Buddhist Heritage of Jammu

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Buddhist Heritage of Jammu

Dr. P K Koul, Buddhist Heritage of Jammu "Daily Excelsior" 31/1/2016

A view of the excavation site of Ambaran on the outskirts of Akhnoor town,near Jammu city

Various efforts, by enlightened sections of society Jammu, Government and semi-Government agencies, to make people, young men and children, aware and concious, about the importance of historical monuments, archeaological sites and cultural heritage, are encouraging. It is only by knowing our historical past, that we can claim to belong to a civilized society and a proud past. However some uneasy and unhealthy trends in identifying for preservation, and conservation of our valuable heritage sites, and their exploitation for tourism and economical development, can also be observed, and need attention by concerned authorities and intellectual public.

While the history, culture and monumental heritage of Buddhist Kashmir and Ladakh, has been deeply studied, researched upon and nicely documented, the Buddhist history and culture of Jammu region, though equally rich and ancient lacks proper intellectual attention, investigation, evaluation and preservation. The evaluational, preservational and developmental efforts of certain historical monuments in Jammu being pursued by certain Governmental and social agencies, seem to be influenced by their narrow regionalism, castism, sectarian and politically motivated consideration. For example state Archieve and Archeaological department does not seem to move beyond the limits of Mughal Heritage sites (roads, gardens; buildings etc.) or Dogra Heritage of recent past. Exploration and preservation of other sites in Jammu, which seem to be more rewarding and with more tourist potential, and belonging to ancient and medieval Jammu, seems to be neglected by the Government as well as, unaware-and disinterested public, which needs to be educated regarding their importance in our cultural life. The important Buddhist ancient and medieval Archealogical sites and monuments of Jammu region include those of Ambaran and Manda (Akhnoor – prehistoric to present day), Sakhi maidan (Mendhar) or Sankhaya Parivein of Miling Panho Questions of Minander (Indo-Greek King Minander after whom the place finds its name), Ram Kund (the hermitage of Acharya Ayupala of the same episode), Kalaban site of Buddhist Kundalvan Vihara, (where 4th Buddhist Conference seem to be held, in the times of Kanishka, and where the account of deliberations of this conference were carved on copper plates and deposited in the Vihara) the Nag Semi region of Kashtwar with rich Archaeological sites, (where Acharya Nag Sen of Milind Panho was born and educated under the guidance of’Acharya Assaguta (or Asav Gupta), Demzi ‘with the residential Hermitage of this very Acharya, Sai Draman ruins in Nag Seni the place of deliberations of Assagutta With his disciples, also in Kishtwar, Gupteshwar temple site where Brahmi Inscription of 4th-5th century A.D. has been traced and deciphered, the site of Bindraban in Kishtwar, where an important and prolonged epigraph in Brahmi or Sharda (still undeciphered) exists, unattended by ASI or SAD (State Archaeological Department), Sudh Mahadev and Bher Nag sites (Bhairav Nag) Jammu with two thousands years of epigraphic history, Kaul Kandohlis temple architecture, and extremely rich Naga sites and cultural Heritage at Bulandpur, Pasyal, Duggan, Bari, Karla, Kudgram, Jakhed etc. Their neglect on the part of State Government, and other Governmental, social and cultural bodies for their proper development and revival as also places of tourist destination is very unfortunate.

Lack of financial resources of State Government and lack of expertise on the part of State Archeaological Department may be one of the reasons for their neglect; other reasons could be, lack of desired interest on the part of those concerned with their upliftment, unable to rise above narrow confines of caste, creed and regional bias and the’ ability to handle gigantic nature of the work or exploration and preservation of these Monuments. The reluctance of concerned State Department to approach Central Department meant for such works (as ASI) with more financial resources and skill in matters of exploration and preservation, may be other reason. This is especially true in case of Kalaban, Mendhar, Sunder Bani, Kalakot Ramkund, Nag Seni, Bindraban, Monuments and Jammu Naga cult sites of great Archealogical importance.

