News at Tipitaka Network
Development plan for Buddha Gaya
by Rohan L. Jayatilleke, Daily News (Sri Lanka), Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The pre-Buddhistic India had sixteen kingdoms or republics, viz. Anga, Magadha, Kasi, Kosala, Vajji, Malla, Cheti, Vatsa, Kuru, Panchala, Machhaja, Surasena, Assaka, Avanthi, Gandhara and Kamboja.
The ancient Magadha kingdom was situated in the area south of river Ganges. Ganges had the tributaries Sona, Neranjara/Nelanjala (bluish water) now called Phalagu. This kingdom in its periphery had Gayasirsa and Rajgir hill ranges. Rajgir was belted by five high rise hilly ranges of Gijjakuta, Isigili, Vehara, Pandava and Vepulla.
Thus Magadha kingdom, which now is composed of the States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh of the Union of India, then and now was rich with water resources and greenery clothed hills. The hills were abodes of meditative pre-Buddhitic ascetics, Jains (Digambara and Svetambara) and the break away group of Jains the Ajivakas.
In the eastern sector of Magadha was Anga kingdom and on the west was Kosala. Thus the entire area traversed on foot by Gautama Buddha in the 6th century BC, approximates to the area composing the present Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and once the Buddha had proceeded to Kurukehstra (modern old Delhi) which then was inhabited by the most intelligent people Kurus, to discourse the Satpattana-sutta.
Archaeological Survey of India
The site is now sponsored by the Archaeological Survey of India, amidst a sprawling garden with a concrete flat roofed structure with an iron-railing running around the garden.
Thus the claims of the Buddha visiting Sri Lanka twice, and as Burmese claim to have been visited once and leaving his shadow there, are debatable as there are no scriptural evidences or suttas in the Sutta Pitaka, that have been discoursed by the Buddha in these two countries.
The Buddha Gaya site is now in the Gaya district of Bihar State, the capital of which is Patna, Pataliputra of the Buddha’s times. The place name Gaya was used with the prefix Buddha, meaning supra mundane wisdom, attained by Prince Siddhartha, under the foot of the peepal tree (ficus religosia) at Gaya.
During the time of the Buddha all the areas of north India were interconnected with roadways for trading caravans and others to travel. Of these trade routes the chief was the port of Tamralpita, near modern Kolkata (Calcutta) at the estuary of the Ganges river.
The trading city of Champa was situated on the upper reaches of the Ganges river and a roadway existed through Champa to Pataliputra and Varanasi (Benares), reaching Kaushambhi. From Kaushambhi there was a by road to Vidisa (in modern Madhya Pradesh near Sanchi and Udeni), which roadway ran through the estuary of Narmada river to Bharukacchi, modern Sopra on the western coast of India.
The main road from Kaushambhi ran along the riverside of Jamuna (Yamuna) right bank to Mathura.
Thus Gaya was centrally situated in all these trading routes, which was higher in elevation and Buddha Gaya situated in a depression of about 150 ft. from the road level. Gaya was a small township in ancient Magadha kingdom, beside Neranjara (Phalagu) river. The mountain Gayasirsa or Brahamayoni, which was an abode of ascetics was beside the Gaya city.
In the Buddhist literature of the Tripitaka, Gaya is described as follows: “Those who have committed sins come to Bahuka river, Adhikkaka river ford, Gaya ford, Sundarika river and Saraswati river to take the holy dip to cleanse them of their sins.”
Even in modern times too millions of Hindus congregate to the Vishnupadma shrine beside the Phalagu river for the holy dip, Matangavapi and Gayavapi are synonymous. Gaya Kasyapa, Nadi Kasyapa, Urvela Kasyapa, who entered the Sangha under the Buddha were living in this area.
Presently the upper section of the Buddha Gaya complex is cluttered with beggars, small shops and the northern end with steps leading to a shabby Gaya market place, where the Gaya sub post office too functions.
This writer since 2004 has been making written representations to the Chief Minister of Bihar Srimath Nitish Kumar to redeem the entire complex of these ugly sites and the writer’s proposals too have been included in the Bodh Gaya Heritage Led Perspective Plan for year 2005-2031.
The main components of the plan as follows. The plan envisages proper development of roads, paths, hotels and green areas which would enhance the ambience of Buddha Gaya.
Two Traffic Interchange Nodes, one on main road leading to Buddha Gaya Complex and another along the Neranjara River now under construction where all incoming traffic at a distance of one Km. before Mahabodhi Vihara will be intercepted and the devotees will be allowed to travel on battery operated buses or rickshaws, so that the Mahabodhi Vihara premises are kept pollution free.
Shifting of small shops
The plan also envisages shifting of small shops and vendors beyond 1 Km of the Mahabodhi Vihara near the traffic interchange node. A shopping complex is now being constructed to accommodate the displaced shopkeepers.
Near the International airport of Gaya a modern Gold Course over 200 acres of land with provisions of two 5-7 star hotels, club houses and cottages are coming up which will provide comfortable accommodation to the tourists.
Buddha Gaya’s anglicized name is Bodh Gaya which has now being changed to Buddha Gaya. On a proposal of this writer as regards seven places the Buddha spent after Enlightenment around the Sacred Bodhi tree, the Chief Minister has requested the Temple Management Committee to put up appropriate sinages at these points, in other foreign languages of Buddhists, including Sinhala.
Further on a suggestion of this writer a main gateway is under construction and the main road is named after Anagarika Dharmapala, the name board in Hindi-Sinhala-English.
On completion of the plan Buddha Gaya will become an international attraction.
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Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammāsambuddhassa.
Buddha sāsana.m cira.m ti.t.thatu.