Buddhists pledge to protect religious caves in Mumbai

By Ashutosh Shukla, DNA, Nov 29, 2010

Mumbai, India -- Troubled by the slack attitude of the Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI), Buddhists on Sunday resolved to take up the matter of protecting Buddhist caves more aggressively.

Over thousands of Buddhists attended a daylong seminar organised by the Kanheri Leni Dhamma Parishad Saiyojan Samiti at the Kanheri caves. It was addressed by monks and Republican Party of India (RPI) leader Ramdas Athavale.

President of the Samiti SS Yadaw said, “This is the 14th meet we have organised. Over the years, we have seen that caves at various places like Kanheri, Magathane, Kondivita and Jogeshwari face encroachments or are damaged. In Kanheri itself, due to blind beliefs, devotees have broken coconuts on idols and damaged them. At some places, people have made temples over them. Through such meets, we want to ask people to be aware of the issue and take up the cause forcefully.”

He added that since the idols in these caves were made over two to three centuries ago, the ASI should take good care of them, as they attract a lot of tourists.

“Due to a lack of knowledge of ancient Indian culture, people are destroying them. What is the difference then between what happens here and that what happens in Afghanistan (Bamiya)? The ASI needs to be stricter about this issue,” he added.

At the meet, Buddhist monks urged people to take up religious learning and propagate Buddha’s teachings. Speaking at the event, Bhadant Rahula Bodhi said, “Buddhism is spread across 130 countries and has over 154 crore followers. People abroad know more about the religion than those in the country where the religion originated.”

Athavale said, “Buddha’s message needs to be spread to end the violence in the world.”

In 2009, Anita Rane-Kothare, professor of Ancient Indian Culture at St Xavier’s College, had discovered Magathane caves while conducting research on traditional methods used for rainwater harvesting. She has been fighting a pitched battle to save the caves from encroachment and destruction.