The Holy Land Reborn: Pilgrimage and the Tibetan Reinvention of Buddhist India

By Toni Huber | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
Archaeological and Discursive
Rebirths of Buddhist India

The last words of the Lord Buddha at Kusinara were that Bhikkhus,
Bhikkhunis, Upāsakas and Upāsikas should visit the four Shrines sa-
cred to His memory…. The Muhammadans visit Mecca the Christians
visit Jerusalem the Hindus visit the various Shrines at Ramesseram,
Benares, Dwaraka, Mathura, Brindaban, Vishnupad at Gaya, and Jagan-
nath Puri at great sacrifice but the Buddhists of Japan, Burma, Siam,
Ceylon, China and Tibet have forgotten their Holyland!

—Anagarika Dharmapāla, 1900


Introduction

This round lambasting aimed at the Asian Buddhist community by the modern Buddhist activist Anagarika Dharmapāla (1864–1933) was, as we can now well appreciate, certainly an unfair accusation to level at the Buddhists of Tibet. Since the seventeenth-century rekindling of Tibetan interest in pilgrimage to India, many in the Tibetan community had directed their religious energy and attention toward India as a Buddhist holy land of pilgrimage. They had most often done so in ways which would have probably horrified the conservative and prejudiced Dharmapāla, since their pilgrimages had become focused not only upon the ancient places of the Buddha referred to here but also upon many of the sites which he mentions the Hindus as visiting “at great sacrifice,” plus a rich array of other Indian places also deemed to be authentically Buddhist by the Tibetans. Be that as it may, Dharmapala's pronouncement above epitomizes in many ways the radical and far-reaching transformations that were occurring at the ancient sites of Indian Buddhism during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In close conjunction with the rise of monumental archaeology

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