ARE THESE THE BUDDHA BONES?

ARE THESE THE BUDDHA BONES?
By Chan Khoon San

After our Pilgrimage in 2002, we visited the Indian Museum in Delhi and saw the bone fragments found by the English planter W.C. Peppe in 1898 when he excavated the Piprahwa stupa in Basti District, Uttar Pradesh, India. Some of the excavated bone pieces were displayed in a miniature golden pavilion donated by the Government of Thailand. We were filled with immense joy at the sight such ‘sacred objects’, worshiping them with great enthusiasm. I took several photos of the bone fragments  for remembrance.

Are these Buddha's bones

When we returned home, I took a second look at the bone fragments in my photos. That was when I began to have doubts about their authenticity. According to Thupavamsa, [1] the Buddha Gotama’s relics were scattered and may be divided into three sizes. The small relic has the size of a mustard seed, the great relic the size of a rice grain and the very great relic the size of a sprouted seed. But the bone relics that I saw were mega-size and looked suspicious. In 2004, when we visited Mulagandhakuti Vihara in Sarnath, we were shown a Buddha bone relic of 2nd century AD discovered in 1913 by British archaeologist Sir John Marshall at the Dhammarajika Stupa in Taxila, Pakistan. The size and condition of this Buddha relic matched the description in Thupavamsa. This reinforced my doubts about the authenticity of the bones of Piprahwa stupa.

In May 2013, the National Geographic screened a documentary about the Piprahwa stupa entitled “The Bones of the Buddha”, claiming that the area at Piprahwa stupa is the site of the Sakyan capital Kapilavastu, and that the bones found were the bones of the Buddha. This article is written to refute the claims in the National Geographic documentary presented by British author Charles Allen.

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Posted by Terence Seow
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