Wednesday, July 1, 2009

'Nalanda and Rajgir' continued....

Rajgir and Nalanda were among few places which received attention from almost all notable orientalists and enthusiasts of 19th and early 20th century. And rightfully so, the enriched past of the area was in rubbles and there was no account of it anywhere. A number of legends and folklores existed in the area but there was no way to decipher between the truth and the myths.

Buchanan was the first to draw attention to the area with the publication of his interesting finds of the valley and places around Rajgir in 1811.
In 1845, East India Company appointed Kittoe to tread in the footsteps of Fahien. It was a good start though all of his identifications were found incorrect by later explorers and he set a big example of ‘how not to do things’. It was mid-summer and he leaned a lot on his assistants for taking legs, without following through and verifying their work. But to his credit, he chose to start his exploration from this part of Magadha.
A major break through came for the area in 1861 when Alexander Cunningham equipped with the copy of travelogues of Fahien, Xuanzang and reports of Buchanan started his tour to Bodh Gaya and Rajgir. He successfully established the Remains of Bargaon as Site of Ancient Nalanda Mahavihara.
The work that started then was carried further by many explorers. With lots of information and all of it being open to interpretations, its difficult to pin down specific sites and establish a well accepted standard. Work done by some was either confirmed or negated by others following their steps.

For example, the likes of James Ferguson, James Burgess and Auriel stein negated the identification of sone bhandar, site identified by Kittoe and Cunningham as Saptaparni. It was a Mauryan cave in their opinion, too later a period to be saptaparni.
A Cave Site on the north side of Vaibhara hill, identified by Beglar in 1872 is generally accepted as the site of Saptaparni. This site is also not out of contention, John Marshall was of opinion that the site as described by Xuanzang is a “Stone house” and not “Stone cave”, he suggested another site further west at the foot of same hill as more appropriate site for such a council.
Burgess and Ferguson were also of same idea and a question mark on Beglar identification still continues.
{The above example might overwhelm you with the amount of information and contradictions at the same time but we plan to revisit this topic with latest tools of the technology and elaborate more on the details}
Many more explorers like George Grierson, Vincent smith, Dr. Austine Waddell, Sylvain Levy and others made their contribution towards the search but nothing conclusive could be achieved.

In the table below, we have summarized some sites as identified by these explorers and mentioned their status. This would give you a glimpse into the difficulty this situation presented despite the hard work put in by these men and with good intentions…
The identification of sites is summarized below, (click on the image to see larger view)

* Significance of places shall be dealt separately in subsequent chapters

No matter what approach you choose to look at this piece of information, you cannot deny the complexity of it.
Whether you are a traveler, an explorer, a mathematician, a scientist, a spiritualist or just a passer by or anything else you may choose to identify yourself with, you would have to acknowledge that despite the knowledge that is already available, it is a tough task to compile and recreate history. And on top of that the information that is yet to be discovered is damaged and tampered with by the ignorance of the masses. So educating the masses about their heritage and involving the community in its preservation is a way of restoring the past that has been explored and all that is yet to come…

Understanding of the history is an ongoing process that must be continually elaborated and revised as our knowledge in the subject expands. We know the glorious days that this place has witnessed and over the course of time we have come to associate our self with the history and take pride in the importance of this area but that’s just the beginning.
We have a long way to go….
The compilation of all the previous findings and analyzing & corroborating them using the existing maps and latest technology like GIS, etc is an effort to further the work done by previous enthusiast and archeologists…

The interest rekindled has to keep going, the discovered needs to be documented using new technology, conserved and most important of it all, is that the community needs to be involved in the conservation of its heritage and benefit from it in the process.

Let’s together usher a new era of community participation in heritage management…

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