On Modi website, a piece on Gujarat’s Buddhist link

On the eve of Chinese president Xi Jinping's visit to Gujarat, Modi's website showcases a picture-heavy history of Buddhism with Chinese and English text.

Written by Avinash Nair | Ahmedabad | Updated: September 16, 2014 1:11:41 am

Ahead of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to Gujarat, an article was posted on Prime Minister Narendra Modi website in English and Mandarin Monday, talking at length about the ‘Buddhist heritage in Gujarat’. The piece, posted on http://www.narendramodi.in, appears on a red backdrop — the colour typically identified with Communist China.

The feature talks about the connections Gujarat — especially Modi’s hometown Vadnagar — has with famous Chinese explorer and Buddhist priest Hiuen Tsang, who is believed to have visited Gujarat in 641 AD. It also has snippets about other Buddhist heritage sites in Gujarat such as Junagadh, Kutch and Bharuch.

On Monday, Modi posted a series of tweets with related pictures on “Buddhist influences” in Gujarat. “Buddhism is a very strong bond between China & India. Infact, Gujarat too has a very rich Buddhist heritage,” he tweeted.

Modi added that he was looking forward to welcoming Xi in Ahmedabad. “I am sure his visit will strengthen India-China ties,” he said.
In 2011, when Modi, the then CM of Gujarat, went to China with a delegation, the videos and presentations made by the Indian side were in Mandarin, a post in the website archives says.

“Even the business cards handed out by the government team (including Mr Narendra Modi) were in red, and in Mandarin,” it adds.

The photo-heavy feature starts with a mention of the Vadnagar excavation site in Mehsana district — the site from where more than 7,000 pieces of archaeological importance have been found. “Vadnagar is one of the most ancient towns of Gujarat known as Anandapura during Hiuen Tsang’s visit in the mid-seventh century AD,” reads the article, which also carries pictures and descriptions of the ancient Buddhist Monastery, Bodhisattva idol as well as Buddhist objects and pendants discovered in Vadnagar.

It carries a picture of Hiuen Tsang and a map of the route he took in 641 AD while travelling to Gujarat from Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. “On his visit to Gujarat, Tsang noted the presence of 200 monasteries housing 10,000 monks, located at Bharukaccha, Atali, Kheta, Valabhi, Anandapura and Saurashtra,” it adds.

The feature also carries a map of Gujarat listing the various Buddhist sites in the state, including Siyot, Vadnagar, Taranga Hill, Bharuch, Khambhalida, Junagadh, Sana and Talaja.

There is also a mention of Dev Ni Mori in northeast Gujarat which, according to the piece, “has yielded the sacred relics of Buddha”.

The rock-cut caves of Khambhalida in Saurashtra and the caves of Siyot in Kutch also find a mention in the article. “It must have been one of the 80 monastic sites that the 7th century Chinese travellers reported at the mouth of Indus River,” says the piece, which ends with the mention of the Ashokan edict in Junagadh.

“Hiuen Tsang has mentioned, in his writings, visits to places like Vadnagar and Vallabi. During those times, Vallabi used to be a seat of learning on a par with Nalanda,” says Jitendra Nath, deputy superintending archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India (Vadodara circle).

The Gujarat government has been planning to create a ‘Buddhist circuit’ in the state to woo tourist from southeast Asia. Modi had also discussed this during his visit to China in 2011.

During his recent visit to Japan, Modi visited two ancient Buddhist temples in Kyoto with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.
“With PM Modi, I visited Toji temple this morning. Looking at statutes of Buddha, we were reminded of the deep historical ties between Japan and India,” Abe had tweeted later.

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