There’s a campaign that’s been gaining mileage ever since it started in March 2009. This international sign campaign asks for signatures of people on a request letter that will ask for government intervention in the preservation of ancient Buddhist monuments across India. Sidhartha Gauri, the founder and president of NGO, The Buddhist Forum, held a screening of a 20- minute documentary film called Dhammachhetra — The Lost Land of Buddha on Wednesday in Chandigarh, in order to garner strength for the Save Stupas Save Buddha campaign that has also been started by him.
He had started the forum while making the documentary that traces the journey of Lord Buddha and King Ashoka, who after adopting Buddhism, built thousands of stupas. Sidhartha’s short film also focuses on how Buddhism was a part of Haryana almost 2,500 years ago.
He says, “Along with some intellectuals, archaeologists, and educationists from Kurukshetra, I did a lot of research to find the remains of ancient stupas. We found that southwest Karnal has a 25 m high and 2,000-year-old stupa and the Kurukshetra University has a 1,300- year-old ancient monastery as well as a Stupa.” He continues, “I was shocked to see the dilapidated condition of these Buddhist sites, mainly stupas and monasteries, and noticing the lack of interest of the government, I made the forum that will collaborate with the governments of Asian countries for the promotion, preservation and research of these structures.”
We wonder if his name is a coincidence. Sidhartha denies, saying, “People think I’m a Buddhist when they hear my name. But my mother was a Christian and father a Hindu.” He says he always had a bent towards Buddhism and undertook the initiative after witnessing the sad plight of the structures associated with this religion. “These places of pilgrimage are covered with garbage and filth while the residents of Haryana are unaware of the fact that these broken constructions are actually old monastery walls. It’s such a sad irony.”