It is well known that credit of major explorations, of important J&K heritage sites in Jammu and Kashmir (Burzhama, Martand, Harwan, Akhnoor, Krimchi, Babor etc.) goes to the ASI as also to the local Archealogists, (R. C. Kak and K.N. Shastri).Additional important explorations of Kusan period in Jammu region at Babe-da- Tibba, Kot Bhalwal and Bodh Viharf Manda, with relics and Gold coin also goes to ASI. Therefore it seems to be a high time, when we must make over people and coming generations conscious of their cultural heritage native for its preservation and development. Our Monument Heritage scattered over different areas and regions of Jammu need to be attended and preserved.

As reported in media, Buddhist tourist sites in Kashmir and Ladakh may surely be revived as Tourist destination and I dare suggest that very very important Archeaological and Monumental Buddhist and other sites do occur in Jarnmu region also. We have a recent fmd of Buddhist Stupa at Ambaran in Akhnoor of 1st and 2nd century A.D., a big Martand like temple type sites at Sakhi Maidan and.Kalakote (Temples constructed on ancient rem~nts of Bodh Milind Vihara ~ etc.). Sakhi Maidan is the Sankhaya Pariven ofMilind Panho. Kundalban Vihara of Kanishkas time may also lie in the vicinity of Kalaban near Sakhi Maidan, also in Mendhar.

Even place name Mendhar in Poonch derives its name from Great King Menander, and the Great Acharya Nag Sen of Menander Episode in their memory and in Nag Seni region of Kishtwar. The important archaeological sites of Sai Draman (the plain of Sai or Assagutta or Ashav Gupta, the famous Buddhist Scholar), and Demzi (the recluse or Tapasvi, Sai’s living hermitage), are important Buddhist sites in Jammu’s Buddhist heritage. Sai Draman is the place where Ashav Gupta or Archarya Assagutta held religions deliberation with his deciples and Dernzy is the place where Tapsvi or Scholar lived. All these names seem to be Pali or local dialectical versions of Sanskrit names.

The ancient relics recently found from the Stupa at Ambaran can be of none else than of Acharya Nag Sell, or King Menander who became Buddhist monk or Arhat after his dialogue and discussion with Acharya Nag Sen (as described in Milind Panho) or of Buddhist saint and Scholar, Asavgupta or Assagutta. The Archealogical Survey of India’s Jammu’s Superintending Archealogist, Mr. Mani, who is credited to have explored it is so far silent about the identity of the relic, a very important and unsolved question so far by the ASL.

It is strange that the illustrious son of the soil Nag Sell, of Kashtwars Nag Seni region and his important literary work, Milind Panho, in the form of translation in languages of Buddhist countries (Chinese, Buramese Sinhala (cyloneese) and English) made its head way and presence via Central Asia routes through the agency of Kashmiri Buddhist missionaries, who visited there in the early centuries of Christian era, through silk route, but the native scholars of Indi Kashmir and Kishtwar never knew that one of the greatest illustrious scholar from their land lived in Kishtwar in the hermitage of Nag Sen and preached Buddhism to the world’. “.

These important Buddhist sites of Jammu region can be developed as international Buddhist sites of ancient India, and as international Buddhist tourist destination. These like Nalanda and Patna and Bodh Gaya (in Bihar) have the potential to attract developmental assistance and grants from Buddhist countries like Japan etc., thus promising great development in the region and of the people

State Central Governments the Archeaological Survey of India, the Ministry of Culture needs to move forward after 5 in recognizing the cultural importance of these site, and take effective steps in their development. A.S.L is already looking world heritage sites, 99 National Archeaological sites and monuments and some 3675 heritage sites in India alone, With vast experience, technical know how and expertise in the field. Preservation of Jammu region’s glorious ancient, medieval and present, heritage and monuments scattered all over Jammu is also an important obligation and national duty of all these agencies as referred above, as well as all intellectuals of Jammu interested in this field.

A complete informational booklet, containing preliminary details of all noted Archealogical and Monumental sites of the region is what, can be desired to be published immediately by the concerned State or Central Department for the awareness of common people, students of educational institutions and researchers in this field.

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