Tis the season of all things big. Following closely on the footsteps of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Ahmedabad — who snagged the world’s tallest statue title at a colossal height of 182 metres — is the dharma chakra in Topra Kalan, which wants to be “world’s largest iron dharma chakra”. At 30 feet and 6,000 kg, the 24-spoke wheel of dharma chakra is certainly India’s biggest.
Why Topra Kalan
There is nothing remarkable about Topra Kalan today. About 90 km from Chandigarh, Topra Kalan, which is dependent on agriculture, has serene fields surrounding it. It is mostly clean but provides only the absolute basic necessities to its nearly 2,500 residents — they have to go to Yamunanagar, which is about 20 km, or Radaur, about 14 km, if they fall sick, for instance.
But according to The Buddhist Forum, an NGO that is involved in saving stupas, monuments and relics related to Buddhism, and is the driving force behind the dharma chakra, this village was on the ancient trade route that connected Mathura to Taxila in Pakistan.
There’s a passing reference to this nondescript village in the pages of our history. Says Rajpal Singh, a retired professor of history from Mukund Lal National College in Radau, “Emperor Asoka of Maurya dynasty had constructed a pillar in this village around 2,300 years ago, but it was shifted to Delhi by Feroz Shah Tughlaq of Tughlaq dynasty in the 14th century, as recorded by a historian, Shams-i-Siraj Afif, of that time. Nowadays, the pillar stands atop the Feroz Shah Kotla, a threestoried building in Delhi, and it is the only pillar having seven edicts of Asoka engraved on it. Later, some minor edicts were added by King of Delhi, Anagpal, in the 10th century.”
The chakra, hopes the Buddhist Forum, will put Topra Kalan in the spiritual tourism map. Says Buddhist Forum’s Satyadeep Neil Gauri: “According to the Buddhist texts, it was in Haryana that Buddha delivered the Mahasatipatthana Sutta, considered the most important sutras of his life. Presently, it is called Vipassana or mindfulness meditation.”
Gauri is aware that the moniker “biggest” will automatically get the attention of the world. “We are planning to register this as world’s largest iron dharma chakra in the Guinness Book of World Records and Limca Book of Records,” he says.
The Buddhist Forum also has the support of the village panchayat, which has provided 27 acres for the Ashoka Edicts Park. “But before establishing the park, it was decided to set up a dharma chakra, which will shower blessings in re-establishing dharma teachings on this part of the world,” says Gauri.
The sarpanch of the Topra Kalan, Munish Kumar, is quite clued into the opportunities that the chakra will present to his village. “It is an honour for us that our village will be home to the biggest dharma chakra. We have become the talk of the neighbouring villages. We feel proud that Emperor Asoka erected a pillar around 2,300 years ago in our village. Now, we are waiting for more Buddhist pilgrims, who are likely to turn our fortunes, too. We already see at least 20 families visiting our village every day. Government will soon include this biggest chakra in the must-visit tourism spots of Haryana, so more tourists will come,” he says with confidence.
His confidence is paying off, already. Topra Kalan is being lifted out of its mundane existence. For instance, IPS officer O P Singh, popularly known as ‘Marathon Man of Haryana’, who is the additional director general of police (human rights and litigation) has gone out of his way to include Topra Kalan in the next marathon that he is organising. “On January 18, Yamunanagar Marathon will be started from Topra Kalan and it will finish here. Nearly 50,000 participants will take part in this marathon,” says Singh.
Seeing the confidence of the villagers and the NGO, Haryana tourism department has approved the grant of Rs 2 crore for the development of the Asoka Edicts Park. “The Buddhist Forum has made the chakra with its own resources. We spent around Rs 45 lakh on the chakra. On April 11, 2015, during a rally in Radaur, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had announced Rs 50 crore towards the development of Asoka Edicts Park, out of which Rs 2 crore have been approved by the government. During a recent meeting in Chandigarh, the officials of the tourism department have asked for us for a proposal. We have recommended that two Asoka pillars be built as well as a Lion Capital of Asoka and a replica of Topra pillar, which was transported from here to Feroz Shah Kotla. We also said that four acres should be landscaped, an information centre be built, sitting arrangements be made and visitors be provided basic amenities.”
Haryana tourism additional chief secretary Vijai Vardhan, who agreed that the chakra was built on the initiative of The Buddhist Forum, says that the proposal has been forwarded to the Central government for approval. “The tenders will be invited soon and once it is developed, the park will be handed over to the village panchayat. It will also be listed in the state tourism spots.”