Orissa: The Motherland of Tathagata Buddha

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Buddhists have the canonical instructions to visit four places with reverence. The birth place of Buddha is the first amongst them. But due to Brahminical conspiracy, the world is so misguided that the birth place of Buddha has wrongly been taken to be in the Tarai region of Nepal. And, therefore the real Kapilavastu known presently as Kapileswara near Bhubaneswar is seldom visited by the present generation Buddhists. If history is re-written, the place that has assumed the name of Kapilavastu in the Tarai region of Nepal shall lose its wrong identity as Buddha’s birthplace. Cunningham, in his “Ancient Geography of India”, has strongly argued that Rumindei from where the Tarai inscription was allegedly discovered, is neither related to the name ‘Kapilavastu’ nor ‘Kapila’ even as noted historian Dr.Smith emphasizes that the place was never known as Rumindei. According to him, it was a forged name given to the place by archaeologist Fuhrer.
On the other hand, Calcutta University’s former professor Pandit Vinayak Mishra has made it clear that the ‘Sankhya school of thought propounded by the great sage Kapila was not prevalent in ancient Nepal and hence Kapilavastu named after that great sage can not be accepted as a place belonging to that country. The village Kapileswar near Bhubaneswar was inhabited by the Sakyas one of whom was the Great sage Kapila whose philosophy became famous as ‘Sankhya’ in consonance with the name of his clan. The present Kapileswar is a synonym of Kapilavastu. This Kapileswar is definitely the birth place of Buddha, as is evidenced from the Stone Inscription discovered from there maintains Pt.Mishra.

The late lamented scholar Chakradhara Mohapatra of Ex-State Narasingpur had taken the first step in re-writing history in regard to Buddha’s birth place. His convincing work christened as ‘The Real Birthplace of Buddha’ was first published in 1977 by the eminent publishing house ‘Grantha Mandira’ of Cuttack. In this very brilliant work he has given conclusive evidence of Kapileswara being the place of Buddha’s birth. The present author shall try to supplement Mohapatra’s work with further evidence. But he shall first highlight what Mohapatra has said and what impact it has on the critics and academics.

Mohapatra had been working on the project for decades when he ventured to bring out a synopsis of his findings in 1968-69.After examining the contents thereof the Hindustan Standard wrote on 4.6.1970,”The scholars have reason to be thankful to him for opening up a fascinating vista of research on a subject of worldwide interest. Requires courage to throw such a gauntlet.” The Indian Express highlighted on 18.6.1970 Mohapatra’s new theory but felt that after so many years of accepting the Nepalese Tarai as the region of Buddha’s birth, the world may find it “a little difficult to believe in the new theory.” The Amrit Bazar Patrika in its edition of 28.6.1970 announced that Mohapatra’s finding may be “factually valid”. But what would be its “implication for Buddhism and Indian history?” it posed. The Hindustan Times wrote on 18.6.1970 that Mohapatra has “concluded” after many years of research that “Buddha’s birthplace was not, as is generally accepted, in the Tarai region of Nepal, but at Kapileswara village near Bhubaneswar.” Eminent academic Dr. Prana Krshna Parija declared, “From the evidence put forth by Sri Mohapatra regarding the birth place of Buddha, I am quite sure that Buddha was born in the Kapileswara village of Bhubaneswar”. But the most forceful comment came from Prof. A. L. Basham, author of “The Wonder That Was India” and Professor of Asian Civilisations in the Australian National University, when, from Canberra on 1.5.1972,he drafted the preface to Mohapatra’s work. I am inclined to quote the ‘preface’.

” It is good that from time to time the evidence on which long established historical truths are based should be reviewed and reassessed, and Mr. C. D. Mohapatra has done just this in his very interesting study of the birth place of the Buddha. It has long been taken for granted that Kapilavastu, the chief city of the Sakyas, and Lumbini, the actual birth place of the teacher, were situated in the Nepalese Tarai. The main basis of this belief is the inscribed pillar of Rummindei, recording the visit of the emperor Asoka, to the place where Buddha was born. It was little known that the same fact in similar words and script existed at Orissa.

“This Orissan inscription poses serious problems. It is too facile a solution to dismiss it out of hand as a forgery. If it is a forgery, it is hardly likely that it is a modern one, because no attempt has been made to imitate the tarai inscription closely and the Orissan one is evidently the work of a carver less skilled and precise in his workmanship than the mason who carved the letters of the Tarai inscription. The Orissan inscription, if it is a forgery, must be an early one and it is certainly not a direct imitation of the other. We may not be wholly convinced by Mr. Mohapatra’s valiant attempt to show that the Orissan inscription is a genuine record of the birth place of Buddha, but the facts which he presents are striking and important, and it is very good that students of ancient Indian history should be made to realise by unconventional studies such as this that even the most widely accepted historical facts are not sacrosanct.

“Students of early Indian history should read this book carefully, as far as possible putting all prejudice out of their minds. If they agree with Mr.Mohapatra’s conclusion, they should say so, without fearing to support a new and unpopular theory. If they disagree, they should carefully examine the evidence and decide why they disagree. And, they should remember that the consensus of learned opinion is no proof. Since the days of Sir Alexandar Cunningham almost every student of ancient India has believed that the Buddha’s birth place was near the site of the Rummindei pillar.But, this in itself proofs nothing. There was a time when the consensus of learned opinion strongly maintained that the Sun revolved round the world”

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As the popular belief that the Sun revolved round the world has changed so also the belief that Buddha was born in the Nepalese Tarai region shall change. Because, Orissa was the original home of Lord Buddha. (To continue)

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