Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Buddha in New Delhi

Last Monday, May 4th, was celebrated as Buddha Purnima. The word purnima meaning the full moon. Full moon in the month of Vaishakha, when the Buddha was born, received enlightenment and passed away. A day thrice blessed. Gazing upon the reddish moon over the horizon, I remembered seeing the relics in the National Museum just about a year back, and these are the pictures from that visit.

This is a remarkable sculpture by Deviprasad Roychoudhury, the water girl. Displayed outdoors as an essential part of the building ...

I don't know the artists who sculpted the following two pieces which are also displayed outdoors, but the bust of Gandhi could be by Ramkinkar of Shantiniketan.

The National Museum has many treasures, dating from different times. The following picture is that of a marble image of the goddess Saraswati, deity of the letters. She is normally picturised as playing on the veena, a string instrument but here, she is holding the holy scriptures, clearly birch bark tomes in her left hand. It is possible that this image originally carried the veena in her right hand which has now disintegrated. 

This is perhaps the most valuable artifact in the Museum, the dancing girl discovered in Mohenjodaro, dating back to the Harappan civilization about 4000 BC. A replica of course, the original safely under custody. Nevertheless, there was an armed guard in these rooms. 

This is one of my favorites, one of the Gandhara Buddhas, interpreted under Grecian influence after the incursion of Alexander into present day Afghanistan in the 4th century BC. In the centuries after, Buddhist kingdoms flourished in those parts and we must remember that one of the great heritages of the world, the Bamiyan Buddha that was carved out of an entire hillside in Afghanistan, was demolished by the completely rogue, uncouth, subhuman, insensate and illiterate bunch known as the Taliban 

Another Buddha image and as far as I can remember or guess, this is from the Kushan period, 1st to 5th century AD 

Buddha head, another marvel of the olden days. The Grecian influence is visibly apparent. This is displayed in the same room as the sacred relics

In the early seventies, the Archaeological Survey carried out an excavation in Piprahwa in the State of Uttar Pradesh, a few kilometers away from the Nepal border where supposedly, a soapstone casket was unearthed containing some charred bone fragments, proclaimed to be the relics of the Buddha himself. There is a tradition that the incarcerated remains of the earthly body of the Buddha were divided into eight parts and this one was claimed as one of them. The claim has been hotly disputed and one can check resources available on the net. Fact remains that modern scientific procedures are available to the government and these relics appear to have been accepted by the Sri Lankan and Thai governments as well, the gold pavilion being a present from Thai royalty 

I saw a large number of people from distant lands who were sitting silently before the relic, meditating and turning their prayer beads, going around the pavilion in silent veneration. Personal beliefs apart, if indeed these are the sacred relics from 5th century BC, then the National Museum has a treasure that is simply beyond belief. In the foreground, you can see the soapstone urns or caskets encased in glass

For the Buddha was one of the greatest human beings that ever lived and even the Christ had most certainly been exposed to his teachings during his days. Come to think of it, there is a school of thought that believes the final resting place of the Christ is in India, and no, this is not another Dan Browne mystery like the Da Vinci Code. Or, is it!

The Buddha saw the pitifully old, the diseased and the dying. That set him forth on his quest. Quitting his enviably cushy position as a crown prince. Toiling for years, a mendicant, an ascetic. Resisting temptations. Resisting vanity and the ego. I would not venture further for fear of being labelled, but these circumstances of the Buddha's life have always held a powerful, magnetic attraction to me. Especially when he says that the cause of all suffering is desire. 

If you want to be rid of suffering, all you have to do is abjure desire. Simple, right? 

Actually, it is not. Trust me. 

The next picture is that of an Avalokiteshwar statue. Meaning, the Lord who gazes down, compassionate. One of the Bodhisattvas, or beings with the essence of the Buddha in  them, as I can loosely transcribe

The teachings of the Buddha have conquered the entire Asia, including China and Japan. Reasonably so, for Asians are fond of reasons and logic. And the Buddha was entirely logical. Perhaps, his depth of understanding made him rule over the natural world as well as it certainly seems to have been, but the fact that sets him apart is his unrelenting quest for the truth. Not for himself. For the entire humankind.


  1. A wonderful discourse! such a pleasure to read. I am much taken by the Buddha as well......and have been hearing about the possibility of Jesus having spent some years in India......very interesting read, my friend.

    1. Thank you once again, Sherry of the Blue Skies

  2. I agree with Sherry; this was a very interesting read.
    Your blog is a wonderful way for this American to learn of the cultural, religious and natural history of India. Thanks!

    1. Glad that you find it interesting, Rita and thank you