Bihar Buddhist sites in a shambles

by Pranav Chaudhary, TNN, May 4, 2015

PATNA, India -- Several Buddhist sites in Bihar are in a shambles. No sincere effort has been made to preserve and protect the decaying Buddhist pilgrimage and heritage sites in the state.

"We are celebrating Buddha Purnima today but we have not been able to take concrete steps to preserve the Buddhist sites, particularly in Bihar," said Arvind Alok, chairman, Buddhist Monuments Development Council (BMDC).

Talking to TOI from Delhi over phone, Alok said the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has failed to protect and preserve Major Buddhist sites at Rajgir and in ancient Vaishali. "I told Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma at a function today about the neglect of Buddhist sites in Bihar. I urged him to take immediate steps for their preservation as it would be the best tribute to Lord Buddha," Alok said. BMDC is a national body dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Buddhist heritage sites.

Noted archaeologist Mohammed K K had a similar view. He had served as a superintending archaeologist, ASI Patna Circle in late 1990s. He told TOI over phone from Hyderabad that several sites needed urgent attention, particularly at Jwafardih (near Nalanda ruins), Jagdishpur (3km from Nalanda site) and Rajgir Stupa. A boundary wall is a must around Kesariya stupa, he said and added that Bihar could attract millions of Buddhist monks, travellers and tourists if these sites were developed properly.

Former professor of ancient Indian history and archaeology, Patna University, O P Jayaswal also said several Buddhist sites, particularly in Vaishali and West Champaran, needed proper protection. "There is an urgent need to archaeologically authenticate the footprints of Lord Buddha in Bihar and develop them accordingly," Jayaswal said.

Rajiva Kumar Sinha, professor of ancient Indian history, Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University, said except Bodh Gaya, no other Buddhist site attracts tourists as well as Buddhists.

"Unless these sites are developed properly, nobody will be interested in visiting them," Sinha said.

Besides neglect, there are also a series of reports about the missing of Buddhist images in various parts of Bihar, including Mithilanchal. "The chance discovery of Buddhist images at Bideshwarsthan, Pastan (both in Madhubani), Bangaon, Mahishi (both in Saharsa district) also suggest the traces of Buddhist links in Mithilanchal. A thorough exploration of this region is required to identify their links with Buddhist sites," said a local social activist Amit Anand.