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The Buddhist Sangha Revive an Ancient Sacred Site
GURPA HILL 2 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 10 December 2009 20:20

The recent consecration of the two Stupas on the top of the Gurpa hill by His Holiness the XVII th Karmapa was a clear message to Archaeologists and Historians that the Buddhist  Congregation Globally are interested in the preservation of its religious site - and if the Government of India has no interest in them, then  they will do it themselves. Gurpa is one of the many 'Sacred sites' that badly needed attention and hence the devotees along with the people of Gurpa came forward to restore the site.
Actually only half the work is done yet and there is a dire need for further exploration. The site was visited by R. D. Banerji in the year 1906, exactly 103 years ago. He and Bloch were the only two Archaeologists to visit the site and undertake a survey of the hill and the caves. I would like to briefly bring to record their 'survey report' to clarify what still needs to be done.

The hill extends from south-west to north-east and has three peaks, the highest at the north-east being 1000 feet. Nearby, concealed in the jungle growth, is the mouth of a tunnel which after some distance from the entrance, branches off into two passages. One passage goes downwards but is blocked with a mere fissure in the rock. The other goes further to the north-east over a staircase of 28 stone steps and leads to the right to a platform formed by a huge boulder. By the side of the platform is a natural depression (or tank) in the rock, which is held sacred by the local people. This tank measures only 8x5 feet in which, underneath a huge block of stones, was discovered, it is said, a skeleton more than 6 feet in length. Beyond this, going upwards, another platform is reached from where a second tunnel or a natural archway, formed by the huge boulders leaning against each other, runs across the top of the hill and ends in a precipice about 500 feet high. At the end of the tunnel there is a platform from where steps or niches are seen cut into the rock to provide for a stairway to go to the summit of the peak.
On a small boulder along one of the walls of the tunnel were some Buddhist images, one representing the Buddha, now without a head, 8 feet in height and another of the Buddha in bhumi-sparsa-mudra. Besides there is a votive stupa with Buddha figures in panels.

On the top of this peak were noticed two miniature shrines, 5ft square, made of huge bricks, sculptures and statuary loosely piled together without mortar or cement, which encloses a pair of foot-prints on stone slabs, a number of Buddhist statues and small votive stupas. The images include figures of the Buddha and the deity Tara, some of them bearing inscriptions containing the usual Buddhist creed formulae.
On the western peak also is a square basement of bricks, representing perhaps ruins of a stupa with some images lying at site. Similarly on the southern peak were found fragments of sculptures and stupas.
From the position and description of the caves R. D. Banerji and Bloch identified the hill with the Kukkutapadagiri of the Buddhist tradition, as described by Huien Tsang, who also mentions the same hill by another name of Gurupadgiri, from which the present name seems to have been derived. It is also stated that its distance from Bodh Gaya and the three peaks agree closely given by the 7th century Chinese pilgrim.

Personally I feel that all the Buddhist Images, Stupas and donator offerings were made by pilgrims who visited the hill during the period that Buddhism was at its popularity. What does surprise me is that none of the Buddhist kings did visit the site or build anything on the hill. There could be a possibility that some kings could have come in pilgrimage and even left behind inscriptions of the donations they made, but as the hill was neglected for some centuries, it is possible that the images were either destroyed or stolen. There is a dire need to undertake a thorough research on the history of Gurpa hill. The Buddhist Heritage would be willing to create a team of Archaeologists and Historians to re-create the missing link in the history of the hill during the period it was forgotten about.

A modern stairway built up to to the top of the hill

Boulder covering the entrance of an ancient cave

A cave yet to be explored

A neighbouring hill yet to be explored

The top of the hill

Image of Ven. Maha Kassappa installed in a Stupa at the top of Gurpa Hill

The Stupa in the background - in the fore ground is a Shrine room

Votive Stupas on the top of the Gurpa Hill

Ancient 'Foot Prints' at the top of Gurpa Hill

Another set of 'Foot Prints' in Hindu Temple

References: R.D. Banerji and Bloch JPASB, 1906, p.77 ff; BDG, Gaya, pp.219-220; JBORS, III, pp.296-7; Comments and suggestions by Suresh Bhatia, The Buddhist Heritage Research Foundation.

Last Updated on Sunday, 13 December 2009 13:41