||This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. The specific problem is: bare links, large section overshadowing the whole article. (July 2013)|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
Piprahwa is a village near Birdpur [historical British variant as Birdpore] in the Siddharthnagar district of Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The scented rice 'kalanamak', very famous and spicy, is grown in this area.
Archeological site & Buddha
In January 1898, W.C. Peppe led a team of men to unearth a large mound on his land. Having cleared away scrub and jungle they set to work building a deep trench through the mound. Eventually they came to a large stone coffer which, on opening, contained five small vases containing ashes and jewels .
On one of the vases was an inscription which was translated at the time to mean "This relic deposit of the Lord Buddha is the share of this renowned Sakya brethren, his own sister’s children and his own son;" meaning that this reliquary contained the ashes of the Buddha, also known as Siddhārtha Gautama[note 1], a member of the Sakyas  (however, there is no mention in the Buddhist scriptures of the Buddha having a sister). And in the 1970s the original interment site of the Buddha's ashes at Piprahwa was claimed to have been discovered by the Indian archaeologist S.M. Srivastava several feet deeper than the coffer containing the relics that W.C. Peppe had excavated. This find was dated by Srivastava to the period in which Buddha lived.
Mr Srivastava's excavation also discovered some archaeological evidence that Piprahwa was within Kapilvastu - the homeland of the Buddha.
However, over the years there has been much debate about the authenticity of the Piprahwa find, and in particular the inscription on the reliquary vase, found at the Piprahwa Stupa, declaring relics found there to be those of the Buddha.
One critic argues that this Piprahwa inscription was a forgery by Dr Alois Anton Fuhrer, an archaeologist who became notorious for forging similar Buddhist relics and inscriptions. In addition, the Indian academic and epigraphist, Dr A. H. Dani, stated in 1997 that "The Piprahwa vase, found in the Basti District, U.P., has an inscription scratched on the steatite stone in a careless manner. The style of writing is very poor, and there is nothing in it that speaks of the hand of the Asokan scribes".
However others, including a descendant of W.C. Peppe and contemporary academic experts in Indology, Indian philology, and Sanskrit dispute the theory of forgery, citing a range of evidence including historical records, personal documents, drawings, and archaeological and linguistic evidence.
In 2006 a conference was held in England at Harewood House, Yorkshire, to review current evidence and theories and discuss the authenticity of the Piprahwa Stupa and its inscription. Several world-renowned experts in Indology, Indian philology, and Prakrit and Sanskrit attending the conference concluded that the Piprahwa Stupa and its contents, including the inscription and reference to the Buddha's ashes, are indeed authentic. When challenged on this conclusion however, the eminent epigraphist, Prof. Richard Saloman, admitted at this conference that neither he nor his colleague, Prof. Oskar von Hinuber, believed that the Piprahwa bone relics were the same relics of the Buddha that were given to the Sakyas after the Buddha's cremation.
Documentary Bones of the Buddha
In an Icon Films documentary commissioned by WNET/THIRTEEN and ARTE France for the National Geographic Channels narrated by Charles Dance on the Piprahwa Stupa entitled Bones of the Buddha (May, 2013), host explorer and Indian historian/writer Charles Allen interviews Prof. Harry Falk [professor of Indology at the Freie Universität in Berlin and renowned expert in ancient Indian languages and history], who states that Dr Fuhrer could not have forged the Piprahwa reliquary inscription. This is, Falk says, because Dr Fuhrer lacked sufficient knowledge of the language (Prakrit) in which the inscription was written, and, more importantly, he could have never known the Sanskrit word nidhane (container), which is written on the reliquary, a hapax legomenon in the Brahmi corpus otherwise. That said, however, Fuhrer had taught Sanskrit for three years at St. Xavier's College, Bombay, that he had translated Sanskrit texts, and that 'nidhane' occurs commonly enough in such Sanskrit textual sources.
In the documentary Bones of the Buddha, Prof. Falk concluded that the reliquary found at Piprahwa did contain a portion of the ashes of the Buddha, and that the inscription is authentic. According to Prof. Falk, the inscription translates as 'these are the relics of the Buddha, the Lord'.
The conclusion stated in the documentary Bones of the Buddha is that the Piprahwa Stupa was built by the Emperor Ashoka 150 years later in 245 BCE over the original and simpler interment site of one eighth of the Buddha's ashes. Prof. Falk points to the close similarity of materials used at Piprahwa and its grand size with other Ashokan Stupas, and that the coffer containing the reliquary found at Piprahwa closely reflects Ashokan workmanship, design, and the type of stone used for monuments like the Lumbini pillar erected during his reign. However, radiocarbon-dating of rice-grains taken from the stupa's bricks gave a date between 20-220 CE, which places the stupa's construction to the Kushan era, several centuries after Asoka.
This recent expert opinion concerning the authenticity of the Piprahwa reliquary once more raises questions about the exact whereabouts of Kapilvastu, tilting the evidence back towards it being located in India. Competing claims believe that Kaplivastu is at Tilaurakot in Nepal.
Today, the relics from the original and the 1970s excavations of the Piprahwa Stupa are revered by many Buddhists the world over with ten million people in 1978 paying homage to the relics when they travelled to Sri Lanka, and in August 2012 the Indian government once more allowed the relics to be lent to Sri Lanka.
The Piprahwa relics, are located in the Calcutta and New Delhi Museums, the Golden Mount Temple in Bangkok, in Burma, the Dipaduttamrama Temple (also known as the Jewel Stupa) in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and the Anuradhapura Temple, Kandy, Sri Lanka. A portion of the relics were retained by W. C. Peppe, and these are still owned by a descendant of the Peppe family in England.
- Integrated Management Information System (IMIS)
- "Kalanamak - Features - Down To Earth magazine". www.downtoearth.org.in. Retrieved 2008-06-17.
- The Buddha and Dr Fuhrer, (2008) Charles Allen, Haus Publishing, London; http://piprahwajewels.co.uk.
- Archaeological Excavations at Piprahwa and Ganwaria and the Identification of Kapilvastu (1980) K.M. Srivastava, The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, Vol3, No: 1
- The Piprahwa Deceptions: Set-ups and Showdown
- A. H. Dani, 'Indian Palaeography'(1997), pp.56
- Excerpt from The Bones of the Buddha
- Colombo Telegraph, August 20th, 2012
- Gautama Buddha, Four Bones And Three Countries | Colombo Telegraph