After the excavation of bodily relics of Lord Buddha from Devnimori and Viharas and Stupas at Vadanagar, Gujarat has emerged as the new hot spot for Buddhist pilgrims coming to India.
In an exclusive chat with Sharique N Siddiquie of Zeenews.com, Director of Archaeological Survey of Gujarat, Rawat Yadubirsingh talks about Lord Buddha’s association with Gujarat and existence of Buddhist heritage sites in the state.
Sharique: Gujarat is famous for its Jain traditions. How come it is being called a Buddhist destination?
Rawat: Buddhism has very old relations with Gujarat. As is clear from the recent excavations, we are trying to establish that Lord Buddha himself visited places in Gujarat. Also, the excavation of Stupas and Viharas clearly suggest that Buddhism came to Gujarat during the times of Buddha itself.
Sharique: Tell us about the relics of Lord Buddha that you have found.
Rawat: The bodily relics of Lord Buddha were excavated in 1963 from Devnimori. Recently, we discovered another Buddhist site in Vadnagar after salvage excavation.
Sharique: If the bodily relics were discovered in 1963, why did it take so long to promote it?
Rawat: Gujarat was essentially famous for its Indus Valley civilization. The archaeological department was busy looking for the remains of Indus Valley. So, nobody thought of promoting the Buddhist sites and excavations.
After Chief Minister’s initiative, now we are committed to looking for more Buddhist sites. The excavation work at Vadnagar is still going on.
Sharique: How did you convince the government in promoting Buddhist sites of Gujarat?
Rawat: It was not a very daunting task. I must say, it was pretty easy. When government noticed the rich Buddhist heritage and tried to promote tourism, our work became all the more simple.
It is interesting to know that Gujarat is only the fifth place in the world where bodily relics of Lord Buddha have been found.
Sharique: Do you think after the international seminar and recent excavations, archaeologists turn to Gujarat?
Rawat: Huen Tsang wrote in his memoir that there were lot of monasteries in the region and almost 1300 monks lived there. We are trying to find out more about it.
After the excavations, the scholars and archaeologists will certainly take more interest in the state. This also shows the rich and old traditions of Gujarat.