Lumbini-Kapilvastu Day Blog

Welcome to Lumbini, Nepal – the birthplace of Buddha

Tidbits of Nepali Journalism ‘’Buddha was born in ……..’’

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on June 6, 2014

By Chiranjibi Paudyal

Chiranjibi-PaudyalBuddha born in NepalThat evening, Indian Defence minister Fernandes had hosted a reception in honour of the participants of the conference. When I met in the reception, he was little bit furious and adamant to his statement. We had arguments. I said ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’ but he said ‘Buddha was born in India.’ I asked him ‘’who told you and how did you know Buddha was born in India’’, he said me ‘’had read since his childhood that Buddha was born in Northern India.’’ I told him if you read UN documents then you will know the real fact. I was so infuriated that I said little bit loudly: ‘’ Do you know ‘’U Thant?’’ You should know UN Secretary General from Asia? Then he said ‘’ Why not.’’

So you must be aware that there is UN project in Lumbini which is in Nepal since the time of U Thant. When I repeatedly said UN Project then he seemed to be convinced, and felt embarrassed. I arranged an interview with him for next morning in the same hotel where we were staying. When we sat for interview, I asked the same question to him like a teacher repeatedly asks a same question to a weak student. Later he corrected saying ‘Buddha was born in Nepal.’

Famous poet Sir Edwin Arnold to UN official say Buddha was born in India distorting the fact and hurting the sentiment of millions of Nepali around the globe. However, I had the opportunity to persuade a senior UN official to make him understand and acknowledge that ‘’ Gautam Buddha was born in Nepal.’’

While taking varied roles from senior reporter to chief reporter, and associate editor to editor of National News Agency of Nepal, I had wide-ranging, interesting and exciting assignments inside Nepal and abroad. Once in a very short notice, I was assigned to go to New Delhi to cover United Nations Peace Keeping Conference. Indian embassy had invited the General Manager of Rastriya Samachar Samiti, Dev Prakash Tripathi to attend the conference. However, just before the day of the departure, he told me to go to India representing him. ‘’ I had thought it was a journalists’ visit programme, but it seems to be a news reporting programme, so I want you to cover this event,’’ Tripathi told me. I was always interested in challenging news reporting so I accepted, and called the first secretary of the Indian embassy Sanjaya Verma and got the ticket and flew to New Delhi next morning. The programme was organised by the Indian embassy so they had made all the arrangement including picking me up from the airport and accommodation booking at Hotel Oberai, where the programme was being held. Though the Indian embassy had given me the programme schedule, there was no any mention of the participation of international journalists. All the participants were senior army, defence and foreign ministry officials including some ministers. There were only four international journalists including me invited to the programme. There was one journalist from Kenya, another from France and the third one was Bangkok based Asia Correspondent of Jane’s Intelligence, London based defence, security and intelligence review.

After the inauguration of the conference by then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Defence minister George Fernandes’ key note speech, Assistant Secretary General of the UN who was the head of the UN Peacekeeping Force, made a comprehensive speech to the conference. At the end of his speech he said: ‘’ I am very pleased to be in the land of the birth place of Gautam Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi and this has enhanced the significance of the conference. ‘’ He went further explaining the significance of the conference in India because of Gautam Buddha and Gandhi, apostle of peace.

I was awfully shocked, exceedingly surprised and really angry. I am not enraged generally, and most of you, who know me well, know that I am not an infuriated man. But patriotic Nepali heart inside me was boiling terribly. A senior UN official, who was from South Korea, should know well that Buddha was born in Nepal. However, a senior UN official, that too in front of an international conference with participants from all continents, was distorting the reality and making severe mistake. My heart was throbbing fast, and I was in a state of nervousness. While he was still speaking I told three other journalists sitting beside me ‘he has made a mistake. ‘’ ‘’What mistake you are talking about?’’ They asked me. I said Gautam Buddh was not born in India. He was born in Nepal so it must be corrected, I said being angry. They were not sure about the birth place of Gautam Buddha and did not even know about him. ‘’ One of them said, we are journalists covering the news so it would be better to raise the issue by the representatives of your country.’’ I restrained myself and thought it better to tell the representatives of Nepal.

