Kashmiri historian knows where 2,000-year-old Buddhist relic is

April 10th, 2010 - 12:41 pm ICT by IANS  

By F. Ahmed
Srinagar, April 10 (IANS) More than 2,000-year-old copper plates containing records of a major Buddhist conference held in Kashmir at the time are lying buried somewhere in the state, and renowned Kashmiri scholar and historian Mohammed Yousuf Taing claims he knows the exact spot but will reveal the site only on one condition.

Taing wants an assurance from the Indian president that the copper plates, dating back to the reign of Kushan king Kanishka (75 AD-150 AD), are not shifted out of the state.

Taing, who made a public statement earlier this week of his personal knowledge about the copper plates, told IANS: “The 4th Buddhist conference was held in Kashmir during the reign of Kanishka.

“Buddhist scholars from all over the world including Nagarjuna, the internationally acclaimed Buddhist scholar, attended the 4th Buddhist conference which lasted for six months.

“The conference was presided over by Ashu Ghosh, a Bengali Buddhist scholar. The two sects of Buddhists came into being after this conference. In the 14th century, a Tibetan Buddhist scholar, Taranath revealed that the conference was held at a place known as Kundalwan in Kashmir,” Taing said.

“There is no such place known as Kundalwan here at present, but my 30 years of research made it possible for me to locate the exact spot where the copper plates with the deliberations of the conference were buried.

“I think I know the exact spot where the copper plates were buried so as to preserve them for posterity and also save them from possible desecration,” Taing said.

The scholar said his health was failing and he wanted to ensure that this historical and cultural treasure was discovered and preserved as part of the wonderful eclectic history of Kashmir.

“The sacred book inscribed on tamrapatras (copper plates) was buried at the end of the 4th Buddhist conference and these are not only the most sacred Buddhist scriptures but also an invaluable historical and cultural treasure of Kashmir,” he said.

Asked why he wanted an assurance from the president of the country before he revealed his secret, Taing said, “We have had some bitter experiences in the past.”

He mentioned the Gilgit manuscripts, ancient Buddhist scriptures that were taken out of Kashmir.

“Ramchand Kak, the prime minister of Kashmir during the last Dogra Maharaja’s reign, who was primarily an archaeologist, had brought the Gilgit manuscripts here. During 1947, the then prime minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, told Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah that the manuscripts needed to be shifted out of Kashmir for fear of the tribal invasion and that the possibility of air strikes against the invaders could result in destruction these manuscripts.

“Pandit Nehru had assured that the Gilgit scriptures would be returned after things settled down here,” Taing claimed.

“When Sheikh Sahib came to power in 1975, I brought up the subject and he told me to draft a letter seeking the return of the Gilgit manuscripts.

“The letter was sent to Madam Indira Gandhi, but nothing happened after that,” Taing said.

He said the Gilgit manuscripts are in the National Archives of India in New Delhi now and he has seen them there personally.

“Those manuscripts were taken to Delhi from the S.P. Museum in Srinagar in 1947,” he revealed.

Recounting another example, he said an invaluable archaeological treasure in the shape of a human skeleton belonging to the Neolithic period was discovered at the Burzahama excavation site in Kashmir, but that too was taken out of Kashmir and is now kept at the National Museum in Kolkata.

“There is an international archaeological convention that findings of such rare historical importance should be placed in their natural habitat,” he maintained.

Taing has authored the biography of the late Sheikh ‘Aatish-e-Chinar’ (Flames of the Chinar) based on the Sheikh’s narrative to Taing during his lifetime.

(F. Ahmed can be contacted at f.ahmed@ians.in)

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