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The Accumulate Stupa of Ramagrama

Posted by worldamity on March 9, 2010

Nawalparasi is one of the most important districts of Nepal from the Archaeological point of view. Besides many archaeological ruins, this district has an ancient stupa in Ramagrama, which according to many scholars is among the oldest stupa of Nepal. It is believed that this contains the relic of Buddha inside this stupa. Rama Grama is situated 5.3 km south east from Parasi, the headquarters of Nawal Parasi, south of Deurawa village, north of Billaspur, east of Ujjaini, west of Deau village and on the bank of the stream Jharahi. Considering its historical and archaeological importance the government has announced this area as Ramagram Municipality. The site is located in 830 41′ 05″ E and 270 29′ 55″ N on the height of 107 m from MSL1 .

According to Buddhist literature Sujat was the King of Saketa. He had have four sons and five daughters from his first wife. After her death the king married for second time. When the second queen gave birth to a son, she put her desire and also insisted the king to make her son the heir of the king and he must succeed the throne after the king.. Hence, the nine children of the first queen were forced to leave Saketa Kingdom.

The expatriated children moved toward the north side and reached a place where the ascetic Kapila was residing on the bank of the river Bhagirathi, known as Ban Ganga. The anchorite gave them permission to settle there and the site gradually developed. It was given the name of Kapilavastu after the name of ascetic Kapila. The four brothers married their four younger sisters, and they declared the eldest sister Priya as their “queen mother”. In course of time, Priya suffered from Leprosy and left Kapilavastu and resided in a cave in a nearby forest. Coincidentally, the King of Varanasi, named Rama had also been suffering from the same disease. He took his retirement and abandoned his Kingdom to his son and proceeded for Banabas (settling in the forest as a hermit or sage in the same forest). Fortunately, he was cured of the disease while sitting under a Kolam (Nauclea Cardifolia) tree. Priya also had been cured of the disease immediately after the king’s recovery in the same manner. They married and they founded a city near by and named it Koliyanagara or Koliyapur, after the name of the tree Kolam which have cured them from the dreadful disease. The descendants became Koliya, after the name of the tree. The city is also called Rama Grama after the name of King Rama. The literature also mentioned that the God showed them a place near by a tank to stay. So the state of Koliya was also known as Devadaha (god’s lake in Sanskrit). Koliya dynasty has the root in Koliyanagara. Some literature also mention the place as Vyaghra-pura. There is a story about why it is being called Vyaghra-pura or tiger town (Hardy’s ‘Manual of Buddhism, Pg. 136)2 . Priya, when she was in a cave was assault by a tiger. She cried for help and King Rama came for her rescue Thus the tiger became the cause of their first meeting resulting ultimately to the marriage.. So the name of the place became Vyaghra-pura. In course of time, the Koliya of Devaduha established the matrimonial relations with the Sakyas dynasty3 . Suddhodana (the Buddha father, married with Maya Devi. Thus it has been Buddha maternal uncles house and the city of his father in law. It is believed that after Nirvana of Buddha his relic was brought in Ramagrama by Koliya and this stupa was constructed.

The Buddhist literature mention these places repeatedly as Koliyanagara, Dev-daha, Byaghrapur and Ramgrama. They are the name of the same place or different is a subject of study.

After death of Buddha his body was cremated and priest Drona divided relic from his Tumbo (A large dried gourd) in eight parts for Astha Maha Jana Pada (eight republicans) kings. They are namely Magadh, Vaishali, Kapilbastu, Allakappa, Koliyanagara, Vathadipa, Pava and Kusinagara4 . So Koliyanagara received one part of relic and king of that nagar built the Stupa containing the relic in Ramagrama. This stupa is near the bank of river Jharai . Archaeologically we find here a religious site with a prominent mound of stupa and remains of bricks layers.

According to Mahawanso (The Ceylonese Chronicler) the stupa of Ramagrama was washed away by the river Ganges. The relic casket, was carried down the river to the ocean, was discovered by Nagas or water gods, and presented to their king, who built a stupa for its reception. During the reign of Dutthagamini of Ceylon in the year B.C. 161 to 137, the casket was miraculously obtained from the Nagas King by the holy monk Sonuttaro, and enshrined in the Mahathupo, or “great Stupa” in the land of Sri Lanka5 .

