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KAUVA DOL PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 10 December 2009 20:15
- A Site in need of dire attention

My next place to visit after Barabar Hill was Kauva Dol, which I was told by the local guides at the site "was a brisk walk for the next 4 Kilometers through the agricultural fields."  For me walking such a distance at the age of 60 is really no problem as I have been tracing the footsteps of the Buddha for the last many decades - and on many an occasion walked far greater distances than this.

Kauva Dol is the name of a hill about 4 Kilometers south-west from the Barabar Hills and about 12 Kilometers east from Bela Railway Station. The name literally means "crows swing," which, it is said, is derived from the fact that a huge block of stone was once lying so well balanced on the existing pinnacle of the hill that it used to rock when a crow alighted on it. Below the hill are the ruins of an ancient Vihara that surround the area. The site was first noticed by Buchanan during his tour of observations for the East India Company in the year 1811-12. Later, Major Kittoe, Cunningham and Beglar also visited the site and noted the ruins of the Vihara.

In their reports both Kittoe and Cunningham refer to a mound strewn with brick-bats, hewn stone and potsherds, along the eastern and northern foot of the hill, representing the remains of an ancient township known as  Samanpur. Kittoe goes on to define the boundary of the area by saying that the eastern portion was known as Sarain, while the northern portion was called Samanpur. Beglar identifies the ruins of the site with the Silabhadra Monastery of the Buddhist tradition as mentioned by Huien Tsang. He goes on to say that the ancient name 'Samanpur' which was derived from the word 'Sramanapura,' the town of the Sramanas (or novice) Buddhist Monks who lived there. Which means this site was a center for training young monks who lived here in large numbers.

At the eastern foot of the hill, as mentioned above, are the remains of a large temple which Beglar described in full details: "It consisted originally of the sanctum, the antarala or ante-chamber, a mandapa, an ardhamandapa and a mahamandapa." Some of the pillars of the mandapa, 13 in number, were still seen standing in 1902 by Bloch, forming a sort of colonnade leading to the sanctum. The walls of the sanctum were of brick; while the floor level of the shrine was lower than that of the halls in front. Inside the shrine were seated a colossus of the Buddha on a large pedestal and two smaller images, one of which had an inscription containing the usual Buddhist creed formula. The colossal image in the shrine represents the Buddha in Bhumisparsa Mudra and is 8 feet high of which Kittoe noted complete details and measurements. Around 1811-12, when Buchanan visited the site, it was worshipped in the locality as a Hindu deity with the name of Buddha Sena or "General of the Buddha" or as Bhairava. But in 1872 Beglar quotes the local tradition that it represented an asura sentry of Banasura lying petrified here as a result of a curse, the details of which could not be ascertained by him.

In the vicinity of the site are several Muslim tombs on this side of the hill built chiefly of pillars and coping stones of Buddhist and (probably) Hindu temples. Buchanan adds that near the temple of Buddha-Sena was buried one Hesamuddin Shah to whom probably the Buddhist temple owed its destruction. The tomb is built mainly out of material taken from the temple.

On the rocks of the northern and eastern face of the hill are some carved, rather coarse figures representing mostly Hindu deities as well as a few images of the Buddha in sitting posture. Bloch says that he saw in all three Buddhist figures, which were of Vajrasattva, Prajnaparamita and a seated Buddha. The figures were quite 'weather beaten' when they were seen by Bloch in 1902. He also assigns the creation of these sculptures to a period between 800 to 1200 CE.

On my visit to the site recently, I found 11 pillars still remaining at the site though only 4 were still standing. The Colossal Buddha Image is now preserved in a small shrine room built by the ASI somewhere in the 1990s. The two smaller images were nowhere to be seen; they were either removed by the Britishers, the ASI or have been stolen and have ended up in a private collection in some foreign country. The site has never been excavated hence no one knows what treasures lie beneath the soil or what historical facts will be unearthed. Another fact I discovered to my dismay was that the ASI do not have an attendant at the site, as such it is open to theft and plunder. From this fact, the only impression I got was that the Archaeological Survey of India is only interested in those site that were excavated by the British at important places  of Buddhist worship that are visited by International Pilgrims and the Department can charge an 'Entrance Fee.' The rest of the sites are of no consequence to them and they would be happy if it was completely forgotten about. Buddhism has literally been turned to an Academic Study and many Scholars are satisfied in considering this Great Philosophy as a 'Dead Religion' rather than come to the present truth that Universally more and more people have abandoned other religions to become Buddhists and as such the population of Buddhists has grown and with it the need for pilgrimage to forgotten sites. I am aware that the ASI lacks an organized team of Scholars. Then there is lack of funds to take up excavation at sites that would attract a much bigger flow of pilgrims - thereby bringing into the Country far greater foreign revenue. Farsightedness and lack of interest in the Buddhist Sector and its development is another malady in this Department. A recent Survey undertaken by me on the ASIs holding of sites (1) Largest amount of sites: Buddhist - many of them never visited since India became Independent (2) Muslim Mosques - a minority compared to Buddhist holdings.(3) Hindu Temples and sites, not even 1% compared to Buddhist sites under ASI's control.

There is a drastic need for the Government of India to re-evaluate its obsolete British Laws dating back to 1862 and consider a active participation with the Buddhist Sangha in the control and maintenance of 'forgotten Buddhist Sites. In a State like Bihar, which, has the largest amount of uncared for Buddhist sites, would be an ideal venue to work on innovative ways to share participation with the Buddhists. May I remind you that the British Laws pertaining to the administration of Ancient Sites in India were never implemented in England - instead they chose a more 'People friendly policy' and constantly update their laws to meet the demands of the public.

The Kauva Dol Hill

The 8 Feet Buddha Image preserved at Kauva Dol Monastery site

Pillars - remanents of the Monastery buried below

Buddha Image carved on a boulder

Carvings on another rock boulder

References: Buchanan, Patna-Gaya, I, pp.137-39; Kittoe, JASB, 1847, pp.402-4; Cunningham, ASI, 1, pp.40-41 and plate XVIII;  Beglar, CASI,VIII, p.40; Bengal List, p.320; BDG, Gaya pp.227-8; Bloch, An. Rep., ASI, B.C., 1902, PP.11-12. Personal views/comments of Suresh Bhatia regarding the Site and the Archaeological Survey of India specially written for The Buddhist Heritage - A Web Journal
Last Updated on Sunday, 13 December 2009 13:35