Saturday, 19 March 2016

Seven Ancient BUDDHIST Caves Found in Mumbai

MUMBAI: Seven caves have been discovered in the forests of the sprawling Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivli, on the northern fringes of the city. The caves are Buddhist 'viharas' (residences for monks) with only one of them showing the remains of a 'harmika' (the top railing of a stupa). They are believed to have been constructed before the Kanheri Caves nearby and probably served as a monsoon shelter for the monks. 

While a formal approval from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is awaited for detailed exploration and documentation of the new caves, the team that has discovered the caves date them between 1st century BCE (or BC) and 5th-6th century CE (or AD). The discovery was made by a three-member team last February under an excavation programme jointly conducted by the Centre for Archaeology, Mumbai University, and the department of ancient Indian culture, Sathaye College, Vile Parle; the head of the department, Suraj Pandit, led the team. 

"The newly discovered caves may have been older than the Kanheri Caves as they were simpler in form and they lacked water cisterns, which are found in the more evolved architecture of Kanheri. Moreover, we found monolithic tools which were prevalent in the 1st century BC. The absence of water cisterns also indicate that monks lived there in the monsoon," said Pandit. 

Pandit said the seven new caves were not an accidental discovery, but rather the result of a systematic survey of the area. Before beginning actual field work, the team carried out documentary research for three months, which included a study of the area's topography and water resources as most viharas were constructed close to a water source. The Kanheri Caves, which date between 1st century BCE and 10th century CE, are famous for their water management and rain water harvesting systems. This helped to zero in on areas where they were most likely to find caves. The team also referred to Pali texts, which describe caves around Rajgir in Bihar, as viharas (residences) of Buddhist monks and expected to find similar viharas, either natural or man-made, around Kanheri. They also studied 150-year-old reports of the ASI to understand how to conduct the exploration. "The reports narrate the discovery of pot shreds and microlithic tools, and we decided to look for these," said Pandit. 

With permission from the forest department to explore the park for new caves, the team, accompanied by two forest guards, began ground exploration towards the end of February last year. Since monks were known to build caves close to water, the team began by hiking to a waterfall beyond the Kanheri Caves. This was a strenuous 20-minute walk to the base of the waterfall. They then hiked up through dense cactus and other shrubs and took another 30 minutes to reach the top of the waterfall. 

"There were caves on either side of the waterfall - three on one side and two on the other. It was very clear these were excavated from the natural rock. The smooth curve, the plastering, the door beams, the benches to sleep on, were all indications that these were man-made caves," said Pandit.

Two of the seven caves discovered in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivli on the northern fringes of Mumbai. They are believed to have been constructed before the Kanheri Caves nearby and probably served as a monsoon shelter for monks.

But the team overlooked a key indicator that would have made the task of finding the caves simpler. "We forgot that in case of most Buddhist caves, access was provided by stairs cut into the rock. Only after we reached the top of the waterfall, we realized there was already a proper path leading to these caves," laughed Pandit. Excited at the discovery of the five caves, they decided to move ahead, but unfortunately as they were moving up a steep slope, Pandit lost his balance, slipped and fell. He fractured his hand and had a deep gash on his head and was rushed to a doctor.

The next day, the other two members of the team - Vinayak Parab, executive editor of a Marathi magazine Lok Prabha, and Akash Pawar, a student of Buddhism at Sathaye College - set out on their own, and found the remaining two caves. One of the caves was actually inhabited till recently and was even surfaced with modern bathroom tiles. It had been used by one of the sadhus living in the park till the Bombay high court, in the late '90s, ordered the eviction of all sadhus from the park. 

Pandit, who did his PhD thesis on the Kanheri Caves, has been continually exploring the national park for new caves. In 2001-02, he had discovered six caves, which were reported to the ASI. A few years earlier, he wrote a book 'Stories in Stone', on various caves in Mumbai, where Parab worked with him and did its photography. So teaming up with Parab for exploring the caves came naturally. Parab himself is an avid hiker. "During my hikes I had come across the tiled cave. It was known as the Mangalakali cave. But back then I never realised that these caves dated back to the 1st or 2nd century BC," said Parab.

