Monday, January 13, 2014

Dalai Lama to Meditate at Nagarjuna Caves on January 14, 2014

Tibetian spiritual leader Dalai Lama is all set to meditate at the historic Nagarjuna caves near the banks of river Mahanadi at Sirpur on January 14. During his three-day visit to Chhattisgarh from January 13, to attend an international peace conference at Ravishankar Shukla University, the spiritual guru would inaugurate a seminar on Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna and his writings.

During his previous visit to Sirpur caves this year, he had promised to return and meditate at the Nagarjuna caves, located around 15 kilometres away from Sirpur in Mahasamund district on the banks of Mahanadi. As Dalai Lama considers Nagarjuna his master, he decided to meditate in the cave where his master did during the Satvahana rule.

Talking to TOI, prominent archaeologist Arun Sharma said, "The cave is more than 200 metres deep on the hill called Shivha-Dhurva. The place has many caves of various sizes. This region has a sculptured gate and remains of old palaces of Sarabhpuriya's reign during 5th century. Nagarjuna visited this place in second century BC following which many famous monks and Buddhists also visited the caves. Literary evidence shows Buddha also meditated in one of the caves here in 6th century BC and also preached in Bajaar area here."

Sharma said the evidence was found in a travelogue written by Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang who visited Sirpur in 639 AD. "Later, a Buddh-vihar (Budh-monastry) was constructed by the Buddhists at this place where a Buddha idol is sitting in a meditating pose." Many temples and Buddhist monasteries were excavated from the spot.

After Nagarjuna offered his prayers to Buddha and meditated in the case, people started calling it Nagarjuna cave. Eventually local tribe Gond people had set up an idol of Devi which has also created a controversy after Dalai Lama announced his meditation.

People initially protested about the Buddhist monk meditating in their territory where they worship their goddess. "But they were convinced about Dalai's motive of simply meditating at the spot as his master Nagarjuna had done the same there," Sharma said.

Dalai Lama, 78, would be the state guest at the conference. The three-day seminar will be organized by ancient Indian history department of RSU along with tourism and culture and archaeology department.

Meanwhile, the tourism department is busy making preparations for the Buddhist monk's visit as the terrain towards the cave is slippery and tough.

By Rashmi Drolia, Times of India

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