Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Discovery of Buddhavana

Buddhavana a very significant pilgrimage place associated with the Buddhacārikā (sublime wandering of the Buddha) as mentioned by the 7th century monk-scholar from China 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). 
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)

Identification of Kukkuṭapāda and Yaṣṭhivana
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 ).

Read More- Efforts to involve the community of the Buddhavana

Identification of Ayer as Buddhavana

Distance and direction of the Buddhavana mentioned by Venerable Xuanzang takes us exactly to the vicinity of Ayer Village(24° 55’ 18 N, 85° 14’ 22 E). Venerable Xuanzang mentions Buddhavana to be above 100 Li NE from Kukkuṭapāda Mountain (Gurpa Hill, 24° 32’ 57 N, 85° 18’ 13 E ) and the Ayer Village 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.

The 'Buddhavana' Mountain

The Rock Shelter were the Buddha stayed for a night
The Cave by the steep side of the hill is surrounded by many brick stupas of various dimensions from ancient times. The whole hill has many scattered fragments of votive stupas and sandstone Buddha images. A couple of images even have inscriptions. At the base of the hill is a mound which is pregnant with antiquities. Further exploration and excavation at this site is needed. 

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

Translation of the inscription by Dr. Gurram Srinivas Rao Rao, Epigraphist, ASI, Mysore
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

Ancient bricks

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 JeṭhianValley. 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 “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
Facebook Link of Buddhavana
Children and people of the village collecting broken, ancient bricks over the stupa remains


Renata said...

Great post, and very informative. This was a great help in my search for more information about Buddhavana. If you don't mind, a link to your blog and this article will be featured in my upcoming 'Buddhism in the News: July 2012' post. It will be posted at the end of this month.

Thanks again, also love the pictures. Did you take them yourself?

All the best to you!

Deepak Anand said...

Dear renata.
thanks for your kind appreciation.Our objective is to protect, preserve and promote the Buddhist heritage in Bihar. yes this pictures are mine. let me know if i can be of any help to ur noble work. my email is

Renata said...

Dear Deepak Anand,

Wow! What great work you are doing here! For the past three months I have been doing this 'Buddhism in the news' segment and have been amazed by the almost constant flow of Buddhist antiquities being found and studied. I have already posted several links to these kinds of articles, and hope to link more to your site in the future.

Amazing work! I will let you know when I post my article linking to your site.

Best Wishes,

Unknown said...

I find your work very interesting. Buddhavana Bihar

Buddhavana, (ws. The Buddha's Forest)
Ayer village. Buddhavana is by a hill.
Gaya distriact
10 miles west of Jethian
Yasthivana, ? ____________________ formerly Jethian, Jethian valley
Inscriptions: What do they say?
Tourist, the money world, but then Bihar needs something.
Pali reference- In it was the Supatiṭṭha cetiya, where the Buddha stayed during his first visit to Rājagaha from Gayāsīsa (Brahmayoni Mountain, Gaya), after the Enlightenment. There (King) Bimbisāra visited him with twelve nahutas of followers, and Uruvela Kassapa dispelled their doubts by declaring his acceptance of the Buddha as his teacher
(Vin. i. 35ff, I wonder what this text states?
DhA. i. 88, Not sure of this text's date
AA. i. 166, c. A. D. 410 by Sri Lankan stone inscription dating.
BuA. 18, etc). c. this Pali text may be even later

“Xuanzang visited Ashokan Stupa at place where the Buddha preached law.”
The few pictures I saw, they are reflect Pala. In fact, the sites focus on people and area and not much on the artifact. The one I saw I could not print out, but the pose and form of the figures relate to Old Bagan, thus c. A. D or so.
Dr. Panth, I recently met His Holiness of the Thai-Chinese Mahayana Buddhists and later I met one member of the new dictionary, which is eight time bigger than the one some 40 years ago. I saw on the WWW a Watter quote and that text is c. 100 years old. The above two men I met some 40 years ago. They work with Chinese texts and apparently they now have Xuanzang text up. One text Xuanzang wrote and the other Hue Li, his friend wrote. This committee is looking into the Sanskrit text in this latter's text, which is nandyavarta. One character in the Chinese is NOT sure but it is sure that this term in nandiyavatta in Pali. You may want to look into these publications which are new. I the past they found a Xuanzang text in Korean that was different. Today they work with Taiwan at some centre. I know you have a library, but I don't know if you have the Goenka Pali CD. That may give insight to more Pali data. You certainly have located a great new site. I hope to live to see it. There are so many Pali scholars these days in the Pali Text Society and in the Siam Society, such as Dr. Gombrich, Dr. Peter Skilling and Dr. Oscar von Hinuber. You may want to consult them too. I say with Old Bagan pada and murals.

Well, now 74, no one is sure of life and I certainly do not have much left, but I do hope I get to meet you. I wonder why the nandiyavatta lecture came about at Nalanda?

Unknown said...

If you need help to get the Hui Li text, please contact me. The Thai Chinese library is huge. Some 40 years ago I met a men who had over 30,000 books. Today there is much more data.
The dictionary committee works only with Chinese texts for their dictionary. The Pali Text Society dictionaries are all made by ONE person but today there is much more resource.

Renata said...

Hello again Deepak Anand!

Just wanted to let you know that my post linking to your article has been published. I hope you enjoy exploring what I have compiled this month.

All the Best,

I see that my post has already appeared in the "Links to this post" section at the bottom of the page, so I will refer you to that.

raj said...

This is Facebook Page of Buddhavana!

raj said...

Dear Deepak Anand JI,

Plz approve this link on ur blog.

This is Buddhavana Facebook Page!