On road to rebuilding history, culture

I’ll ask organisers to come here and see first, then do an estimate and we’ll help with the work


Every Nepali says this with pride: “I come from the birthplace of the Buddha.” And yes it can go without saying that we make our country attractive and sell it to foreigners on two strengths — Buddha and Everest.

But is being proud of just belonging to Buddha’s birthplace enough? Perhaps not.

Many Buddhist chaityas and stupas that are around 2,000 years old are going to ruins because our pride has just become lip service with nothing constructive for restoration and conservation being done.

However, there is one person who doing whatever he can to conserve and protect these scattered stupas. Bhikkhu Tapassi Dhamma of the Charumati bihar at Chabahil is no stranger to spearheading stupa restoration works. He took the initiative to do something concrete about the crack that had developed three years ago at his stupa, and got it repaired with donations both local and foreign.

His work caught the eyes of the Stupa Rebuilding Project group that is holding an international meeting of stupa building at Lama Tzong Khapa Institute, Pomaia, Italy from November 10-12. Bhikkhu Tapassi Dhamma has be-en invited to this meet and he will be recommending two stupas and chaityas that need restoration and conservation efforts.

The seminar will be attended by stupa builders from all over the world. The project aims to rebuild all abandoned and dilapidated stupas in Asia that is estimated at 24,000 in number.

The two on Bhikkhu Tapassi’s list are the over 2,300-year-old Ashok stupa at Gwarko, Lalitpur, Kathmandu and the Soyambhu stupa at Dolakha.

“King Ashok is intricately linked to our Buddhist heritage, and there are four stupas here in Lalitpur itself. However, they have been encroached upon. The stupa at Gwarko is one example,” says the Bhikkhu.

The second is one of the six chaityas at Dolakha. “Locals call it Soyambhu chaitya and it is in a really bad state.” He shows a picture of a long-ago white-washed chaitya with green streaks of moss and a tree growing beside it with half the trunk broken and almost uprooting the chaitya.

Sailung danda (hill) at Dolakha has its own significance in Buddhist history, says film producer Pradeep Singh. “However, not many know that Buddha did did his dhyan (meditation) for 108 days here. There were plans to build a Buddhist meditation centre here by the Japanese, but that had to be abandoned due to the insurgency,” he says.

If the project should okay Bhikkhu Tapassi’s recommendations, how is he going to go about it? “I’ll ask them to come and see for themselves first, do the estimate and we will help with the restoration work,” he says.