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An ancient Cave and some ancient Stupas in the District of Gaya.-
The District of Gaya is very rich in archaeological remains of great interest, and most of them are connected with the rise and spread of Buddhism. Some of these were visited by the Chinese pilgrims in the 5th and 7th centuries of the Christian era, and the identification of the places mentioned in their itineraries with the existing ruins has been one of the chief aims of the researches made by the archaeologists of the past century. Almost all the places mentioned by Fa-Hien and Hwen Thsang have been since visited and explored by Major Kittoe, General Cunningham, Dr. Stein and other antiquarians; but one of the most important of them, the Prägbodhi cave, does not appear to have been visited by any of them, as will appear from the following paragraphs. In order to make the subject of the present note more clear, extracts - from Hwen Thsang's and Fa-Hien's discriptions are given below :— Fa Hien writes:— “Thence (i.e. from Bakraur) going to the north-east half a yojan, you come to a stone grotto; Phou să entering it and facing the west, sat with his legs crossed and thought within himself “in order that I should accomplish the law, I must have a divine testimonial.’ Immediately his shadow depicted itself on the wall; it was three feet high." The weather was clear and brilliant, heaven and earth were both moved, and all the gods in that space explained, it is not in this place that all the Foes past and to come should accomplish the law. To the south-west, a little more than half a yojan is the pei-to tree, where all the Foes, past and to come, should accomplish the law. Having said this, they sang to him and showed him the way retiring.” | 1 James Legge has translated this sentence thus :“On the wall of the rock there appeared immediately the shadow of a Buddha, rather more than 3 feet in length, which is still bright at the present day.” y * Fa-Hien's description, abstracted from Major Kittoe's note published on pages 953 to 970 of the Journal of the Asiatic Society for September 1847.
Hwen Thsang says:–
“To the east of the place where Gayā Kāśyapa sacrificed to fire (Gayā), crossing a river, we come to a mountain called Prägbodhi (Polo-ki-pot) i.e., “the mountain leading to (before) perfect intelligence,” as Buddha, when about to attain enlightenment, first ascended this mountain. Tathâgata, after diligently seeking for six years and not yet obtaining Supreme wisdom, after this gave up his penance and accepted the rice milk (of Sujātā). As he went to the north-east, he saw this mountain that it was secluded and dark, whereupon he desired to seek enlightenment thereon. Ascending..the north-east slope and coming to the top, the earth shook and the mountain quaked, whilst the mountain Deva in terror thus spoke to Bodhisattva : “This mountain is not the fortunate spot for attaining supreme wisdom. If here you stop and engage in the Samādhi of diamond (i.e., Vajra-samādhi) the earth will quake and gape, and the mountain be overthrown upon you.” Then Bodhisattva descended, and half-way down the south-west slope he halted. There backed by the crag and facing a torrent, is a great stone chamber. Here he sat down cross-legged. Again the earth quaked and the mountain shook, and a Deva cried out in space: ‘This is not the place for a Tathâgata to perfect supreme wisdom. From this southwest 14 or 15 li, not far from the place of penance, there is the Pippala (Pi-po-lo) tree, under which is a diamond throne (Vajrāsana, an imperishable throne, supposed to be the centre of the earth, and the spot where all Buddhas arrived at complete wisdom). All the past Buddhas seated on this throne have obtained true enlightenment, and so will those yet to come. Pray then proceed to that spot (Buddha-Gaya).” Then Buddha departed, the Devas leading the way, and accompanying him to the Bodhi tree. When Asoka Raja came into power, he signalised each spot up and down this mountain, which Bodhisattva had passed, by erecting distinguishing posts and stupas. These, though of different sizes, yet are alike in spiritual manifestations. Sometimes flowers fall on them from heaven, sometimes a bright light illumines the dark valleys. Every year on the day of breaking up the season of Wass (Varsá), religious laymen from different countries ascend this mountain for the purpose of making religous offerings to the faithful. They stop one night and return. Going south-west about 14 or 15 li one comes to the Bodhi tree.”
General Cunningham in his map of Gaya and Bihar, given in plate (SI, page 8 of Vol. I of his report on the archaeological survey of India, has marked the range of hills about 6 miles south-east of the town of Gaya as “Prägbodhi mountain ’’ (Po-lo-ki-pot). The statement of Hwen Thsang, that the distance between the stone chamber, situated in this mountain, and the diamond throne under the Pippala tree (in Buddha Gaya), is 14 or 15 li (i.e., about 3 miles), leaves not the slightest doubt as to the correctness of General Cunningham's identifications. This range of hills which is washed at its south-western base by the Morā Lake, is called “Morā Tāl Kā Pahār,” i.e., the hill of the Morā Lake. The middle part of this range is called Dhongrå Hill, and contains the stone chamber which was probably visited by Hwen Thsang. The chamber is situated about half-way up the north-western slope of the hill. The cave is excavated at the base of a precipice of rock that rises high above it towards the top of the hill. In front of the cave is a more or less level space about 60 feet long, and 12 or 13 feet wide, which is open on the north-east side where it falls away in the general slope of the hill side. Immediately in front of the cave, however, is a barrier of rock, which completely shuts out the cave from view from below; advantage appears to have been specially taken of the recess thus formed to make the cave where it is. The face of the precipice seems to have been roughly hewn, so as to give it a more regular and vertical appearance ; and perhaps the native rock had been further cut to form a level space in front of the cave; but this cannot be stated for certain. In the entrance to the cave is fitted a chaukat (wooden frame), 2 feet 1 inch broad, and 2 feet 4 inches wide." The chamber within is of an irregular oval shape, 16 feet 5 inches from north-east to southwest and 10 feet 9 inches from north-west to south-east. The roof of the cave is vaulted or concave, and is 9 feet 7 inches high at the highest point. The cutting is very rude and uneven, as if the cave had been left unfinished. In the south-western corner of this cave, on a sandstone pedestal, is placed an image of an eight-armed goddess, sitting on a lotus wrought in blue stone. The height of this image including the lotus seat, but excluding the sandstone pedestal (which is only 7 inches high) is 2 feet 2 inches. The face of the image, the top of the halo behind the image, and two out of its eight hands are broken. A few letters of the first and last parts of the Buddhist formula (the rest having disappeared with the broken part of the relievo) inscribed over the shoulders, are in Kutila character, belonging to the 9th or 10th century, A.D., which shows that the image belongs
1 [The entrance to the cave, which has the shape of a crescent, was at the time of my visit, December, 1901, closed by a masonry wall, erected some 7 years * by the Sadhu, who now lives there. It admitted access to the interior through": small door, formed by a wooden frame, about 4 ft. high and 2 ft. wide. I could not observe any marks of chiselling inside the cave, and I think the cave is a natural one, and not an artificial. T. Bloch.]