Literature mentions that the Imperial (the Great) King Ashok (3rd century .B.C.) had planned to construct eighty four thousands stupa after breaking the relics of Astha Maha Jana Pada into pieces . Ashok went on dividing the relics and built stupas. He was successful to open the seventh stupas of different Janapadas he proceeded to Ramagrama for the eighth relic and while started the work the Naga (serpent) apprehending the desecration of the place, changed himself into the form of a Brahman and appeared in front of Emperor Ashok and bowed down and said “Maharaja”, Your feeling are well affected to the law of Buddha, and you have largely planted (good seed) in the field of religious merit. May I venture to ask you to detain your carriage a while and condescend to visit my dwellings” .The King asked where was his dwelling? Was it near at distance? The Brahman replied that he is the King of Naga of the lake. When he heard that the emperor had desired to build a superior field of merit then he had ventured to ask emperor to visit his abode. Ashok, accepting the exhortation, immediately entered the Naga precinct and sat there for some time. Then the Naga said to him, because of his evil Karma he had received Naga body and by performing a religious service to Sariras of Buddha he had desired to atone for and efface of his guilt. Hence the king would himself go and inspect (Stupa or relics) with a view to worship. King having known, was filled with agitation and said ” All these appliances for worship are unlike anything seen amongst men.” The Naga replied “If it be so, would the king not attempt to destroy the stupa.” Then the king decided not to open the stupa at the spot where the Naga request him6 . This story is treasured by carving very beautifully in Sanchi Stupa which can still be studied there.

Chinese Pilgrims Fa-hian and Hiuen Tsiang (5th & 7th century .A.D.) also have mentioned about Rama grama (Lan-Mo). This place is in the south-east of the old capital (Ramagrama). There is a brick stupa with a height of less than 100 feet. By the side of the stupa there is a clean lake (tank). A dragon, at a certain period, comes forth and walks here, and changing his form and snake-like exterior, marches round the stupa , circumambulate to pay its honour. The wild elephants also used to come in herds, gathered flowers, and scattered them there as a homage to Buddha7 . Local habitants here compelled by those mysterious power, have continued to offer this service. From Lumbini Fa-Hian makes the distance 5 yojans or 35 miles to the east and Hwen Thsang gives 200 li or 33 and half miles in the same direction8 . It is correct as per the present location wise.

The scholar Cunninghum and Carllyle tried much to fix the site but could not come to the nearest point. Renowned scholar Thomas Watters an authority of Chinese source of Buddhist records and the writer describe the location of Ramagrama. “It is unnecessary now to notice the opinions of General Cunningham and Mr. Carllyle as to the modern representative of Rama of our pilgrims. Further researches in Nepal Terai may lead to the discovery of some trust worthy indications as to the site of the old city”9.

After 7th century A.D. no body has spoken about this stupa. Besides, not any study nor its exploration could have been done. Thus there is much shortage of materials for research and study. Even during the Chinese traveller visit period this place had taken a shape of dense and big forest.

Only in 1898 after Dr. Hoey arrival at the place this stupa was mentioned after a lapse of times as he brought forward many things about this stupa in his writings. He recorded only fifty feet height of the stupa and he was silent about the spot.

Prof. Shantaram Balchandra Deo (S. B. Deo) visited this place in 1964 and published photo of this stupa. He mentioned the height of stupa as 30ft and its circumference about 70 ft. He has suggested in his report for the excavation of this stupa and its vicinity10 .

In 1976 Nepalese archaeologist Babu Krishna Rijal visited this place and claimed this stupa as Ramagrama on the basis of Chinese traveller’s documents, geographical location and the prominence of the mound.

When author of these lines was there in 1996, the local habitants are worshipping this stupa during that period of Ram Nawami ( Birthday of Lord Rama) The legend is if the worship is ignored the wild boar would come and destroy their harvesting. It was believed that if any body would take the brick away from the where is as is position he/she would be bitten to death by the serpent. This legend was the main reason for why the stupa has yet been preserved.

For a long time it has remained as a non-entity. The vicinity could not be explored and excavated properly and scientifically.

In 1996 (15 January. 28 July, 27 November) some Indian Local Paper published from Gorakhpur, U.P., India has claimed that they have found stupa of Ramagrama in south of Nawalparasi of Maharajgang district , UP, India, which is baseless.

After more than two decades, it was om 1997 that the geo-physical survey around Ramagrama stupa was conducted by the Bradford University of United Kingdom in collaboration with the Department of Archaeology and the financial support from UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The result showed some monastic complex in a field believed by the people to be an unlucky field, This field is located only four meter away on north west direction from the stupa mound. The monastic complex as recorded by geo-physical survey in fluxgate gradeometre HP(r-4) – 9..9nt and Earth Resistance (12.25 Ohms) is shown in following plan. Fluxgate Gradiometre (HP(r = 4)-9..nt11 .

