Monday, June 22, 2015

Pārwati Hill (Indraśailaguhā) - From Dream to Reality.

I as a part of a small documentation team from Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (NNM) first visited Pārwati Hill in 2006. The isolated hill is around 150 ft high; adjacent to the highway and a lush green landscape is visible from a distance. During the time of the Buddha (6th BCE), the base of this isolated hill was covered with a forest, a beautiful jewel railing (manivedikā), and hence it was called Vediya Parwat (Vediya hill) (DA.iii.697).  The sacred cave on the south side of the hill is mentioned as Indraśailaguhā (also Indasālaguhā) in Buddhist literature (D.ii.263, 264). The Chinese monk Xuanzang (7th CE) told how Lord Sakka asked the Buddha about matters relating to the forty-two doubts he had and how Lord Sakka recorded this in stone (Watters 2004). Another Chinese monk Faxian (5th CE) also makes mention of the tracings on the rock (Beal 2005: 111).

Shri Narendra Prasadji, the headmaster of the village school, told us to all the important places on the hill and its surroundings. Narendra Prasadji also shared with us how he was making efforts in generating awareness among the villagers towards the sanctity of the place. 

The place in spite of being associated with the Buddha was in a deplorable condition. Majority of the villagers were ignorant about the sanctity of the place and the hill was the most preferred place for open defecation. As a result the hill and its surrounding became a filthy place.   Also, the place received very few international and national Buddhist pilgrims each year and this was the prime reason why local people were not very enthusiastic about the place.
On 22nd Oct, 2009, NNM was given the opportunity to share its documentation of Buddhist sites in Bihar with the Chief Minister of Bihar and important state officials.  We shared with him how many of the sacred traces of the Buddha including Pārwati and Jeṭhian were in very bad shape and needed immediate attention. The Chief Minister took cognizance of this and Pārwati was brought under protection. (Bihar Ancient Monuments and ArchaeologicalSites, Remains And Art Treasures Act, 1976) 

On 22nd January, 2010, I got an opportunity to take the Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri Nitish Kumarji to visit Pārwati hill. The Chief Minister was very impressed with the site; he also got a firsthand glimpse of the sad situation of the place. Based on CM’s instructions, resources were allocated for the overall development of site under the 13th Finance Commission.

I am happy that the collective efforts of the local community, NNM and Department of Youth, Art and Culture (DACY), Government of Bihar, the Pārwati hill is now ready. A boundary has been created around the Hill for its protection. A ramp has been made for easy access to the top of the Hill and the sacred cave. A pilgrim facilitation centre is under construction and will be ready soon.

On my visit to the place on 20th June with Dr. Atul Verma, Director, Archaeology (DACY), I noticed  that the place was much cleaner than what it used to be earlier. Hopefully, the place will receive lots of pilgrims and hence livelihood opportunities are created for the local community. 

View from the sacred cave, Indraśailaguhā . The approach to the cave is now safe.

View from the sacred cave, Indraśailaguhā . The approach to the cave is now safe.
Boundary and tourist facilitation center under construction.
A ramp has been created that reaches to the top of the Hill.
Aditya Verma, Dr Atul Verma and I at Pārwati Hill
Development work at Pārwati is now almost complete. Another important village deeply associated with the Buddha that’s in queue for development is Jeṭhian. A development plan for the site is already submitted under the 13th Finance Commission and we hope the place will be ready by 2016.

The development of sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites Pārwati and Jeṭhian will complete my long cherished dream of the Buddha trail connecting Bodhgayā-Prāgbodhi-Jeṭhian-Rājgir-Pārwati.
A catch-up meeting at Jehian
                                                       Some old memories        
Making presentation to Hon' Chief Minister, Shri Nitish Kumar Ji in 2009

With Hon' Chief Minister Shri Nitish Kumar ji at Pārwati Hill in 2010.

Many villages in Bihar are settled over ancient remains. Villagers most of the times are ignorant about the importance of these mounds and hence in recent years many of the mounds have been lost and some are under threat of extinction. Apsaḍh is one such very important place associated with the Buddha where the heritage is under threat. Buddhist literature mention about a brāhmin village Ambasaṇḍā that was South of Pārwati hill and its villagers heartedly welcomed the Buddha’s stay in this area during his cārikā (D.ii.263f). Over the centuries the name Ambasaṇḍā got corrupted and it became Apsaḍh.

Though the entire Apsaḍh village is settled over the ancient remains, there lies a very prominent mound in the centre of the village. The entire mound is encroached and many huts and dwelling houses have come up over the mound. The Government of Bihar with help of community members of the village has created a boundary for its protection. Fencing and boundary is not the long-term solution. The real protection is possible only when the community of Bihar realizes the importance of this heritage and its need for preservation.
A boundary being created to protect the ancient mound.
The mound is in the center of the village.


Beal, S.; 2005, Travels of Fah-hian and Sung-Yun, Buddhist Pilgrims from China to India, Low Price Publications, Delhi: (Originally published London: Trubner and Co.: 1869).

Watters, Thomas; 2004, On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India, (Edited by T. W. Rhys Davids and S.W. Bushell), Reprinted in LPP 2004, Low Price Publications, Delhi. (First published by Royal Asiatic Society, London, 1904-05), ISBN: 81-7536-344-4.

Abbreviations of Bibliography:

 P.T.S.    Means published by the Pāli Text Society.

D.          Digha Nikāya, 3 vols. (P.T.S.).
DA.       Sumangala Vilāsinī, 3 vols. (P.T.S.).