Chandigarh: Buddha set his foot In Sugh town of Haryana, 5 km from Yamunanagar, but traces are getting lost. Pilferage from the site and encroachments are destroying the heritage , even as the world observed Buddha 2600th anniversary Alexander Cunningham, the father of Indian archaeology traced the lost civilized town of Buddha’s period as Sugh village only. He termed It as his best finding. “Structural evidence is lost, but coins and figurines depict a picture of the highly evolved people engaged in intellectual activities with harmony in focus among, followers of Buddha, Jainism and Hindus.” The Buddhist Forum founder Sidhartha Gauri told The Times of India. “This place had displayed harmony amongst believers of different faiths, a value now the world is trying to learn for a better and peaceful existence.” Gauri said. Both Chinese traveller Huen Tsang and Sanskrit grammarian Panini had rated Sugh highly developed and civilized Figurines reveal that women in that era were highly fashionable in this centre of learning. The people of this place commanded respect for their intellectual qualities around the
Buddhist world that spread to several countries. It was an honour to be a resident of this place, Gauri pointed out. One of the eminent archaeologist of the region, Devinder Handa has also written about this place on the basis of the coins found from this site. Huen Tsang has written that this place had 1.000 monks and five monasteries, apart from five stupas having hair and nails of the Buddha and Shariputra. The Buddha had delivered his sermon here and there were Ashokan pillars. It was a majority Hindu town as idols of Hanuman have been found from here. Even depiction of Ramayana isseen in terracotta work. There were around 100 Hindu temples here,” he said. Panini in his creation Ashtadhyayi called this place as Shughna. He has noted intellectual skills of the people of this place were highly respectable. It was as important a place as Taxila and Patliputra, according to Gauri 35, like the Buddha found hope thinking of revival of degenerated structures around his town. Prince Sidhartha-turned Buddha’s spiritual quest started when he saw death, disease and old age and Buddha got answers to his quest 2600 years ago on this day.
While collecting pictures of such sites, an idea occurred to Gauri of making a documentary to capture the plight of the historically important sites. It took three years to make the 22 minute long documentary ‘Dhammashetra -The Lost Land of Buddha”. As he started researching on the ruins, he found too many of them across the country mostly in Haryana. Gauri was, however, shocked to know that nothing much was happening for conserving the heritage that is so important for world peace, tourism, diplomatic and economic ties of India. Despite his film being shown on Doordarshan international, he launched a website ‘thebuddhistform.com” to attract attention of the world towards the plight of Buddhist heritage in India. The website is attracting one lakh visitors every month, mostly from America and Russia.His efforts to draw attention of Indian government brought him disappointment as nothing has happened on the ground.
Gauri,however started getting recognition from the international community as last month he had a meeting with Magsaysay award winner Sri Lankan Gandhian Dr A.T. Ariyaratne to save Buddhist heritage in north India. Barely managing funds from family and friends for his cause. The Yamunanagar youth is planning to visit all Buddhist countries to drum up support for his cause. First international screening of his film was done in Sri Lanka last month. He was invited to the celebrations of the 2600th year of Buddha’s enlightenment in the island nation. ‘My name and my work on stupas have almost made me a Buddhist in the eyes of the world despite retaining my Hindu belief dose to my heart”Gauri told The Times of India.
Gauri has already written letters to all 700 MPs to save Buddhist heritage in their areas and sent 21,000 signatures to the President for saving stupas. Whether there is a controversy on Chaneti stupa being spoilt during the conservation or villagers demanding return of the Ashokan pillar from Delhi to Topra village, Gauri is in the forefront.
Talking to TOl, Gauri said one of the biggest challenges for his campaign came when he found out that Jammu and Kashmir has a large number of Kushan period remains and it was from here that Buddhism went to Bamlyan in Afghanistan But one courageous Kashmiri Muslim Siraj-ud.din Salam of Kashmir Humanity Foundation stood by him and launched a signature campaign in Kashmir to save the Buddhist heritage.