Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Start with the stupa at Nalasopara

I knew the sleepy coastal town of Nalasopara only as a far-flung suburb of Bombay from where a lot of people travel to the city for work. But thanks to the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), I now know that Nalasopara is also steeped in Buddhist history; it is from here that Emperor Asoka's son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra are believed to have left for Sri Lanka to spread the faith.

Nalasopara has now become the centre of the tourism board's 'Buddhist circuit’. It will continue to Chaityabhoomi in Dadar, Pagoda in Gorai and other Buddhist destinations before ending at Dikshabhumi in Nagpur.

Nalasopara was once a major port town whose trade had linked ancient India to Mesopotamia, Arabia, Greece, Rome, Africa among others. It's rich historical, cultural and traditional heritage dates back to 2,600 years when Purna Maitrayaniputra, a rich merchant and trader from Sunaparanta in ancient Western India now known as Nalasopara, on his visit to Shravasti in Uttar Pradesh embraced Buddhism. 

Purna who attended a preaching of Lord Gautam Buddha, renounced his wealth to become a Buddhist monk.  

When he decided to spread Lord Buddha’s teachings, he came back to Sopara and built with the help of his disciples a ‘Buddh Vihar’ which had eight gates out of sandalwood. History states that Purna had called Lord Buddha to inaugurate the ‘Buddh Vihar’, and Lord Buddha had visited the place along with 500 of his disciples and stayed at Nalasopara for a week. To keep Lord Buddha’s memories alive and eternal, Purna had asked Lord Buddha for his begging bowl. On April 9, 1882, Pandit Bhagwanlal Indrajit discovered the begging bowl. 

Much later when Emperor Asoka embraced Buddhism, he built a stupa at Nalasopara. It is believed that Asoka sent his son Mahendra and daughter Sanghamitra to spread the tenets of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Asoka had also written 14 inscriptions. 

Eight of the 14 inscriptions which Asoka had created was found by Pandit Bhagwanlal Indrajit near Bhatela lake. The 9th inscription was found by NA Gore, a librarian of Asiatic Society in Mumbai, in the year 1956 from Bhuigaon. Gore also discovered the stupa with the help of a Thane collector the same year.

Check this really well-written blog called bijoor.me on this.

Photo credits: bijoor.me

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