February 2, 2010

WHERE WAS BUDDHA BORN?

BELOW IS A TEXT OF BUDDHA BIRTH PLACE CONTROVERSY DISCUSSED IN INDO-ERUASIAN RESEARCH FORUM ( http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Indo-Eurasian_research/message/12794 ) ON AUGUST 1, 2009 AND AFTERWARDS.

THANK YOU,

THE HIMALAYAN VOICE
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[Mod. note. I hope your intent here is ironical, Rana.) We've had to edit your post a bit for clarity, and that's how we'd like to take it. There is grim humor in pointing out how deeply linked S. Asian politics are with imagined ancient history: public demonstrations in a region armed with nuclear weapons about the "birthplace" of a figure who may be mythological or at least semi-mythological may not bode well for the planet's long-term
survival. These odd news stories are reasonable "weekend style" topics for discussion, in any event. - SF.]

Dear List,

I've been scratching my head for sometime. Earlier this year, Nepal banned an Indian film entitled "Chandni Chowk To China" in which the birth place of Buddha was claimed to be in India. An officer from Government of Orrisa has also written that Kapileswar is the birth place of Buddha.
http://orissagov.nic.in/e-magazine/Journal/jounalvol1/pdf/orhj-3.pdf
But, archaeological finding have already "confirmed" [mod.: quotation marks added] that Nepal's Kapilvastu is the birth place of Buddha is Nepal's Kapilvastu -- Nepal's Lumbini.

B. K.Rana
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Dr. C.B. Patel, the Superintendent of Orissa State Museum.

The New York Times

"Academically, it cannot be determined -- and I don't think there is any way to ever know for sure," said Hiroyuki Kawashima of the Japan Buddhist Federation
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Re: [Indo-Eurasia] Where was Buddha born?

Reply by: John C. Hungtington


As Michael has noted, the place of the Buddha's birth is "resolved" by an Ashokan inscription as being at the Lumbini site in what is now modern Nepal.

At the time of the Buddha-to-be's birth, areas of of the Indic subcontinent were identified as janapada "tribal bases" and there was nothing like the concept of modern boundary. Even the best of maps of today have to use a very "fuzzy" circle to designate the local of a janapada. The Shakya janapada is not one of the sixteen "listed" Buddhist janapadas But lay on the Nepal Bihar state Border between Koshala in the West and the Virji (Vrijii Confederacy) on the east, These "border-less" states housed the clan or tribal military bases and usually some sort of center (i.e., town or fort) The earliest visual representations are the town-scapes in the Sanchi Torana and they depict very substantial structures.

While, Lumbini has never to my knowledge been seriously questioned (except by N.K. Sahu, in his Buddhism in Orissa [Cuttack, Utkal University, 1958] whose ideas are still brought up from time to time, mostly by Orissians), The real question has been where the City of  Kapilavastu was located and to a lesser degree where Mayadevi's home village of Devadaha is in relation to Kapilavastu and Lumbini. This is more a battle of Tourism Departments in India and Nepal rather than archaeologists. For many years, the archaeological site at Tilurakot in Nepal was hailed and visited as Kapilavastu, My own visit to the site taught us little except that, as is typical, some Gupta period bricks were left showing to show that there had been Gupta period structures and stupas there.

See P.C. Mukherji. Antiquities of Kapilavastu,Terai of Nepal, (Delhi, 1969), and Babu Krishna Rijal, Archaeological Remains of Kapilavastu, Lumbini and Devadaha, Kathmandu, Educational Enterprises, Ltd. The Government of Nepal holds to these as the definitive solution to the location of Kapilavastu.

However in the late 70' and early 80's K. M. Srivastava excavated the site of Piprawa and then published The Discovery of Kapilavastu (new Delhi, 1986). For which he cited the evidence he found at Piprawa including some Gupta period seals,inscribed "Kapilavastu" and a lower and earlier layer of relic caskets in the stupa which yielded the Piprawa relics excavated by W. C. Peppe in the 1898 century.

