Buddhavana a very significant pilgrimage place associated with the Buddhacārikā (sublime wandering of the Buddha) as mentioned by the 7th century monk-scholar from
Ven. Xuanzang has finally been located. Venerable Xuanzang in his travelogue Ta-Tʻang-His-Yü-Chi (Records of the Western Lands of the Great Tʻang Period) described a place called “Buddhavana” which he visited while going from Kukkuṭapāda Mountain (also Gurupada present day Gurpa) to Yaṣṭhivana (present day Jeṭhian) (fig-1). The Cave as described by Vnerable Xuanzang was on the steep side of precipitous hill where the Buddha stayed for one night. In subsequent centuries the Cave became a sacred place for the followers of the teachings of the Buddha. Some effort to locate Buddhavana was made by Grierson in the late 19th century and later by Sir Auriel Stein in 1899, but their efforts did not yield results. Over the last couple of years we have worked to discover Buddhavana and in the process we have explored many villages. In the month of June of this year, we began a fresh exploration along the strech of hills west of Jeṭhian (Fig-2). China
|Incorrect identification of Buddhavana done by A. Cunningham in 1871.|
|Right identification of Jethian with Yasthivana by A. Stein. But Stein made a wrong identification of Buddhavana by Sahpoor.|
|Correct identification of Buddhavana with Ayer-Pathri.|
|Map depicting identifications by Cunnungham and Stein and the recent identification.|
|Fig-1On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India, Thomas Watters, Vol-2, p. 146|
|Fig-2-GIS Projection of Distance and Direction mentioned by Ven. Xuanzang (Hills in Green)|
Kukkuṭapāda Mountain (also Gurupādagiri) and Yasṭi Wood (Yaṣṭhivana, Laṭṭhivanuyyāna, Laṭṭhivana) have been correctly been identified as Gurpa Hill (identified by R.D. Banerjee and Bloch in 1905, The Antiquarian Remains in Bihar by D.R. Patil p. 157) and Jeṭhian respectively (identified by A. Cunningham in 1871, The Antiquarian Remains in Bihar by D.R. Patil p. 187 ).
Identification of Ayer as Buddhavana
Distance and direction of the Buddhavana mentioned by Venerable Xuanzang takes us exactly to the vicinity of
. Venerable Xuanzang mentions Buddhavana to be above 100 Li NE from Ayer Village(24° 55’ 18 N, 85° 14’ 22 E) Kukkuṭapāda Mountain (Gurpa Hill, 24° 32’ 57 N, 85° 18’ 13 E ) and the is 40 km (aerial distance) north of Gurpa Hill. Venerable Xuanzang then went 30 Li eastward through the valley to Yaṣṭhivana (Jeṭhian, 24° 55’ 54 N, 85° 19’ 12 E ). Jeṭhian is exactly 9 km east of the Village Ayer inside the same valley. Ayer Village
|The 'Buddhavana' Mountain|
|The Rock Shelter were the Buddha stayed for a night|
|Ancient remains near the rock shelter|
|The cave surrounded by many ancient remains|
|"Goraiyan Sthan"- the place of sculpture collective in the village|
People of Ayer village are very happy with this find and have now found the answer to why so many antiquities are found near the Cave. Community elders from the village have already made a move to safeguard the antiquities.
|Shri Vijay Singh from Ayer village has been a great help in|
exploration of the place
|Ancient structures at the top of the hill|
|The flat stone by the cave where Lord Indra grinded Oxhead Sandal |
to rub over the Buddha’s body
|A broken sandstone panel with a Buddhist creed inscription|
1. . . . . . ya tāthāgatōhyavada[t] yo nirodha . . . . . . . . .
2. . . . . . mahāśrama[ṇaḥ] yo dharma hetu prabhava hetu . . . .
|Big mound at the base of the hill is pregnant with remains from the Buddhist past|
Implications of the find and possible future course of action
Under the “Revival of Ancient Buddhist Pilgrimage in Bihar” by Nava Nalanda Mahavihara and Department of Youth, Art and Culture, Government of Bihar, effort is being made in the first phase to revive the pilgrimage path from Bodhgaya to Parwati connecting Pragbodhi, Gurpa, Jeṭhian, Rajgir and Nalanda as walked by Venerable Xuanzang. With the discovery of Buddhavana one big void of this stretch has been filled. Importantly, with this new find, we now know two sites namely Yaṣṭhivana (present Jethian) and Buddhavana (present Ayer) both associated with the Buddha are in the picturesque Jeṭhian
. This provides us an opportunity to develop the whole valley for the Buddhist pilgrimage. Already Hon’ble Chief Minister has revived the ancient PilgrimagePath from Rajgir to Jethian, a 14 Km stretch through the Rajgir valley. Maybe in the coming years, the pilgrimage path might be extended to the “ Valley Buddhavana Cave” at . Ayer Village
Another site in this stretch from Bodhgaya to Parwati, which is still undiscovered, is the place of Udraka Rāmaputra, under whom Siddhartha practiced meditation before attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi tree and becoming the Buddha. The place according to Venerable Xuanzang is somewhere on the way to Kukkuṭapādagiri (Gurpa) from Bodhgaya.
|Children of Ayer village with broken Pala period sculpture scattered in the Village|
|Dr. R. Panth, Director, Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (Deemed University), Nalanda (center),|
Prof. Rajesh Ranjan (left) at Buddhavana Mountain
|Children and people of the village collecting broken, ancient bricks over the stupa remains|