Two senior army officers, General Krishna Nar Singh Thapa, who nearly became chief of army staff, and Colonel Nar Bahadur Gurung were representing Nepal in the conference. I told them to raise this issue. But to my surprise they said ‘’ Paudyalji, we are soldiers, and we have to follow army discipline.’’ By this time, had finished his speech and Indian army chief was speaking for the vote of thanks.

I went back to my seat, and despite the insistence of my three other journalist colleagues not to raise this issue, I stood up and raised my hand. A senior official of the Indian army was conducting the programme; he looked at me and gestured to sit down. After the Indian army chief completed his speech, the announcer of the programme gave me time to speak, I stood up from my seat and said ‘’I just want to make a correction that Gautam Buddha was not born in India, but he was born in Nepal. UN official should be aware about this fact.’’ No one said anything, and it was not a discussion forum too.

That evening, Indian Defence minister Fernandes had hosted a reception in honour of the participants of the conference. When I met in the reception, he was little bit furious and adamant to his statement. We had arguments. I said ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’ but he said ‘Buddha was born in India.’ I asked him ‘’who told you and how did you know Buddha was born in India’’, he said me ‘’had read since his childhood that Buddha was born in Northern India.’’ I told him if you read UN documents then you will know the real fact. I was so infuriated that I said little bit loudly: ‘’ Do you know ‘’U Thant?’’ You should know UN Secretary General from Asia? Then he said ‘’ Why not.’’

So you must be aware that there is UN project in Lumbini which is in Nepal since the time of U Thant. When I repeatedly said UN Project then he seemed to be convinced, and felt embarrassed. I arranged an interview with him for next morning in the same hotel where we were staying. When we sat for interview, I asked the same question to him like a teacher repeatedly asks a same question to a weak student. Later he corrected saying ‘Buddha was born in Nepal.’

Even if he said repeatedly mentioning the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal, he was still not convinced again. After a few months, I met in Nepalese army training centre in Panchkhal. I had gone to cover the news of training of multinational forces at the Nepalese army training centre inaugurated by late King Birendra. The UN Under Secretary Choi was also there. I could not go and meet him because the security was tight and we were not allowed to move around freely. Once the programme was over, I met Choi before the press conference of the army. ‘’I am sorry, I had thought Gautam Buddha was born in India,’’ he said. When I asked him had he not realised after I corrected him in New Delhi. He still did not seem to have realised that. He invited me to meet him at Hotel Radisson in Lazimpat that evening. After filing the news, I went to meet him. ‘’Childhood memory never dies,’’ he said clarifying why he was repeatedly saying Buddha was born in India. He had read in his school book that ‘Buddh was born in India.’ That impression was still in him.

And after two years in 2000, when I had gone to South Korea to a meeting organised by Korea International Co-operation Agency (KOICA), I went to meet him in his office in Seoul. After completing his UN term, he had become a vice minister. When I entered into his office with his aide, before shaking hand with me, he said: ‘’Buddha was born in Nepal.’’ He apologised time and again for the mistake he had made. He was firmly convinced this time without any doubt. I am happy, at least, I was able to convince a very senior officer that Buddha was born in Nepal. However, such sporadic persuasion cannot make drastic difference. Recently at a WH Smith book store in Heathrow, I found a book ‘’ Light of Asia’’ written by Sir Edwin Arnold, a very renowned literary figure of the 19th century. Buddhists around the world consider him an authoritative voice on Buddhism and have been reading his writings for centuries that ‘’ Gautam Buddha was born in India.’’ The book published by Buddhist Cultural Centre has clearly and specifically written in the preface, introduction and everywhere ‘’ The Buddha was born in the 6th century BC, in a city called Kapilvastu in North India.’’

With this and many other such writings, my anger melts and heart thumps normally, with the realisation that our erratic rage does not help spread the message. Will our sporadic campaigns work? When Nepal is weak, none believes that such a great figure could be born in this bickering country. So there is no point of cry over the past. Nepal was not there 250 years ago. Geographical boundaries were different, names were different and to cry over such issue is futile. People who have knowledge and want to know about Nepal and Gautam Buddha will be able to understand the reality. None can take Lumbini away from Nepal. Neither Lumbini will be wiped out of Nepal’s map, nor the fact that Buddha was born in Lumbini can be deleted. (From Satya Tathya Monthly)

@Theglobal

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