Thursday, December 18, 2014

Visit of Venerable Ashin Nyanissara to Mahā Moggallāna Parinirvāṇa Stūpa, Juafarḍīh

5th Mahā Moggallāna Patha Padakkhiṇā Padayātrā

An  walk was organized to mark the occasion of Parinirvāṇa Anniversary of Magadhaputra, Iddhi Sammatho Mahā Moggallāna on  6th December, 2014. Venerable Ashin Nyanissara was the chief guest at the occasion.  Venerable Ashin Nyanissara has offered support towards development and restoration of the Mahā Moggallāna Parinirvāṇa Stūpa, Juafarḍīh.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sculpture stolen from Ranabigha, Nalanda

The broken statue of the Buddha when found by the river bed in 2011. (now stolen)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Recovery of stolen 'Maher Buddha' sculpture

Telegraph, 1st December, 2014
Photographic documentation of undocumented ancient sculptures in villages of Bihar is being done under the 'Mapping of Nalanda, Rajgir and around' Project. The project by Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (NNM, Deemed University), Nalanda has finally begun to pay dividends. The three and half feet Buddha sculpture stolen from the village Maher, Gaya district in the first week of May, 2014 has been finally traced from a nearby village.   The Maher sculpture of the Buddha was already documented by NNM. The documentation of the sculpture by NNM   facilitated an effective FIR with the police and also helped in flashing the news of the theft in Newspapers and Internet. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kaṭhina-civara ceremony at Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (Deemed University)

A group of Tai Khamti Buddhist Community of Arunachal Pradesh celebrated Kaṭhina-civara function with monks, nuns, faculty and students of Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (Deemed University) and community of Nalanda.  
More than 30 lay Buddhist men and women under the Mrs. Protima Longphong from Arunachal Pradesh participated in the ceremony. The robe prepared by them was then offered to the Saṅgha of Nava Nalanda Mahavihara.

Khamti ladies preparing looms for weaving Chivara

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nālandā Dhamma- A Vipassana centre now in Nālandā

For all those who don’t know what Vipassana is: 
Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are, is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It was rediscovered by Gotama Buddha more than 2500 years ago and was taught by him as a universal remedy for all worldly ills. This non-sectarian technique aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation. Since the time of Buddha, Vipassana has been handed down, to the present day, by an unbroken chain of teachers. (Read more about Vipassana, the tradition and course)
For the Vipassana practitioners or those who know about it, there is good news!
Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (Deemed University) has transformed its sprawling 42 bedded guest house at Nava Nalanda Sanaskritik Gram into a Vipassana meditation center.  A series of 10-day seminar on Vipassana course in Nālandā has begun. The first 10-day course took place on 27th August to 7th August 2014. The course was conducted by Achārya Shri S S Tapariaji.   Twenty  eight participants, that include lay and monk students, faculty of NNM and local people participated in the course. The second course from 10th October to 20th October, 2014 also saw a good response and participants included three monks, four Vietnamese nuns, students and staff of NNM and community members from villages Ayer-Pathri and Jeṭhian (both ancient places are associated with the Buddha) successfully completed the course.
Next  ten-day courses,
1st to 11th December, 2014
1st February to 12th February, 2015
10th March to 21 March 2015
1st April to 12th April 2015 

Interested seekers may register/ enquire at

Monday, July 14, 2014

Theft of Buddha's sculpture from Lohjara (Gaya District)

The Buddha's statue at village Lohjara that is now stolen.
On the night of 1st July, a gang of sculpture thieves stole a 4ft Buddha’s sculpture in Earth-touching posture (8th-12th CE) from Lohjara village in Gaya district.  This was the second theft in two months in Gaya district. On 14th of May a sculpture of Buddha was stolen fromMaher, a remote village in Gaya district in a similar manner.

The sculpture at Lohjara was kept in open under a tree. On the night of  the theft, a villager noticed a four-wheeler moving in the village at around 11 pm. Though, it was something unusual but he didn't suspect any foul play. People of Maher too shared a similar story. These Buddha statues are usually more than 300 kgs in weight and needs 8 to 10 people to remove them. These thefts suggest that there is an organized gang of thieves operating in the area.

The volume of such reported and unreported cases and such cases not going beyond the police FIR (First Information Reported) level raises some eyebrows. Should we believe that Intelligence Bureau and unofficial network of spies of Government are not finding any leads? Or maybe they are simply not interested or the illegal trade that is flourishing in connivance with Government authorities. 

