EXTRACT FROM ‘TWO ANECDOTES NARRATED BY TWO ARCHAEOLOGISTS’,
(Orissa Historical Research Journal, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp. 16-20, 1976).
By U. C. Mohanty
I had the rare opportunity of meeting Professor N. K. Bose while he was staying in the Park Street, Nursing Home waiting for the death that might visit at any moment. Professor B. K. Bhowmik was kind enough to take me along with Professor T. B. Naik, Head of the Department of Anthropology. Rabisankar Sukla University, Rajpur and Sachidanandan, Director of Anugrah Narayan Institute, Patna, on the 23rd September, 1972 evening Professor Bose was lying on his back in his cot. He looked emaciated, yet there was serenity in his face. When I enquired about his bodily pain he briefly replied, “When you know that the disease is cancer, what more can be said?” Yet there was no trace of anxiety or sign of despair on his face.
Very shortly he switched over the talk to research topics. At one stage he was talking about Buddha his contribution in emancipating women and the Sudras in India. I just casually referred to him about the disputable Bhubaneshwar inscription relating to Buddha’s birth which created a great controversy right from the day of its discovery. Reference regarding this inscription rather stimulated Professor Bose and he narrated with enthusiasm the history of its discovery and his own enquiries regarding its genuineness.
The Bhubaneswar inscription which raised some sensation in mid-thirties and which was supported by R. D. Banerjee as genuine and challenged by others such as D. C. Sircar as spurious, was almost lost in the oblivion. Recently Chakradar Mahapatra, a man of Oriya literature and folk-lore, through his sincere interest and scholarly enthusiasm has revived the controversial issue regarding Bhubaneswar inscription. With the aid of various evidences Mahapatra is trying to prove his pet hypothesis that Kapilabastu the birthplace of Buddha was not in Nepal (Rumindei) but in Bhubaneswar of Orissa, Kapileswar being substituted for Kapilabastu. It is but natural that the whole structure of Mahapatra’s argument is based on the inscription of Bhubaneswar. This is not the place to discuss the validity or otherwise of Mahapatra’s arguments. But I was all the more anxious to hear the comments of Professor Bose regarding the authenticity of the Bhubaneswar inscription.
Professor Bose was narrating the entire story sometimes in Hindi and sometimes in Oriya in his excellent natural intonations of the non-Bengali languages. I am sorry I could not make any note or use any tape-recorder during such friendly talks inside a Nursing Home. However I note below the summary of his observations.
“In those days when I was visiting Puri, I used to stay at Ramakrishna Mission. Once the monk from the mission borrowed a book from me in which the inscription relating to Buddha’s birth, discovered from Nepal, had been published in original Brahmi script. At that time in Puri there was a Bengali contractor named Biren Roy who had a special hobby of collecting antiquarian specimens. This gentleman declared that he had collected the Bhubaneswar inscription relating to Buddha’s birth place from Kapileswar village near old Bhubaneswar. The incident of Bhubaneswar inscription no doubt created some suspicion right from the time of its alleged discovery.
At one stage Biren Roy wanted to sell his antiquarian collection to the Museum of Calcutta University. Rama Prasad Chand objected from the very beginning to the proposal of purchasing any specimen from Mr Roy who, according to Chand, was a money minded unscrupulous fabricator of evidences. But since his collection included some valuable specimens, University authorities agreed to pay him Rs. 10,000 for his collections and entrusted Ramaprasad Chand to make selection of original specimens from spurious ones. Chand rejected the Bhubaneswar inscription as a spurious one.
On one occasion I was talking with a sculptor of Pathuria Sahi in Puri, who was my intimate associate. In course of our talk the Maharana enquired about the Buddha’s inscription, that he carved for Biren Babu. I became curious and enquired how he had got the script of the inscription. Maharana narrated how Biren Babu borrowed a book from the Sannyasi of the Ramakrishna Mission which contained the original script. This statement left no doubt in my mind that the very book from which the inscription had been copied, was my own book that I had lent to the monk of the Mission.
Yet I had a doubt which I wanted to clarify. The Bhubaneswar inscription is an exact replica of the Rumedai inscription with a deviation at the end of the last line. Scholars who tried to decipher the last line suggested that though the entire inscription has been written in Brahmi, the last line of it is in Kharosti script.
In order to clarify this issue I asked Maharana to explain this deviation at the end. Maharana narrated that while he was carving the inscription, at the last line there was some shortage of space. When Maharana pointed this difficulty to Biren Babu he suggested to him to cover the empty space with some chisel marks so that the line could not be completed.”
Professor Bose further added that when this discovery was announced Government made some local enquiries through the Collector of Puri. But Biren Roy was shrewed enough to bribe a Brahmin of Kapileswar with a ten rupee note and this Brahmin deposed before the Revenue Officer that the inscription had been discovered from a broken wall of his house while it was being reconstructed. Finally Professor Bose suggested to me to contact the sculptor who carved the inscription and who might still be living in Pathuria Sahi in Puri. Further he suggested to me to contact him during my next trip to Calcutta, so that he could write a letter to an official of Ashutosh Museum who would show me the Bhubaneswar inscription which is lying uncared for in some corner of that Museum.
I made an enquiry through a resident of Puri regarding the whereabouts of the sculptor, who had carved the aforesaid inscription but was told that he had expired four or five years back.
Unfortunately before I could contact professor Bose I heard of his sad demise, which is no doubt a great loss in the academic world in general and to Indian anthropology in particular. Yet his suggestion to examine the very inscription is an useful hint which historians of Orissa can pursue.
REFERENCES ON KAPILESWAR INSCRIPTION
1. Haran Chandra Chakaldar 1928 (July)- An article on Kapileswar inscription in the Prabasi.
2 . Rama Prasad Chand .. 1928 (October) – An article in the Prabasi.
3. Bhagaban Pati .. 24-8-1928 – A letter published in the Asta quoted in article in Buddha in the Purna Chandra Bhasakosh, 1936 Vol V. P. 5832.
4. S. N. Mitra. .. 1929 – The Lumbini Pilgrimage Record in the Inscriptions published in Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. V 1929. p. 728-753.
5. N. K Sahu .. 1959 – Odisare Bauddha Dharma pp. 1-2 published by Orissa Sahitya Academy.
I express my grarateful thanks to Dr. Jitendra Sarangi, Reader in statistics, Utkal University, for arranging my interview with the late Paramananda Acharya and to Dr. P. K. Bhowmik, Reader in Anthropology, Calcutta University, for kindly taking me to Professor Bose and to Dr. K. S. Behera, Reader in History, Utkal University, for furnishing the attached list of references to the Bhubaneswar Inscription.