Narendra Modi's website aligns Gujarat's Buddhist history with China

Written by Avinash Nair | Ahmedabad | Updated: Sep 16 2014, 00:58am hrs
On the eve of Chinese president Xi Jinping's visit to Gujarat, a significant feature in a bright red backdrop the signature colour of communist China - has been posted on Prime Minister Narendra Modi website in English and Mandarin, on Monday, talking at length about the "Buddhist Heritage in Gujarat".

Leading with the Buddhist heritage in Vadnagar, Narendra Modis hometown in north Gujarat, the feature posted on www.narendramodi.in, talks about the connections the state has with famous Chinese explorer and Buddhist priest Hiuen Tsang who is believed to have visited Gujarat in 641 A.D. It also has snippets from other Buddhist heritage sites in Gujarat like Junagadh, Kutch and Bharuch.

In 2011, when Modi went to China as chief minister of Gujarat leading a delegation, not only were the presentations and videos in Chinese text, but even the business cards handed out by the government team (including Narendra Modi) were in red, and in Mandarin, says a post from the archives on Modis website.

The picture-heavy feature with Chinese and English text, tries to align Gujarat's history with one of the Chinese traditional faith --- Buddhism (Confucianism and Taoism are the others) --- and starts off with the mention of the "Vadnagar Excavation" site in Mehsana district. This important archeological site in Modi's own native town in Gujarat is the place where over 7000 pieces of archaeological importance have been found from Ghaskol Darwaja.

"Buddhism is a very strong between China and India. In fact, Gujarat too has a very rich Buddhist hertiage," tweeted Modi on Monday while adding that he was looking forward to welcoming Xi Jinping in Ahmedabad. "I am sure his visit will strengthen India-China ties," he added.

Meanwhile, the feature on Modi's website stresses on the importance attached to the Buddhist site at his native town. "Vadnagar is one of the most ancient towns of Gujarat known as Anandapura during Hiuen Tsang's visit in mid-seventh century AD. He records presence of 10 monasteries of Sammatiya sect with 1000 monks," the reads the article that carries pictures and descriptions of an ancient Buddhist Monastery, Bodhisattva idol (Buddha sitting in a meditation posture) and Buddhist objects and pendants discovered at Vadnagar.

It carries a picture of Hiuen Tsang and a map of the route that 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 added.

The feature also carries a map of Gujarat which lists out 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 North East Gujarat which according to the feature "has yielded the sacred relics of Buddha." The rock-cut caves of Khambhalida in Saurashtra dating back to 4-5 century AD and caves of Siyot in Kutch (6-7th century) also finds mention in this. "It must have been one of the 80 monastic sites that the 7th century Chinese travellers reported at the mouth of Indus River," adds the feature that ends with the mention of the Ashokan edict in Junagadh.

"Hiuen Tsang has mentioned his writings about his visit to places like Vadnagar and Vallabi. During those times, Vallabi used to be a seat of learning at par with Nalanda," says Jitendra Nath, deputy Superintending Archaeologist Archaeological Survey of India (Vadodara circle).

The Gujarat government has also been planning to create a Buddhist circuit in the state to woo tourist from Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, and the Far East, especially Japan. Modi had discussed the opportunities surrounding Buddhist tourism during his visit to China in 2011 as the chief minister of Gujarat.