Pandey Ji (in white kurta ), the caretaker of the sculpture. (picture from 2012)

Theft of Lohjara Buddha statute registered with ART LOSS REGISTER

The link to ART LOSS REGISTER registration of Lohajara Buddha

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Theft of rare Buddha sculpture from Maher (Gaya, India)

Thousands of villages in Bihar (India) are situated over the mounds of ancient Buddhist monastic remains. Maher, in Gaya District is one such village that has many ancient Buddhist sculptures and pillars from ancient monastery from Pala period      ( 8th -12th CE) scattered all over the village. 

Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (NNM), under its “EngagedBuddhism” programme has taken an initiative of involving the community of Maher towards safety of ancient remains scattered in the village. Villagers under the leadership of their heritage leaders Vijay Sao and Raju Choudhary held several community meetings to secure the sculptures lying unattended in the backyard of the village. It is unfortunate that while the efforts were still going on one of the sculpture got stolen on 16th May, 2014. 

Villagers narrated how they heard dogs barking unusually very loudly at midnight of that unfortunate night. Villagers didn’t pay much heed to the warnings issued by dogs. And in the morning they found one of the sculptures missing from the place.

The rare Buddha sculpture that is now stolen.

Theft of scared artefacts from villages of Bihar continues unabated. The international syndicates in collaboration with their local counterparts are gradually plundering Bihar’s heritage and we are losing tangible heritage at such an alarming rate that unless the trend is arrested soon, we may have no religious artefacts to bequeath to our progeny. Most of the local shrines, village collectives in Bihar have been completely depleted. Just a few months back a beautiful sculpture of Buddha at village Mustafapur(Near Nalanda) was mutilated in an unsuccessful bid to steal it.

In first week of July, 2014, a large gang of thief tried to remove a large sculpture of the Buddha from Tiuri, a village 10kms east from Bihar Sharif. Thanks to the vigilant villagers that a timely, collective intervention by villagers at mid-night foiled the bid.

 Many such cases are reported each year but no success in nailing the culprits has led to an increase in such untoward incidents.  We have strong laws to prevent artefact theft but the laws are not backed up well by the enforcement authorities. Such cases are not dealt with the seriousness they deserve and they are treated as any other petty crime. The laws relating to artefact theft and trafficking should be reviewed and made more punitive to deter prospective offenders’ criminal courage.

Usually villagers are so accustomed to such incidents that they don’t report such matters to police. One of the reasons they mention for not reporting is indifferent attitude of the officials. They feel reporting is a futile exercise with no results. But the youths of the village are aware and have reported the matter to the police station.

There are many international voluntary institutions that help track stolen sculptures. Lack of photographic documentation is a big limitation for seeking any help from such agencies. Luckily the sculpture stolen from Maher was photographed by me. I am now mulling to put this sculpture on international alert with the help of voluntary tracking institutions. Many of the sculptures from Bihar can be seen in auctions conducted by Sotheby’s, Christie's and other auction houses in Europe and US. Most of these sculptures don’t have provenance records. It’s high time that the government realised the need to create artefact theft register at state level. Villagers should be encouraged to report incidences of theft to the appropriate authority.
The Theft of Maher Buddha has been registered with ART LOSS REGISTER 
Link of Maher Buddha registeration with ART LOSS REGISTER


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Seminar on "Archaeology of Nālandā" at Telhadā Excavation Site

Archaeology Directorate (Department of Art, Culture and Youth), Government of Bihar and Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (Deemed University), Nalanda on 4th March, 2014 jointly organized a one-day seminar on “Archaeology of Nālandā”. The seminar took place in the campus of the Telhadā excavation site.
The seminar aimed at bringing together archaeologists, historians, conservators and heritage volunteers to discuss measures needed to address the threat to the heritage spread in villages of Bihar. More than 25 heritage volunteers from different heritage villages of Nālandā and Gayā districts participated in the seminar. It was a rare opportunity for all the heritage volunteer participants to see the on-going excavations at Telhadā monastic site and also interact with scholars related to the field of archaeology, history, art and conservation. The seminar generated fruitful discussion between policy officials, academics and the heritage volunteers about how the stakeholders could take forward a priority area of work: heritage protection in villages.

