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At loggerheads, over Lord Buddha

world Updated: Feb 21, 2009 13:29 IST
Anirban Roy

Nepal banned the Bollywood movie, Chandni Chowk to China following protests over a scene suggesting that Lord Gautam Buddha was born in India.

Earlier, the Nepal government had to shelve plans to inscribe Lord Buddha’s picture on paper currencies (to replace the picture of Shah Kings) after the democratic transformation of the country.

Despite being a Hindu-majority state, Nepal seems to have a soft corner for Buddhism. Devotees were against the government’s move to ‘commercialise’ Lord Buddha’s image.

Surprisingly, people in Nepal are turning a blind eye to the large-scale abuse of Lord Buddha’s name in Nepal, especially in Kathmandu.

“How will one feel when tourists see that we have named our bars as Funky Buddha?” said businessman from Thamel, Ramesh Shrestha. Sadly, Lord Buddha’s statues and the Buddhist stupas in and around Kathmandu are also badly maintained.

Surprisingly, Buddhism also did not spread much in Nepal, his birthplace. Rather, it was accepted in faraway places.

Moreover, over 2,550 years of his birth later, at least two Nepalese ethnic groups — Newars and Tharus — debate that the great saint belonged to them. The Tharus, an ethnic group found in the south mid-western districts of Nepal, also claim that Lord Buddha belonged to their community.

Author of the book, The Great Sons of the Tharus: Sakyamuni Buddha and Emperor Ashoka, Subodh Kumar Singh claimed that the Tharus, since sixth century BC, were subjects of Sakya Dynasty of Kapilavastu (Lord Buddha’s Kingdom).

“It is totally wrong to claim that Lord Buddha did not belong to us,” said information officer of Lumbini Development Trust, Keshav Choudhury. The Newaris are people from the hills, and Lord Buddha was born amongst us in the plains.”

“The ruins around Tilaurakot (28 km west of Lumbini) was Kapilavstu (Lord Buddha’s capital),” Choudhury, who also belonged to Tharu community, said, adding that there has been a sinister design by some people to create confusion.

However, Newars, the indigenous ethic population of Kathmandu Valley, too claim that Lord Buddha belonged to their community. “There is no doubt that he (Lord Buddha) was a Newari,” said Ganesh Ballabh Pradhan (70), a veteran journalist.

While the Newars and Tharus are at loggerheads over Lord Buddha’s ethnic origin, people in Nepal are curious to know about the great sage’s origin.