Tuesday, April 23, 2024

A cave at Banganga connected to the Buddha awaits development

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Deepak Acharya

Kavilvastu, 26 March (2023) - Surya Odhar, a cave that lies near the border of Arghakhanchi and Kapilvastu districts, is in need of development. One has to pass through the forest area along the northern part to the East-West Highway in the Banganga area to access it. 

Until a few years back, the cave was not well known to the people. Lately, it has caught the public attention for development. The cave that lies near the Pawara-Bikram village at Shitganga Municipality-14 in Arghakhanchi has its mythical significance as it is believed to have been connected with the Buddha's time. 

Pom Narayan Poudel who is researching to explore the connection between the cave and Gautam Buddha said it was Deshanalaya, the site is that where Buddha gave his teachings to 'deities and demons' of the time after attaining enlightenment. It served as the Deshanalaya for Buddha, the student of the Lumbini Buddhist University said. "Gautam Buddha gave his teachings here on the day of Jestha Purnina, the fool moon day in the month of Jeth," he added.     

The Mahasamaya Sutra is the religious teaching dating to the Buddha era.  Buddha chose Kapilvastu to recite the Mahasamaya Sutra to deities to demons after his enlightenment. As stated in Buddhist texts, the place where the Buddha would give his sermons is mentioned as the Kapilvastu Mahavan and it had a hill range, a river and a cave nearby. 

As described in the Tripitaka, the major religious text of Buddhism, the forest where Buddha performed Deshana had the Yugantar Parbat (mountain range), Bhagirathi River and a cave. Such mythical discriminations don’t match anywhere in the district except the area where the cave lies, Poudel said, suggesting that the Surya Odhar is the mythical one.  Now the mythical river is known as the Banganga River and there is a hill near the cave. 

Vippasyana instructor Akkal Dhwoj Gurung said the Kapilvastu Mahaban was near the mythical Bhagirathi River and the myths showed that the Surya Cave was the Buddha's school (Deshanalaya). 

The area occupied by the cave is just north to Tilaurakot, where the Buddha had spent first 29 years of his life, and to Kudan, where Buddha returned following his enlightenment.

Excavation is going on at Tilaurakot and more historic objects dating to the Buddha period have been found. According to Tika Reshmi, the former deputy mayor of Shitganga Municipality, the existing geographical location of the cave matches with the descriptions of the place dating to the Buddha era.  

The villagers of Pawara-Bikram named this cave as 'Surya Odhar' or the Sun Cave after seeing sunrise from this place. This cave has become the talk of the town after its association with the Buddha came to light. Before, it was not much known. 

The campaigners are effortful towards the campaign of exploring the related facts as study and research on the life and teaching of the Buddha expands. These initiatives have associated the Surya Odhar to the Buddha's place of preaching.  

Forty vikkhus (Buddhist monks) and scores of followers of Buddhism had visited the cave in the third week of this month. They were looking for basis for further proving this fact. A majority among the monks and devotees were Thais. On the day, they observed the Sueya Odhar and discussed developing the place into a place of pilgrimage. 

Former deputy-mayor of Shitaganga Municipality Reshmi is leading the publicity campaign of Surya Odhar. She said the on-site study and observation by the vikkhus and the followers is significant for developing and publicising the place.

Poudel, who is also a resident of Banganga Municipality-8, said upgrading the road leading to Surya Odhar is important. He pointed out the need of expanding the road in coordination with the forest office as it would have to be expanded in the forest area.

According to him, there are not even facilities like sheds meditation and other religious purposes. "It is difficult to meditate in the open, exposed to the sun, rain, and wind. So some structures have to be constructed immediately. 

Bhim Bahadur Budha, another local from Pawara-Bikram, said they were more than ready to extend any kind of cooperation for the development of the area. He said they would work together with the stakeholders for the development of this area related to the Buddha-era civilization.

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