Registration desk
Seminar "Hall"
Ven. Pannyialinkara (Chief priest, Chinese Buddhist monastery,Nālandā) blessing the occasion
Scholars an Heritage volunteers sharing their thoughts

Heritage volunteers from village Dubba, Gaya district
Community- Heritage interface by NNM
NNM is currently doing a photographic documentation of tangible heritage spread in villages of Bihar. Documentation work has revealed a long list of villages where the ancient sculptures are lying unprotected under the open sky. Though Government has enacted much legislation for safety and safeguarding of this heritage, but from our experience we understand that legislation alone cannot facilitate change. To maximize the efforts of the Government, we need participation of community volunteers who may facilitate effective, sustainable and durable change. Heritage volunteers can serve as “change agent” who may sustain two-way communications between the Government and the community. NNM, since 2010 has been organizing workshops and seminar to make asustainable way to facilitate the Community-Heritage Interface.
Heritage volunteers from different villages of Bihar with Dr Umesh Dwivedi and Dr S. K Jha

Heritage volunteers engaged in discussion with scholars
Dr. Atul Verma, Director, Archaeology, Government of Bihar explaining excavated site of
Telhadā to the particiants
Scholar participants in the Seminar
Dr. C P Sinha and Dr. Jagdiswar Pandey (both Former Director, K P Jayswal Research Institute, Patna), Dr. Umesh Dwivedi (Former Director, Museums, Government of Bihar), Dr Atul Verma (Director, Archaeology, Government of Bihar), Dr S. N Jha (Conservation Officer, Government of Bihar), Dr S. B Singh (Head, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Nava Nalanda Mahavihara), Dr D. Lama (Head, Department of Tibetan Studies, NNM) and others.
Heritage volunteers from Maher (Gaya), Dubba (Gaya), Beswak (Nalanda), Ayer (Gaya)

Tilaḍaka Monastery
After a hiatus of one millennia, this once famous monastic site is back on the world map thanks to the ongoing excavation at Telhadā. The travelogues of 7th century CE Chinese monks-scholars, Venerable Xuanzang and Venerable I-tsing, mention that Tilaḍaka monastery (present day Telhadā) was one of the most prominent monasteries in the entire Buddhist land. Archaeological finds excavated at Telhadā have generated the same curiosity that ancient Nālandā generated during its excavation in the early 20th century. Telhadā is another deeper revelation to the world of Buddhism and Bihar, as well as, the world over.
Tilaḍaka monastery was a very prominent centre of Mahāyāna studies. Venerable Xuanzang who was at Tilaḍaka Monastery for two months in about 642 CE spoke highly about the of priest Pragñabhadra, who was probably the chief Acārya of the Tilaḍaka Monastery;

This man had distinguished himself by his knowledge of the three Piṭakas, and of the Śabdavidyā and the Hetuvidyā śāstra-s, and others. (The Life of Hiuen-Tsiang by-Shaman Hwui Li - S. Beal, p.153)

Another 7th CE Chinese monk-scholar Venerable I-tsing who stayed at Nālandā monastery between 675-685 CE, recommended in his travelogue that these were the best institutions for collecting the true teachings of the Buddha during his time in the whole of the Buddhist World. No wonder the Tilaḍaka monastery found a place in the coveted list. In the words of Venerable I-tsing,

The most distinguished teachers who now live in west (India). Gnānakandra master of law who lives in Tiladha, in the Nālandā Monastery, Ratnasimha and Divākaramitra in east India and in southern most district Tathāgatagarbha.  (A Record of the Buddhist Religion by I-Tsing, translated by J. Takakusu- p. 184)
 On-going excavations at Telhadā have revealed beautiful structural remains of a Temple that was built during the Gupta (4th-6th CE) period and then revitalised during the Pala (8th-12th CE) period. Many beautiful stone and metal sculptures, seals, sealings and terracotta antiquities have been unearthed from the excavations.

 Beautiful sculpture from Telhadā at Museum Rietberg, Zürich, Switzerland.

A. M Broadley (Asst Magistrate in charge of subdivision Behar, in Patna) in 1870’s made extensive survey of old Behar and Patna divisions of British India. Broadley in his report has mentioned that a few of the best sculptures in his collection came from Telhadā. Broadley was among the first few people to document the antiquities of Telhadā and no wonder he declared:

Few places in India, I feel sure, would yield more archaeological treasure than this great Tillarah mound. (The Buddhist Remains of Bihar, A.M. Broadley, p-42)

Many beautiful sculptures from Telhadā have been removed and placed into different museums all over the world. One such sculpture of Bodhisattva Lokeshvara removed from Telhadā and currently displayed at Museum Rietberg, Zürich, Switzerland.

Bodhisattva Lokeshvara removed from Telhadā and currently displayed at Museum Rietberg, Zürich, Switzerland (Image by Andreas Praefcke)