February 15, 2006

ASI - Buddha or Mahavira?


Was thrilled, when I read the headlines "Buddha statues unearthed near Chennai". Bcos very little has been documented on the rich lineage of buddhism in TamilNadu.

The report read fine, till I had a closer look at the photograph - the statues looked more of the Jain tradition than the buddhist tradition. The customary triple umbrella was there with the chakra symbol. The report too had a reference to it
"One sculpture has a dharma chakra on either side of the Buddha. This was sculpted in the ancient region that is now Tamil Nadu.[what a discovery! - me] The other sculpture has a three-tiered umbrella above the Buddha's head and women bearing fly-whisks."

The full report in Hindu.

ASI people had earlier found a 10th century A.D. inscription in Tamil that mentioned the donation by a king from Sumatra, "Sri Vijaya Maharaja," of land to a Shiva temple at Kolapakkam. Dr. Satyamurthy and Dr. Rajavelu explored the area and found the ruins of a Buddhist temple close to the Agatheeswarar(shiva) temple.

With this info, I presume they had drawn the buddhist conclusion. I had a nagging feel that something was wrong. But I am a big nobody in this area & I felt the ASI cannot afford to make such big a mistake.

To my surprise, I found a Letter in "Letters to the editor" the next day by Theodore Bhaskar, a famous historian pointing out that there was a mistake in identifying the sculpture. And he says the statues are very much that of Mahavira.(Jain). He has asked the ASI to clarify.

Now, this episode casts a long shadow on the discoveries and conclusions of ASI. I'm waiting for the ASI to clariy this issue.

1 comment:

sugan said...

a twist to the tale;

In today's Hindu, Satyamurthy has confirmed that the staues were indeed that of Buddha's. He refutes the claim made by S. Theodore Baskaran, earlier.
Link:http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/thscrip/print.pl?file=2006021401631000.htm&date=2006/02/14/&prd=th

I'm happy that ASI is responding in a big way & not ignoring the public.