draftsman Bhairava Baksh somehow overlooked in making his drawing of that same reliquary. The next site excavated by Fuhrer was about 350 yards to the south-east and close to the village of Sagarwa. What he hoped to find here was the northern gate of Kapilavastu. Instead his Tharus uncovered yet more small stupas similar to the ten already uncovered on the western side of the lake. Not until he had uncovered another seven did he call a halt and move on.

On 3 February Dr. Fuhrer wrote to the Peppes at Birdpore to thank them for a shirt he had just received, and to tell them that he was still working on a translation of the inscription from the Piprahwa relic casket based on Willie Peppe's imperfect copy: 'I am reluctant to give you at present a complete translation of the inscription on the shrine relic casket, as I cannot yet make out the meaning of the last word of it: His Tharu labourers were by now working on a fourth site, which Fuhrer's draftsman, Bhairava Baksh, afterwards remembered as being about a quarter of a mile south of the despoiled great stupa. 'At present,' he continued in his letter, 'I have commenced excavating a very old lion temple which existed [illegible] at the home of Buddha Gautama and as the foundations are just being exposed I am afraid to leave the coolies here alone.' Fuhrer closed his letter with the hope that he would be able to arrive at Willie Peppe's excavation at Piprahwa on 22 February 'as Captain Bir Jung says we cannot stay any longer here.'

February 22nd came and went at Birdpore House with no sign of the Archaeological Surveyor. Two day's later a messenger brought a letter from Dr. Fuhrer at 'Camp Sagrawah' containing news that his excavations at that site were at last completed and that he was now moving south:

We have only just [brought to an end?] our work, and I am going tomorrow to Lori Kudan near Taulihava, where there had [been reported?] another broken pillar. I hope to arrive at Piprawa-kot on Friday evening at about six o'clock, and shall be glad to see you on Saturday morning, in order to see what is to be done next season, as I fear it will be almost impossible for me to commence the work this season, as I have to go to [Khajnapore?] in Bundelkhand on some urgent work. Of course, my draftsman will prepare drawings of the places [excavated?] by you and also to do photos [etc?] of all the relic caskets, and their contents, if you will so kindly permit it.

Believe me,
Yours sincerely
A. Fuhrer


Dr. Fuhrer finally struck camp at Sagarwa on 24 February and proceeded south with his labour force to the district headquarters of Taulihawa eight miles away. To get there he, his Nepali escort and the zoo Tharus had to pass through the stretch of dense sal forest extending eastwards from the banks of the Banganga for four or five miles. Had he travelled in a more or less straight line, he must have passed within a mile of the kot at the heart of this forest — no insignificant mound but a rectangular enclosure complete with walls and moat extending for almost two miles in circumference. Inexplicably, Fuhrer by-passed Tilaura Kot as though unaware of its existence, seemingly intent only on reaching the site of the second broken pillar. Yet someone must have told him of the existence of this kot in the forest, because it is there marked in a crude map drawn up after his expedition to Lumbini the year before.

Dr. Fuhrer's attention was quite evidently focused on finding the 'broken pillar' he had spoken of in his letter to the Peppes sent from 'Camp Sagrawah' on 23 February. His locating of this third Asokan pillar at the village of Gotihawa, three and a half miles south-west of Taulihawa, he represented as further vindication of the accuracy of Xuanzang's description of Kapilavastu and its surrounds:

In yet a third instance Hiuen Tsiang's account proved to be correct. According to his itinerary Krakusandha Buddha's relic stupa, with its Asoka Edict pillar, stood about six miles south of Kapilavastu. This direction pointed to the modern village of Gotihva [Gotihawa], just 2-1/2 miles south-west of Taulihava, where a high conical-shaped brick mound still exists. On excavating the western side of this mound, we alighted upon a broken Asoka column, still 10' 9" high, standing in situ upon a masonry basement being one solid block of stone measuring 7' by 7' by 1' ... As the season had already far advanced, we were unable to continue our researches, in order to trace the missing portions of the pillar.


The Gotihawa pillar was indeed an Asokan column and its base was indeed firmly set in rock foundations. But, of course, Fuhrer had been led to the site not by Xuanzang's directions but by local information, as stated in the Peppe letter. The fact remained that it was an extremely important archaeological find even without an Asokan inscription and it led Fuhrer to deduce that since the Nigliva Sagar pillar was dedicated to Buddha Kanakamuni, the Gotihawa pillar had to be the other Asokan pillar seen by Xuanzang near Kapilavastu, of which he had written:

To the south of the city [of Kapilavastu] going 50 li or so, we come to an old town where there is a stupa. This is the place where Krakuchanda Buddha was born. ... To the south of the city, not far, there is a stupa; this is the place where, having arrived at complete enlightenment, he met his father. To the south-east of the city is a stupa where are that Tathagata's relics (of his bequeathed body); before it is erected a stone pillar about 30 feet high, on the top of which is carved a lion. By its side (or, on its side) is a record relating the circumstances of his Nirvana. It was erected by Asoka-raja.


By the Cunningham rule this placed Kapilavastu city some nine miles north-west of the Krakuchanda pillar. Dr. Fuhrer's Sagarwa site was some twelve and a half miles to the north-east; the overlooked Tilaura Kot site in the jungle six and a half miles away and almost due north. However, there was no question of going back to take another look. Once again the Archaeological Surveyor had run out of time.

Dr. Fuhrer finally turned up at Birdpore House on the evening of Friday 26 February, having come on directly from Gotihawa. Here to his disappointment he learned that Willie Peppe intended to continue the excavation of the Piprahwa stupa and its surrounding monasteries — but under the direction of Vincent Smith. Nor was Peppe prepared to co-operate with him in preparing a joint article for publication in an academic journal, since he and Smith were already doing just that for the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. Fuhrer's remaining hopes rested on securing the Piprahwa stone coffer and its contents for the Lucknow Museum, but here too he found Peppe strangely reluctant to do his duty. He had done all that was required of him, which was to inform the acting Collector and Joint Magistrate of Basil District, Pandit Misra, who had duly informed the Commissioner of Gorakhpur Division, Dr. Hoey. As far as Peppe was concerned, what happened next was up to the Commissioner.

So in the end Dr. Fuhrer had had to content himself with a cursory inspection of the excavation site (see photo on p. 26) and the contents of the coffer lodged at Birdpore House. Meanwhile his draftsman, Bhairav Bhaksh, made three somewhat rushed drawings and took four photographs: one of the Piprahwa stupa, one of the five reliquary caskets and two of the inscribed reliquary vase, back and front. In his subsequent report Fuhrer restricted himself to a summary of Peppe's excavation and his professional opinion that the Piprahwa stupa was indeed 'the identical one which the Sakyas of Kapilavastu erected over their share of the relics, received at the time of the partition [division of the relics], and which was built for the express purpose of spreading the belief in the Buddha'.
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