You may see some of the relics and two of the five caskets found by Peppe at:
http://tiny.cc/3h6OW  (tinyurl to the Huntington Archive)

The unfortunate possible involvement of a notorious forger, Alois Fuhrer, who claimed to have found Buddha relics and was selling them to Burmese monk U Ma has cast the Peppe relics into question and the
inscription on the casket identifying the relics into doubt (this is assumed because he was working nearby but there is no proven connection to Peppe, that I am aware of.). And later discussions, I am afraid by perpetual "nay sayers" have attempted to cast doubts on Srivastava's finds. As published, that latter's finds are fairly substantial but questioned as unscientific, therefore not provable, and therefore irrelevant. [Maybe not entirely]

A web "debunking" the finds by Pepe and Srivastava by one Terry Phelps

<http://www.piprahwa.org.uk/The%20Piprahwa%20Deceptions.htm>

has mixed up so many stories and unreliable sources all generously peppered with innuendo as to be virtually useless.

In short, without scientific testing, the bones and ashes in the reliquaries are in question. I see no obvious reason to question the validity of either the sealings or the caskets found by Srivastava's excavations, and a recent (2004) find in England of a part of Peppe's recovered artifacts in the London Buddhist Society add a air of  validity to much of the story.

In short, the location of Kapilavastu is still an unproven archaeological question Gupta seals, while useful for understanding the fifth century CE are not very solid evidence of the 5-4th century BCE. The Ashokan column at Lumbini is far better evidence of what was believed shortly after the Buddha's death but is still not attested evidence.

So where are we? Half fact, half legend and half traditional belief all scrambled together. Which half is right? Good luck?

The only thing we can be absolutely sure of is that none of this is in Orissa.
John C. Hungtington
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Where was Buddha born? 
[Mod. note. I hope your intent here is ironical, Rana. :^) We've had to edit your post a bit for clarity, and that's how we'd like to take it. There is grim ...
Rana 1616
rana1616 
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Aug 1, 2009
6:16 pm

 Re: Where was Buddha born?
Of course, the whole question is ... silly. The historicity of early Pali accounts about the Buddha, apart: Between 1816 and 1864, the Buddha was born, at...
Michael Witzel
witzel_michael 
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Aug 1, 2009
11:35 pm

 Re: Where was Buddha born?
Orissa is very poor. It will benefit greatly from tourism if Buddha were born there? Can we not rotate Buddha's birth place like the Olympics or the cricket...
Rajesh Kochhar
rkochhar2000 
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Aug 2, 2009
1:38 am

 Re: Where was Buddha born?
... There is an old medievalist story about the fact that multiple Christian pilgrimage sites boasted of having the head of St. John the Baptist. The story...
Steve Farmer
yukifarmer 
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Aug 2, 2009
1:49 am

 Re: Where was Buddha born?
As Michael has noted, the place of the Buddha's birth is "resolved" by an Ashokan inscription as being at the Lumbini site in what is now modern Nepal. At the...
John C. Huntington
darumadera 
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Aug 3, 2009
1:55 am

 Re: Where was Buddha born?
... The full tale about Buddha having been born at the village of Kapileswar in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, Orissa can be found in the following paper by the...
Francesco Brighenti
frabrig 
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Aug 3, 2009
2:05 pm

 Re: Where was Buddha born?
I agree this whole debate is very silly. But I was surprised to find the following Frontline article which reported Hermann Kulke had backed Orissa's claim: ...
Suresh Kolichala
suresh_kolic... 
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Aug 8, 2009
12:10 am

 Re: Where was Buddha born?
This probably is a question of the usual bad reporting. Kulke is a serious historian. And of course he knows of the Asoka inscription at Lumbini. -- As an old...
Michael Witzel
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Aug 8, 2009
1:50 am

 Re: Where was Buddha born?
Occasionally i am asked by press and electronic media for my views on some issues ( not Buddha). Whwen my friends ask me : What did you say?, my reply is : I...
Rajesh Kochhar
rkochhar2000 
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Aug 9, 2009
6:55 pm

 Re: Where was Buddha born?
Dear All, Frits Staal, who somehow cannot send his note himself to the list, ... Here is a quote from George Curzon, former Viceroy of India but earlier a...