Editorials by Sangharakshita

 
 

Ancient Buddhist Site in Danger

This editorial first appeared in The Maha Bodhi, January 1954

Nagarjunikonda, in the newly created Andhra State, is one of the largest and most important Buddhist sites in South India. Not only does it cover an extensive area but it is also extremely rich in ancient Buddhist remains. A number of monasteries, stupas and images have so far been excavated, though a great deal of archaeological work will have to be done before all the treasures which the area contains are brought to light. For the Mahayana Buddhists of China, Japan and Tibet, Nagarjunikonda possesses a special sanctity inasmuch as the Patriarch Nagarjuna, founder of the Madhyamika School of Buddhist Philosophy, resided at the place for many years.

It has now come to the notice of the Society that the whole of this area, with its shrines and sanctuaries, and its two thousand years of religious and cultural traditions, is to be totally submerged under an irrigation scheme which, we understand, is to be put into operation by the Andhra State Government. While fully sympathising with the condition of the people of this locality, for whose benefit the scheme is to be carried out, we are frankly astonished to find that no cognizance whatsoever seems to have been taken, by the authorities concerned, of the religious and cultural importance of Nagarjunikonda, the very existence of which they are apparently ready to wipe out with a single stroke of the draughtsman's pen. No attempt has been made to consult the Maha Bodhi Society, which learned of this grave threat to an invaluable Buddhist monument only by an accident, or to ascertain the feelings of hundreds of millions of Asian Buddhists to whom Nagarjunikonda is a place of great sanctity. This complete disregard of Buddhist sentiment will surely come as a great shock to the followers of the Lord Buddha in Ceylon, Burma, Siam, Cambodia, Tibet, Nepal, Korea, China, Japan and Mongolia, to whom India is the Holy Land, the Birthplace of Buddhism, and who are eager to maintain relations of friendship with those who are the lineal descendants of the disciples of the Master. Such an action as the Andhra Government appears to contemplate will surely do little to improve those relations.

We understand that a protest against the destruction of so many ancient Buddhist monuments has already been made by the Archaeological Department of the Government of India, and that a resolution condemning the vandalism has been adopted by the Indian Historians' Congress which met last month at Waltair. While adding our own protest to those already made, we hope that Buddhist organisations all over the world will unite to take immediate and vigorous action to save the shrines of Nagarjunikonda from being 'cast as rubbish to the void'. Resolutions of protest should be forwarded to the Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.