Bid to bring Buddha’s begging bowl back
PATNA: A serious effort is being made to bring back the alms bowl of Lord Buddha, which was enshrined at Vaishali until the first century AD and is currently preserved at the Kabul Museum in Afghanistan.
Former Union minister and RJD MP Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has been trying for over six months to procure the priceless treasure of Bihar from Afghanistan.
Singh had raised this issue in the Lok Sabha this year and also wrote a letter to the external affairs minister, S M Krishna. “In reply, Krishna asked for the ‘provenance’ of this holy relic of Buddha. In response to Krishna’s query, I also made an in-depth study of this subject,” Singh, an MP from Vaishali, told TOI over phone from New Delhi.
Documents available with the TOI said the Indian embassy in Kabul has made inquiries into the matter. It is learned that the begging bowl was in Kandahar until the regime of former president Najibullah. It was later brought to Kabul and is currently in the Kabul Museum.
“We are consulting the Archaeological Survey of India regarding the ‘provenance’ of the bowl as also our legal and treaties division regarding the legal aspects of the issue of recovery of an Indian item of archaeological and historical value,” Krishna said in a letter to Singh.
The letter also said that the bowl is rather large and has inscriptions in Arabic and Persian. Singh also strengthened his point by sending two expert reports – one by ASI’s former director general Alexander Cunningham and another by former Bihar chief secretary and Lokayukta, the late S V Sohoni, to the external affairs minister.
Sohoni in his write-up on “The alms bowl of Buddha from Vaishali” categorically said: “While dealing with some problems of Vaishali history, I had come across Cunningham’s account of available information concerning the famous alms bowl of the Buddha, which according to the Buddhist traditions, had been carried by Kaniska I from Vaishali to Peshawar in the second century AD.
According to Cunningham, the bowl was probably carried off by the people of Gandhara, who migrated westwards to the banks of Arghandab in the ancient ‘Arachosia’, where they founded a city named after their original country Gandhara, which still exists as the Old Kandahar, at a short distance from the modern town of that name.
Cunningham described this bowl as a “huge bowl” carved out of a block of dark green serpentine. Experts say that the bowl seems similar to the one in an Ajanta fresco painting of Vakataka period (3rd century AD).
Singh has urged the experts of various universities, including the JNU, DU, PU and BHU, to find out the actual history and details of the ancient bowl. He has also requested the ASI DG, Gautam Sengupta, to take sincere initiative to bring it back.
“Celebrated Chinese travellers Fa Hien and Xuan Zang had also made references to the Vaishali’s begging bowl in their travel accounts,” Singh told TOI. “Buddha attained ‘parinirvana’ in 483 BC and from that time, for six centuries, i.e. till the first century AD, the bowl was a prized possession of Vaishali,” Singh said.