India: Buddha epic to boost birthplace campaign

Buddhistdoor Global | 2010-03-01 |
Source: The Financial Daily

Kathmandu: As Nepal`s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal Friday kicks off a campaign to draw 1 million tourists to the country next year, the campaign will receive a boost from the launch of a forgotten epic on the life and teachings of the Buddha, that has been resurrected by a prestigious western publisher.

The Oxford University Press, US has brought out an English translation of Sugata Saurabha - literally meaning the fragrance of the Buddha, an epic written in Newari, the language used by the indigenous Newar community of Kathmandu valley who claim to have descended from the same Shakya dynasty in which the Buddha was born nearly 2,500 years ago.

It is the work of Newar poet Chittadhar Hridaya, regarded as one of the greatest literary figures in Nepal in the 20th century.

The epic was said to have been written by Hridaya while he was imprisoned by Nepal`s dictatorial Rana rulers for having written a poem that displeased them.

It has been translated into English by Todd T Lewis, professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross in the US, and Subarna Man Tuladhar, director of studies at the Nepal Administrative Staff College in Lalitpur.

It is the result of 25 years of painstaking collaboration begun after the two became acquainted when Lewis visited Nepal to do research on Buddhism and Newari merchants and artisans.

The nearly 400-page epic covers the Buddha`s life from birth to death as well as his basic teachings.

Where the classical sources are silent, Hridaya inserts details of personal life and cultural context that are Nepalese, the publisher says. The effect is to humanise the founder (of Buddhism) and add the texture of real life. This rendering, in a long line of accounts of the Buddha`s life dating back almost 2,000 years, may be the last ever to be produced that conforms to the traditions of Indic classic poetry.

Being hailed by religious scholars as a remarkable biography, the English translation of the epic will now also go a long way in educating the west about the birthplace of the Buddha.

Many authors, especially Americans, continue to regard India as the birthplace of the Buddha when he was born Prince Siddharth into the Shakya ruling clan of southern Nepal in Lumbini town.

Last year, Nepal`s government banned a Bollywood film for making the wrong claim while Nepal`s Maoist party has asked parliament to convey to American author and Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria his error in calling the Buddha an Indian in his latest book, The Post American World.

Next year, Nepal is hoping to attract additional religious pilgrims from China and India to visit Lumbini.

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