Nepalese archaeologist Sukra Sagar Shrestha opened the monastic complex in January 1999. It was the first excavation in this whole Nawalparasi district. The biggest trench was 50 x 50, second 25 x 25 and third 4 x 4 mt. After excavation it was reconfirmed that the picture shown in the survey is a monastic complex. This is just a four meters away from the stupa plinth. The archaeologist opines that he has hit the monastery which was described by Chinese Pilgrims Fa-hien and Hiuen Tsiang (5th/7th century A.D.). He has open so far total of five trenches and has brought to light enough data of monastery. The following findings are recorded12 . “The monastic complex measure 13.5 x 13.5 mt. having 2.40 mt. wide rooms and courtyard of 4.80 mt. square. The size of the wall is 115 cm. to 125 cm. thick and brick sizes are of 6 x 19 x 30 cm., and 6 x 23 x 36 cm. Surprisingly no evidence of roof tiles are recovered. Showing the roofs to be covered by organic materials most probably the thatch. Being a Sramanera monastery by the complex is comparatively a smaller one and it tallies with the description of Fa-hien and Hiuen Tsing, who saw there only few monks living”13.

He found special stone used by the monks as needle sharpener and few decorative brick are collected. No special antiquities are encountered except a small copper or bronze rod. The monastic complex is simply four metres away from the stupa which is divided by a roughly paved road with brick bats14 .

The older accumulate below the foundation of the monastery from which came out the fire places, black and red ware with grey ware potsherds as well15 .

The fall of the bricks from the stupa was recovered after the discontinuation of the monastery may be the major flood activity. In all trenches one can see a huge layer of flood deposit. But when did the flood occurred is still a question mark16 .

To conclude, this is the first excavation done in this area. Hope if we do continue cutting of the trenches we will reach in our goal. A long journey starts from the single step.

——————————————————————————–

1. Sukra Sagar Shrestha, Ramagrama Excavation, Ancient Nepal, no. 142, pg. no. 6.
2. Alexander Cunningham, The Ancient Geography of India, pg. no. 350.
3. Ibid.
4. Dunda Bahadur Bajracharya, Digha Nikaya, pg. no. 288.
5. Alexander Cunnigham, The Ancient Geography of India, pg. no. 355.
6. Samuel Beal, SI – YU KI Buddhist Records of the Western World, pg. no. 26 -27.
7. Ibid, pg. no. 27.
8. Alexander Cunnigham, The Ancient Geography of India, pg. no. 354.
9. Watters Thomas, On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India, II Edition, pg. no. 20.
10. S. B. Deo, Archaeological Investigations in the Nepal Terai , pg. no. 32.
11. Sukra Sagar Shrestha, Ramagrama Excavation, Ancient Nepal, No. 142, pg. no. 4.
12. Ibid, pg. no. 5.
13. Ibid
14. Ibid
15. Ibid
16. Ibid, pg. no. 6.   ——————————————————————————–

References:

Bajracharya, Dunda Bahadur. (2000). Digha Nikaya (Translated and edited from Pali). Kathmandu: Bir-purna Pustak Sangrahalaya.

Beal, Samuel. (1981). SI-YU KI Buddhist Record of the Western World, Translated from the Chinese of Hiuen Tsiang (A.D. 629). India: Motilal Banarasidass.

Bidari, Basanta. (1996). Kapilvastu (The Ancient Sakya Kingdom in Nepal). Lumbini vol. 2, no. 2. Nepal: The International Buddhist Society.

Cunningham, Alexander. (1990). The Ancient Geography of India (The Buddhist Period). India: Nimri Ashok Vihar (1990).

Deo, S.B. (1968). Archaeological Investigations in the Nepal Tarai. Kathmandu: Department of
Archaeology.

Fuhrer, A. Ph.D. (1972). Antiquities of the Buddha’s Birth-Place in the Nepalese Tarai. Varanasi: Indological Book House.

Hoey, Dr. (25 March 1898). Pioneer. India: Allahabad.

Rijal, Babu Krishna. (1979). Archaelogical Remains of Kapilvastu, Lumbini and Devadaha, Kathmandu: Education Enterprises Pvt. Ltd.

Shrestha Sukra Sagar. (1999). Ramgrama Excavation. Ancient Nepal, number 142. Kathmandu: Journal of the Department of Archaeology.

Watters, Thomas. (1973). On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India, II edition.

Source: www.diwasdhakal.com

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