Mugdha Karnik, head of Mumbai University's Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, who had set up the varsity's Archaeology Centre, said while people talk about their culture and heritage, a vast majority of people are ignorant about what it actually means. "Even a visit to the Kanheri Caves is merely a distraction from routine life. We want to change that. The city has many archaeological sites that are in danger of being demolished as they make way for new buildings. Such discoveries will help people to preserve their heritage," she said.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Buddhism in Andhra Pradesh

Buddhism not only in Andhra but also in the entire south of India. Andhra culture had its influence on Ceylon Buddhism. Chiefly in arts, sculpture and architecture.

The third counsel which was held during the reign of Ashoka under guidance of Mogalliputa Tissa, delegates of as many as six sects from Andhra i.e. chaityaka, purvasaila, aparasila, uttarsila, rajagirika, siddarthika all described as Andhakas participated.

From now on Andhra played a pivotal role in the history of this religion. After the decline of Magdha Empire, two powerful empires have emerged, Andhra satavahanas in the Deccan and Kushanas in the Northwest.

Andhra was home of Mahayana. From here it spread to other parts of Asia. Andhra was home of Mahayana. From here it spread to other parts of Asia.

News from dhammikaweb

Power of Meditation

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Golfer Anirban Lahiri putting India on the map

(CNN)India is known for many things, but golf is not one of them.

That could all change soon, however, given the emergence of Anirban Lahiri.

The 28-year-old is blazing a trail out of one of the least likely places on earth: a country of over 1.25 billion that fields only two public golf courses.

Born in the Indian city of Pune, the young Lahiri shadowed his father, an Army doctor who played on private military courses. In the intervening two decades, he's rarely put down his clubs.

Lahiri's 2015 was impressive by nearly any golfer's standards: finishing No. 1 on the Asian Tour, 20th on the European Tour, and gaining entry to the prestigious U.S. PGA Tour. To top it off, he tied for fifth in the U.S. PGA Championship -- the best performance by an Indian golfer at any of the four majors.

Suffice to say, Lahiri's stock is on the rise.

Despite a hectic playing schedule, he found time to open up to CNN on everything from meeting Tiger Woods for the first time, to meditation, to India's emergence as a sporting nation.

Was your father surprised when you wanted to take up golf professionally rather than follow in his footsteps as a doctor?

He was very encouraging right from the start. He introduced me to the game, and as I got older through my teens and I started getting better, I had to make a few decisions.

I had to make a decision while I was in high school to go with medicine or business -- you had to pick a stream. But I decided that if I want to play golf, then I couldn't possibly take the medical stream because I wouldn't be able to travel to my events, and I wouldn't have much time away from my books.

It wasn't something that happened overnight, but at the same time it wasn't something they were averse to. They were very encouraging.

" India as a nation is not a sporting nation. We don't have a big sporting culture. We have a very big education culture. "

You practice Vipassana meditation. How were you introduced to that?

About 11 years ago my mother found out about it, and she did a course to learn Vipassana and it really helped her lead a better life. Then my dad was equally taken by the technique, so it was only natural for me to find out what it was all about.

It's a form of meditation which is very introspective. It's not like you chant a mantra, it's not like you visualize an object or an image or anything else.

Yes, it helps your ability to stay in the present and not get ahead of yourself. It's obvious that when you are playing in a tournament situation that the adrenaline is going to kick in and your heart rate is going to go up.

But at the same time, it's also difficult to keep your awareness levels up, and that's how Vipassana helps me, because it allows me to stay aware of everything that's going on. And by awareness, I don't just mean what's going on around me, but what I'm feeling at that point in time inside of me.

And whenever you can be in touch with that part of yourself, it's going to help you center yourself. It's going to help you to calm yourself and just be in the present -- and that itself is a major tool.

So it's more of an ongoing practice for all 18 holes?
Yes... (but) it's not like yoga, or something where I get into a pose or a posture and that's that, no.

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